Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 1st day December 26, 2011

Patient Cowan earns the MCG's respect

It is to Cowan's credit that in his first Test innings, he played his way and was not caught up in the occasion, nor the quick tempo set by his partners David Warner and Ricky Ponting
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It takes guts to attack good bowlers on the first morning of a Test. It takes even more to stand in the middle of the MCG on Boxing Day and deny 70,000 spectators the action they came to see. But Ed Cowan is a man who knows his game. He accumulates more leaves than a gardener with a rake. It is to his credit that in his first Test innings, he played his way and was not caught up in the occasion, nor the quick tempo set by his partners David Warner and Ricky Ponting.

At lunch, there were plenty of yawns in the crowd, and not only from bleary-eyed fans still recovering from their Christmas celebrations. They had seen their local hero, the dashing Dean Jones, present Cowan with his baggy green before play. Some would have preferred to watch a 50-year-old Jones pad up than Cowan, at the speed he scored.

Australia's new opener walked off for lunch on 14. That was roughly one run every eight minutes. At that rate, he would have reached triple-figures some time on the third day. Of course, that is not how a Test innings is compiled. By tea, Cowan had a half-century on debut. He was in no hurry, and nor should he have been. He played precisely how he needed to play.

It was good, old-fashioned Test batting. It was also the method that has brought him success with Tasmania. During the week, his state coach Tim Coyle lamented the fact that after Cowan became the Sheffield Shield's second-highest run-scorer for the 2009-10 season, he was told his chances of making the Test side would remain slim unless he could score faster.

"Then he had a period of inconsistency," Coyle said on Radio Sport National last week. "I think during that time he got some messages from the national level that he needed to score more quickly and impose himself on the game more. I think that was a poor message, because he went out and changed his game a little bit and we saw some inconsistent results.

"I think the watershed innings was the Shield final last season [when Cowan scored a title-winning 133]. He really played an Ed Cowan innings and that was batting a long period of time and blunting the attack and making a hundred along with some big partnerships. That's the blueprint for Ed Cowan. It's exactly what Australia need at the top of the order."

It's certainly what they needed in Cape Town last month and Hobart a fortnight ago. And last Boxing Day against England. This year, a stable presence was needed in Australia's increasingly fragile batting order. By the time Cowan was caught behind for 68 in the final session - the absent Decision Review System would have reprieved him - Australia were 6 for 214. The lower order fought later but at that stage India were on top.

It wasn't Cowan's fault. At the non-striker's end, he saw five wickets fall. Among those were David Warner, who was caught behind gloving a hook; Shaun Marsh, who was taken at gully driving on the up; Ricky Ponting, who edged to slip as the ball seamed away; and the captain Michael Clarke, who cut too close to his body and played on. All the while, Cowan made the bowlers come to him.

He must have strong hamstrings. His long lunge forward and across outside off to leave the ball looks like part of the team's exercise regime. By tea, he had left one-third of his deliveries alone. It is a trait largely forgotten by Australia during their frequent collapses. India's bowling was not outstanding, but early in the day there was some swing and seam. As Ben Hilfenhaus discovered last summer, though, the moving ball is dangerous only if the batsman is made to play.

As his innings wore on, Cowan showed that he had some impressive scoring shots in his repertoire. A fine cover drive for four off Umesh Yadav brought the crowd to life, and his straight-driven boundary off R Ashwin was one of his best. He cut well and proved he can pull, always returning to the leave, that critical part of a batsman's game that is often ignored in the nets.

Eventually, Cowan won the fans over. They rose to their feet to clap for his half-century, and did so again when he walked off with 68 from 177 deliveries. It was the highest score by an Australian opener in his first innings in Test cricket since Wayne Phillips in 1983. The free-flowing Phillips opened that day with the more dour Kepler Wessels.

Pairing a dashing opener with a defender is a fine philosophy that was worked throughout Test cricket's history. Cowan and Warner have the potential to complement each other like Mark Taylor and Michael Slater. They have a long way to go, of course, but Warner showed in Hobart that he is a Test-quality batsman, and Cowan confirmed his credentials today on Boxing Day.

And despite their early reservations the crowd appreciated Cowan's work. He was no Dean Jones, but he had earned their respect.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on December 27, 2011, 7:45 GMT

    I think the DRS shouldn't be used at all given the stage it is at now. It is just a deviation from the cricketing aspect of things. It also blunts out the importance of umpires and in general ruins the classical feel of the game. Cricket is not just about ball hitting bat or stumps, it's also about emotion, drama and moving on. I know cricket is a different sport but I think we should go the football way and leave it to the umpires.

