Patience pays for prudent Shane Watson
COLOMBO // How do you stop Shane Watson? Maybe you just cannot right now.
Certainly, if all goes well, Australia will hope that question remains unanswered, after yet another bullying, match-winning turn put them on the verge of a semi-final spot.
Watson took two wickets and then muscled a 47-ball 70 as Australia strolled to an eight-wicket win over South Africa at R Premadasa Stadium in Sri Lanka's capital, their second consecutive win in the Super Eights.
That performance put Watson on top of every chart you can imagine; most runs, most wickets, most sixes, most man-of-the-match performances. (This was his fourth successive match award.)
He does a nice line in modesty as well, explaining this purple patch as a matter of pieces falling into place. "Things are just falling my way at the moment. You always prepare as well as you possibly can and hope things go well," he said.
As always, the key to Watson's broad-chested batting was the base he sets himself and his use of the crease.
Repeatedly, and particularly to South Africa's spinners, he went back far enough to make his own lengths: good length balls became short balls, short balls became long-hops.
Midwicket and square leg were peppered, though if he had a bone to pick with himself it was that he only hit two sixes. Against India he hit seven.
But this time at least he was merely finishing off work set up by a teammate, in this case Xavier Doherty.
Having not played a game this tournament, Doherty was drafted in for Daniel Christian and began by opening the bowling.
Two wickets in his first two overs on a surface on which the ball was gripping throttled South Africa at the very start, just as Pakistan had done to them on Friday.
They never really recovered, Watson snaffling the key wickets of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers with precisely the kind of clever shifts in pace and length that makes him so dangerous on subcontinent surfaces.
For about 10 overs across the two innings South Africa challenged. First Robin Peterson and Farhaan Behardien ensured a total of some kind, a 60-run stand from the last six overs built primarily on Peterson's hyperactive switch-hitting.
Then Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel put together an exemplary four-over opening, troubling both David Warner and Watson. Warner fell and Australia were only 15 after four overs.
"Batting-wise, I knew how important it was to get through those first overs, especially with the quality fast bowlers they have," Watson said. "Then you hope you can just get away."
Just after he had cut, drove and clipped three boundaries in the sixth over, off Morkel, he did get away, the mood changed and it never went back. "We're up for every game because we really want to show ourselves, more importantly, how good a Twenty20 team we are," he said.
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