Before his swashbuckling 96 against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Tuesday, Shane Watson had been enduring a lean run. The calls of giving the former Australia international a break were getting louder as he had aggregated just 147 runs in 10 innings. But is the latest knock a sign of him picking steam for the business end of the tournament?
Game of two halves
Since retiring from international cricket after the 2016 ICC World T20, Watson has been plying his trade across T20 leagues around the world. A definitive pattern has emerged in recent times.
In the 2018-19 Big Bash League, while playing for Sydney Thunder, Watson took time to find his groove. In the first seven matches, he scored just 120 runs, but came back to score 224 runs in the remaining seven games. It included a 62-ball 100 against Brisbane Heat.
Then came the Pakistan Super League. Representing Quetta Gladiators, Watson made a quick start with 193 runs in the first six matches, including two half-centuries. In the latter part of the tournament, Watson produced big knocks twice:- an unbeaten 55-ball 91 to seal a playoff spot for his team which took him to the top of the batting charts. It was followed by a 43-ball 71 in the qualifier where he also bowled the final over, taking two wickets. In all, 237 runs came in the last six matches as Watson finished the tournament as the top-run getter with 430 runs in 12 matches at an average of 43.
Big match player
During his international career, Watson had the knack of delivering in high-pressure knockout matches, like his unbeaten 136 and 105 in the semifinal and the final of the 2009 Champions Trophy. He has carried this quality into the domestic T20 leagues as well, as was evident in last year’s IPL final. He played out a maiden off Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the opening over but came into his own and aced the chase with an unbeaten 117 off 57 balls, resulting in Chennai’s third IPL crown.
Keep the faith
Watson admitted in the post-match press conference that he wasn’t his usual self with the bat but credited the Chennai think tank for persisting with him. "Knowing that I had come off from the PSL and coming into this, I was flying high and then things didn’t go my way. I lost a bit of rhythm in my batting. So, for them to keep faith in me I really appreciate it." It might be the start of Watson getting into his rhythm as the IPL approaches its climax.
(Niharika Raina is an intern with The Indian Express.)