There was panic in Australia change-room - Watson
Shane Watson, Australia's vice-captain, has conceded that there was panic in the change-rooms as Australia capitulated to 9 for 21 on the second day in Cape Town. He had struggled to switch on while batting that afternoon, he said, after taking five wickets in Australia's earlier demolition of South Africa for 96.
It was only thanks to a last-wicket partnership between Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle that Australia avoided being dismissed for less than 26, the all-time lowest Test innings, a record that still belongs to the New Zealand team of the 1950s. But being bowled out for 47 was still a disaster and led to a crushing eight-wicket defeat.
That was an unthinkable result after Australia led by 188 after the first innings. The batsmen knew that even another 150 runs would be difficult for South Africa to chase and they played accordingly: flat-footed and with flashing bats, trying for the boundaries that would quickly extend Australia's advantage and put the game beyond the reach of the hosts.
Instead, wicket after wicket kept falling. Within ten overs, the No. 8 Ryan Harris was at the crease. Within 18 overs, the innings was finished.
"There's no doubt there was panic," Watson said. "Just seeing the scoreboard ... it was horrendous really, to be able to think we were 9 for 21 is a complete and utter disaster. I think that is a time in the change-rooms when you do panic.
"I think my mindset was wrong. My mindset was like it always is, aggressive, but I also had to make sure I got through a certain period of time because I knew the ball was still swinging and seaming around enough to be able to put doubt in your mind [as to] where the ball's going to be.
"There's no doubt that my mindset, in the end, was wrong. Unfortunately I think if all our batsmen look back, our mindsets were wrong and how we approached it. We definitely thought that we were going to be able to get a decent total and unfortunately we got nowhere near that."
Part of the problem for Australia stemmed from the early dismissal of Watson, who fell lbw off the third ball of the innings after failing to review an lbw that Hawk-Eye showed would have gone over the stumps. Watson had just taken 5 for 17 and he said it was difficult to switch to batting so quickly after his work with the ball.
"It does a little bit [make it harder] but it's no excuse," he said. "After getting five wickets, you don't have any time to soak it in and re-approach your batting. Before I knew it I was back in the pavilion. It's a balancing act to mentally switch off my bowling and wait to enjoy it until after the day's play. That's something I need to do better because when I have got wickets or bowled quite a bit I haven't scored any runs."
Watson hasn't scored a Test century in more than a year, and as the senior opening partner alongside Phillip Hughes, it's a trend that he needs to rectify. However, Watson said the issue of adjusting his mindset would still be a factor even if he was batting further down the order.
"It's part of being an allrounder, whether I'm opening the batting or in the top five or six I still need to find a way to switch back to my batting," he said. "As an opener, you need to switch on quicker and I haven't been able to find that balance to be able to get going again once I've bowled. I have to make it work."
The Watson-Hughes partnership has failed to scale any significant heights, with both men generally relying on a confident, attacking style. Watson said that while Australia had missed Simon Katich's poise at the top of the order, the side had moved on.
"Simon, when he batted, did a brilliant job for Australia for a three or four-year period," he said. "There's no doubt we miss that in a way but we've moved on from that, so now me and Phil have to set up our own partnership and unfortunately we haven't been able to keep going at all."
Watson was one of five Australia players who took part in an optional training session at Newlands on Saturday, on what was supposed to be the fourth day of the Test. Australia will hit the nets in Cape Town again on Sunday, before flying to Johannesburg on Monday.