By Rob Barnett
Shane Watson stands on the verge of winning the Ashes for the first time, but he and Australia are refusing to get ahead of themselves.
The hosts need five wickets tomorrow to win the urn for the inaugural occasion since 2006-07, since when Watson has been on the losing side in the three Ashes series he has played in.
The 32-year-old all-rounder, who cried in front of the media when Australia lost the 2010-11 Ashes, today raced from 29 overnight to a stunning 103 from 108 balls in a total of 369 for six declared.
That set England a Test-record 504 to win and, having reduced the tourists to 251 for five by stumps on day four at Perth, Australia have an ideal opportunity to seal the series tomorrow.
“It’s a special moment at this point in time in everyone’s career in the Australian team to be in the position we are, but we certainly can’t get in front of ourselves,” Watson said.
“We know that the English are always going to fight until the end and we’re going to have to be at our best turning up tomorrow morning to get the results that we deserve in the end.
“We’ve certainly had the running in every game, made the running in every Test match so far, but that certainly doesn’t give us anything.
“We certainly have to be out there in the morning and bowl really well to give ourselves the best chance to achieve a few dreams of a lot of us who have been involved in these last few series.”
England recovered from 121 for four, when Kevin Pietersen fell for 45, to 251 for five thanks to Ian Bell’s 60 and 72 not out from Ben Stokes, playing in just his second Test.
“We didn’t bowl as well as we would have liked in that last session. We weren’t probably as consistent as what we were throughout the rest of this series,” said Watson, who earlier trapped Michael Carberry lbw for 31.
“We certainly know what we need to get back to bowl the English guys out. Stokes batted really well, as did Ian Bell. They certainly provided a good challenge for us.
“But we know certainly we’ve got to get back to the things that have given us success throughout this series so far, bowling those fuller lengths and challenging a little bit more than what we did this afternoon.”
Watson sped from his overnight 29 to three figures in only 40 deliveries today, starting by hitting Graeme Swann consecutively for two fours and a six in the opening over.
Three more Watson maximums followed in another Swann over before a six and a four off Anderson carried him to a century.
“To be able to go out and have a licence to take on the game was certainly a lot of fun,” Watson said.