  • Ray24 on December 27, 2011, 2:05 GMT

    Good innings. Two poor decisions that DRS would've over ruled can cost Australia this game. Logically, lesser the mistakes, the better the game is. It is irrelevant who is making the decisions. I found Shastri's bias towards DRS very surprising and annoying. To paraphrase him, he'd rather have humans make mistakes than machines. It sounds well if the number of mistakes are comparable. I don't have the stats, but with DRS, the errors are reduced substantially. Hope better sense prevails.

  • on December 27, 2011, 0:55 GMT

    He's got a little more than a bit of Strauss in his technique.

  • Claydo78 on December 27, 2011, 0:17 GMT

    well done ed cowan! finally a batsmen who puts a value in his wicket and makes the bowler get him out instead of just throwing his wicket away. since kato got the chop, australia have been missing a geniun opener batsmen and with warner and cowan now opening, it gives the top order alot more balance. it begs the question though, what happens to watson when he is fit? warner, cowan, marsh and ponting should be our top four. watson record is terrible at 6 also i dont believe he has the tempermant to bat with the tall, does our current alan border medalist even get back in the team? of course he does but it does pose a problem of where he will bat.

  • on December 26, 2011, 22:27 GMT

    He's quite in the hussey mold of batting, look at the way hussey leaves the ball, then look at the way cowan leaves the ball, was quite surprised that the channel 9 commentators were having a go at him, as bailey said, you'll see him leave the ball a lot, and that was the case, looks quite solid at the crease, good find for Australia!

  • BlueyCollar on December 26, 2011, 19:55 GMT

    Underrated word that in 2012, "Respect". If given the choice I'd take "respect" over "like" every time. Aussie selectors have finally realized that successfull teams have players with different characters and emply different methods.Look at the last couple of great batting line ups in test cricket. England has the grit of Bell and Collingwood, the methodical approach of Cook, with Peterson's aggression. India have the brutality of Sehwag, balanced with the beligerent Dravid and complemented with the stroke play of Tendulker and Laxman. Although they have served Aust very well I am looking forward to Kawahja re[placing Ponting and Watson returning to take Husseys middle order spot and add depth and variety to the bowling. Also hats off to Mickey Arthur, the attitude change from the Aussies after the batting camp was great to see. Haddin's mature, carefull innings a prime example. I have a feeling if Hughes was still opening the Indians would have batting already.

  • on December 26, 2011, 17:06 GMT

    Cowan should not rue. His predecessor , one Mr Ricky Ponting usually appealed for bounced-catch. Once Sachin was given out for the ball was hitting his shoulder ! Sunny Gavaskar called it " Shoulder-before-wicket. One Mr Ian Chappel made it a custom to appeal for "catches" which did not take any edge at all! He proudly called it " Australian Gamemanship. Mr Cowan, your country became no.1 with these umpiring help. And this will go on till we hold the no.1 spot at least for 4 years. Then we will consider the change.

  • captian_buddy on December 26, 2011, 15:14 GMT

    And my respect too!!! I think Tom Cooper should also be given a chance .

  • analyseabhishek on December 26, 2011, 14:31 GMT

    Cowan looked exactly like the batsman the Australians have been missing of late. That he is up against an on-and-off attack like India's should hone his skills further!

  • manav599 on December 26, 2011, 13:47 GMT

    Very beautiful innings from Cowan. So much maturity,patience and commitment on debue. Pitty he could not make 3 figures but it hardly matters. What would hurt is that Australia failed to capitalise once again as another mini collapse occured which is certain nowadays in evey Australian innings. None the less, Cowan along with ,Ponting has kept the match in a little bit balance, just need the bowlers to fire now.

  • on December 27, 2011, 7:45 GMT

    I think the DRS shouldn't be used at all given the stage it is at now. It is just a deviation from the cricketing aspect of things. It also blunts out the importance of umpires and in general ruins the classical feel of the game. Cricket is not just about ball hitting bat or stumps, it's also about emotion, drama and moving on. I know cricket is a different sport but I think we should go the football way and leave it to the umpires.

  • Ray24 on December 27, 2011, 2:05 GMT

    Good innings. Two poor decisions that DRS would've over ruled can cost Australia this game. Logically, lesser the mistakes, the better the game is. It is irrelevant who is making the decisions. I found Shastri's bias towards DRS very surprising and annoying. To paraphrase him, he'd rather have humans make mistakes than machines. It sounds well if the number of mistakes are comparable. I don't have the stats, but with DRS, the errors are reduced substantially. Hope better sense prevails.

  • on December 27, 2011, 0:55 GMT

    He's got a little more than a bit of Strauss in his technique.

