Ton of courage could see Watson head back to top
WAS this the moment?
The moment when Ipswich product Shane Watson went from unfulfilled talent to our ideal first drop?
Watson's 176 on the opening day of the fifth Ashes Test was the innings he and all Australian cricket supporters had waited so long for.
Sure, it was a flat deck and sure, he had the advantage of facing two vulnerable debutant bowlers.
Sure the pressure was off with the Ashes already lost.
But the pressure on Watson was great and the manner of his ton suggested a player for whom the penny has finally dropped.
Had he failed in his new position at number three, this may well have been Watson's last hurrah, given his chronic under-achievement and all the negative publicity he has received for his supposedly disruptive role in the team.
So to take the initiative in such dominant manner means the innings can't be dismissed as easy pickings or good fortune. It was a tough and well controlled knock and no hit and hope Hail Mary.
Watson is known for looking good for his first 20 or 30, then getting into trouble as he struggles to pace an innings. At The Oval, he survived the early moving ball and counter-attacked like a true number three to spread the field. He raced to 80 before slowing the pace, regularly picking off singles and rotating the strike until he'd posted his ton.
It might have been an under-strength English attack but Watson did it tough.
The ball he copped to the back of the head from Stuart Broad on 91 was a brute.
But all it did was highlight Watson's level-headed approach to collecting the runs needed for his third and by far biggest Test century.
Watson further showed his tougher mental approach to the contest when he gave Jimmy Anderson a traditional Ipswich 'good afternoon' mid-pitch.
Watson held his ground running down the pitch and Anderson didn't appreciate the shoulder that bumped him out of the way.
It spoke of a man free of self-doubt, confident in his abilities, unwilling to let anyone get in his way.
The hope now is Watson can turn this knock into the catalyst for a late-career revival - an Indian summer similar to that of Michael Hussey.
No one doubts he has the talent. Maybe now he's proven he has the head for it too.