Advantage Australia as Watson punishes gamble on debutants

 
Frank Dalleres
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AUSTRALIA batsman Shane Watson toasted a rare highlight amid a miserable Ashes campaign for the tourists after his 176 yesterday at the Oval lifted their hopes of ending the summer on a high.

Watson’s best ever Test score and first Ashes century was the highlight of day one of the fifth and final match, as Australia finished on 307-4 and dented English chances of recording an unprecedented 4-0 triumph.

It also punished the hosts’ decision to experiment by fielding two debutant bowlers in Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan of Lancashire, the latter conceding 53 runs for no wickets in eight overs.

“It was a really good day. An important part of our success as a team has been to score big in the first innings,” said Watson. “We know it’s going to be more difficult batting in the second innings, as it’s going to get a little bit more up and down and turn a bit.”

Watson’s first Test century in 48 innings and almost three years fizzled out shortly before stumps when he was caught by Kevin Pietersen off Stuart Broad.

England paceman James Anderson had earlier reached 326 Test wickets with the scalps of David Warner (6) and captain Michael Clarke (7).