Vintage Watson lights up the Gabba
The veteran allrounder, in front of his home crowd, added another milestone to his glittering cricket resume
Adam Burnett at the Gabba, Brisbane
18 January 2019, 08:15 AM AEST
It was more than seventeen years ago that a 20-year-old kid named Shane Watson first appeared in domestic cricket on the Gabba. He was a Brisbane boy, but circumstances – which were controversial at the time – put him in the visiting camp, with Tasmania.
He made one and zero, dismissed by local heroes Andrew Symonds and Michael Kasprowicz in the first and second innings respectively.
On Thursday night, Watson was back, adding another zero to the previous one and zero but in the best way possible; his maiden KFC Big Bash hundred was the first of the summer – a neat 100 – and made him the oldest player to achieve the feat in the tournament's brief history.
Watson was again with the visiting side, as the shining light for Sydney Thunder's innings of 4-186 which looked very much set to be a winning total until a power failure curtailed proceedings.
But where back in December 2001 he was viewed unfavourably by a section of the locals, this was bordering on a return of the prodigal son; the 37-year-old was cheered heartily by Thunder and Heat fans alike for his stunning 61-ball century. Even the Heat's social media team posted an old photo of Watson in the Heat uniform, paying fitting homage to the allrounder.
💯 Congrats @ShaneRWatson33, great knock... 😜#BringTheHeat #BBL08 pic.twitter.com/GKjd7J6W3F— Brisbane Heat (@HeatBBL) January 17, 2019
Having worked his way into form with an impressive 68 in his last start, Watson looked immediately on song at a venue where, before Thursday night, he had batted 85 times for just one century across all formats.
From his first four balls, he blazed two maximums. Another four sixes followed, while he found the rope on eight more occasions. He had a life on 33 – a fierce cut shot was spilled at point by Max Bryant – and then the ante was upped as he really found his groove, with his second fifty coming from just 24 balls.
When he reached his hundred, he became the first Australian to have posted centuries in the BBL, the Indian Premier League, and in T20 International cricket.
"It was a phenomenal innings," said Brisbane Heat coach Dan Vettori. "It was the Shane Watson of old, just latching onto anything that's short, and if you over-pitch he's so damaging.
"As you get older and it's a bit harder, maybe you're in a bit of a rush, but I think he showed the right tempo for his style of play.
"If you look at the rest of our bowling to the rest of their batsmen, I couldn't be happier.
"But a class player stood up, and that's why he's been so good for so long."
Thunder coach Shane Bond remembers the formative years of Watson the cricketer and says in some ways, little has changed.
"When I played against him he was a gun, and he's still a gun," Bond said. "He's been threatening, and over the last couple of weeks he's just noticed a couple of technical things and he's done some work and it's all clicked together.
"For a guy who's his age and has achieved everything, to still have the desire and the passion, and to put in and mentor guys, he's a brilliant leader around our group.
"I'm pleased he's tick another thing off his list of great achievements and I thought tonight he was brilliant."