  • Claydo78 on December 27, 2011, 0:17 GMT

    well done ed cowan! finally a batsmen who puts a value in his wicket and makes the bowler get him out instead of just throwing his wicket away. since kato got the chop, australia have been missing a geniun opener batsmen and with warner and cowan now opening, it gives the top order alot more balance. it begs the question though, what happens to watson when he is fit? warner, cowan, marsh and ponting should be our top four. watson record is terrible at 6 also i dont believe he has the tempermant to bat with the tall, does our current alan border medalist even get back in the team? of course he does but it does pose a problem of where he will bat.

  • on December 26, 2011, 22:27 GMT

    He's quite in the hussey mold of batting, look at the way hussey leaves the ball, then look at the way cowan leaves the ball, was quite surprised that the channel 9 commentators were having a go at him, as bailey said, you'll see him leave the ball a lot, and that was the case, looks quite solid at the crease, good find for Australia!

  • BlueyCollar on December 26, 2011, 19:55 GMT

    Underrated word that in 2012, "Respect". If given the choice I'd take "respect" over "like" every time. Aussie selectors have finally realized that successfull teams have players with different characters and emply different methods.Look at the last couple of great batting line ups in test cricket. England has the grit of Bell and Collingwood, the methodical approach of Cook, with Peterson's aggression. India have the brutality of Sehwag, balanced with the beligerent Dravid and complemented with the stroke play of Tendulker and Laxman. Although they have served Aust very well I am looking forward to Kawahja re[placing Ponting and Watson returning to take Husseys middle order spot and add depth and variety to the bowling. Also hats off to Mickey Arthur, the attitude change from the Aussies after the batting camp was great to see. Haddin's mature, carefull innings a prime example. I have a feeling if Hughes was still opening the Indians would have batting already.

  • on December 26, 2011, 17:06 GMT

    Cowan should not rue. His predecessor , one Mr Ricky Ponting usually appealed for bounced-catch. Once Sachin was given out for the ball was hitting his shoulder ! Sunny Gavaskar called it " Shoulder-before-wicket. One Mr Ian Chappel made it a custom to appeal for "catches" which did not take any edge at all! He proudly called it " Australian Gamemanship. Mr Cowan, your country became no.1 with these umpiring help. And this will go on till we hold the no.1 spot at least for 4 years. Then we will consider the change.

  • captian_buddy on December 26, 2011, 15:14 GMT

    And my respect too!!! I think Tom Cooper should also be given a chance .

  • analyseabhishek on December 26, 2011, 14:31 GMT

    Cowan looked exactly like the batsman the Australians have been missing of late. That he is up against an on-and-off attack like India's should hone his skills further!

  • manav599 on December 26, 2011, 13:47 GMT

    Very beautiful innings from Cowan. So much maturity,patience and commitment on debue. Pitty he could not make 3 figures but it hardly matters. What would hurt is that Australia failed to capitalise once again as another mini collapse occured which is certain nowadays in evey Australian innings. None the less, Cowan along with ,Ponting has kept the match in a little bit balance, just need the bowlers to fire now.

  • Vindaliew on December 26, 2011, 13:15 GMT

    It's not just Australia. Many teams could use an adhesive, consistent batsman to anchor the innings at one end, allowing the other end to take a few liberties here and there. I hope he goes on to a long, distinguished career, showing everyone that you don't have to emulate Virender Sehwag to enjoy success.

  • Rakim on December 26, 2011, 12:58 GMT

    Solid opener. (Zak-Ishant-Yadav) are under-rated. They are better than they look on paper.

  • on December 26, 2011, 12:32 GMT

    Gotta improve his running between the wickets though & trust his partners' calls. He was looking back searching where the ball went every time his partner( specially while batting with his skipper Michael Clarke) called for a run. He was also reluctant getting off the block from the non-strikers end and sluggish in reaching crease while completing the runs. Gotta address these aspects of his game coz' these small details can have adverse effects on his batting partners. Otherwise, absolutely loved the positional awareness of his off timber & willingness to leave balls with no fuss.

  • Unifex on December 26, 2011, 11:56 GMT

    This business of Cowan scoring too slowly sounds a bit silly. His FC run rate is 47.28; Steve Waugh's in Test cricket was 48.64, and no one said he scored too slowly.

  • viv85 on December 26, 2011, 11:41 GMT

    Hayden too debuted at this age....mark my words he is destined for bigger things....a talent to watch out for...

  • drdickdixon on December 26, 2011, 11:36 GMT

    Nice to see someone focusing on Cowan's debut - no doubt nervous but not enough to go looking for cheap, risky runs on debut, and old enough to know his game and not get panicked into rash shots. Much like Swann's late inclusion for England, one would hope he'll be in the side for a while after a good early showing.

