Under-fire Watson 'will bat anywhere'

Australia

All-rounder Shane Watson has conceded that his time at the top of Australia's Test order is nearing its end – amid a trying stretch of form.

All-rounder Shane Watson has conceded that his time at the top of Australia's Test order is nearing its end – amid a trying stretch of form.

Watson's position remained in the balance on Wednesday, as the tourists pondered the makeup of their XI ahead of the fourth Ashes Test, which will get underway at the Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street on Friday.

He has strung together six starts in the series so far, but not once moved beyond the 46 scored in the first Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, with his status as an opener consistently the subject of criticism.

The left-handed David Warner, meanwhile, has returned to the team after serving a ban for trying to punch Englishman Joe Root during the recent Champions Trophy in Birmingham.

Warner stepped to the crease at six in the order in the first innings in Manchester, falling for a mere five, but impressed as an opening batsman en route to an attacking 41 in the second innings. The right-handed Watson, to facilitate Warner's promotion, was moved to four – and fell for a disappointing 18.

"From my personal perspective, it has been a really disappointing three Test matches so far. To be able to get the starts and get the things going and then not be able to capitalise on that has been extremely annoying. I've been working hard on one thing in particular where the ball is seaming back to try and give myself the best chance of being able to get through a ball like that," said Watson on Wednesday.

"It's probably been the first time really in my career that I feel like I'm actually batting well, but I'm not getting the results that I know I can get. Of course it has been extremely frustrating, especially batting with Chris, I've felt like we've been able to get a really good bond together opening the batting. But I haven't been out there long enough to be able to build a really big partnership together with him.

"I certainly do love opening the batting in all forms of the game. But even in the second innings I absolutely do understand the thought process behind moving down to number four. I also haven't scored the runs as an opener as well in these three Test matches to be able to continue to feel like I'm doing a competent job at the top of the order. In the end, I'm happy to bat anywhere, I'm happy to play anywhere to be part of an Australian team that is certainly moving forward."

The 32-year-old Watson, meanwhile, suggested the arrival of new coach Darren Lehmann has brought him – and the team – renewed inspiration. Lehmann succeeded former coach Mikey Arthur, who was instrumental in the suspension of Watson and team-mates Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson for not completing an off-field assignment, earlier this year.

"How he coaches is how he played the game, to make sure you really enjoy the game. He played with freedom. I always admired the way Darren did play the game. He got the most out of his talent and was always extremely exciting to watch. He always made the game go forward the way he played. That's how he saw the game and that's how he is as a coach and that's how I am as well I suppose," added Watson.

"That's the cricket environment I got brought up with when I first started around the Australian squad. It drifted a little bit for a period of time but we've certainly got that back again now that Darren has taken over. People feel like they're instilled with a lot more freedom to be able to go out there and express themselves and have fun doing it."

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