  • matbhuvi on December 26, 2011, 11:33 GMT

    Now i understand why Rahul Dravid is more prized wicket for the opposition than Shewag, Sachin or Laxman. Cowan does promise to be a Dravid in making. All the best.

  • on December 26, 2011, 11:22 GMT

    i wonder when watson gets fit, what would be the opening combination for australia.....!!!

  • Smithie on December 26, 2011, 11:14 GMT

    Common SRT you know in your heart that you have a responsibility to the game to stand up and support the use of full DRS at a public press conference. The intransigence of the BCCI is not in the interests of India or the game overall. Fletcher you need to support SRT in this cause and facilitate what you know to be right. Currently India is Not playing within the Spirit of Cricket.

  • Nathan30 on December 26, 2011, 10:42 GMT

    Great batting by Cowan. This is what we've needed for a long time. Cowan/Warner a good balance with plenty of other stroke makers below them. Good start.

  • Wozza-CY on December 26, 2011, 10:42 GMT

    Hit the nail on the head there Byron, he is the perfect compliment to Warner in the opening partnership. It's one that is showing positive signs & one I hope that stands the test of time for oz. If it does, where does Watson fit in when fit? No3 for Marsh? No6 for Mussey? or No4 for Punter? That aside, an admirable debut for Cowan. It's Ironic that the old boys club that has prevailed over many poor recent results is being overshadowed by new blood when given the opportunity i.e. Cummins, Lyon, Copeland, Pattinson, Warner & now Cowan. Experience...pfff

  • Clyde on December 26, 2011, 10:32 GMT

    Quite right, Coverdale. I don't like being robbed of days of cricket because the selectors are silly enough to think they know what a batsman ought to do and give us batsmen who don't know how to take step one, stay in. For a while, suspected selectors of attending games of shorter forms. It has been a bad period with now the good omen of Cowan.

  • Gizza on December 26, 2011, 10:26 GMT

    It was a very disciplined innings by Cowan. Every Test team in the world needs a few batsmen like him. Obviously not all batsmen should bat at that tempo since you need a mix of faster dashers and anchors but there is definitely room for a Cowan to get a permanent place as an Australian Test opener. Anyway, the more experience he acquires at the highest level, the easier the runs will come by.

  • on December 26, 2011, 10:21 GMT

    He is not so good against pace bowlers also they did not make him play much early in the innings. lets see how he does against zak in 2nd innings new ball cause today zak bowled well within himself

  • satish619chandar on December 26, 2011, 9:37 GMT

    Good innings from Cowan.. Though a bit defensive, he was clear in what he is doing.. Somewhat same type of innings as Katich.. Punter had a good day and it was his good chance to get long term missing 100 but missed out yet again.. Rest of the batting simply unfolded.. As it happened in recent times, Siddle was the second most assured batsman in the team.. First best changes from Clarke to Warner to Cowan but he always retains the second best tag.. Good for him.. India's batting and the conditions at which they ll bat is the key provided the innings unfolds early tomorrow..

  • featurewriter on December 26, 2011, 9:35 GMT

    Spot-on, Brydon. I was impressed by Cowan's mature and stylish batting. The guy is, without question, a Test opener. He's the perfect counterpoint to Warner. I truly enjoyed watching him bat today, and I was bitterly disappointed that he was given out on a day when he seemed destined to score a Test hundred on debut. The DRS let us down twice (though Hussey's was far more shameful than even Cowan's) and may have robbed us of two very rare and important things in Australian Test cricket: a debut Test century and, perhaps more significantly, the career of a great Test cricketer. I think our top three is now looking more settled, despite mixed results today. I hope the selectors reconsider the option to shift Watson lower down the order; the same with Ponting. I'd like to see Warner, Cowan, Marsh, Clarke, Ponting, Watson, Haddin, Johnson, Pattinson, Cummins, Lyon. (When they're all fit and available.) Sadly, I think, despite his misfortune today, that Mike Hussey's Test career is over.

  • Vijayendra on December 26, 2011, 9:28 GMT

    Warner, for his heroic innings against NZ, has been granted the medal of 'a Test-quality batsman' far too early. For God's sake, he's just playing 3rd test match.

    When a dasher hits a purple patch runs come in hoards, however, it is when the run don't come is the time he proves that he is test-ready. As of now, he's just a dasher. Have you seen him play the spinners? All he knows is a when-in-doubt sweep shot.

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  • Vijayendra on December 26, 2011, 9:28 GMT

    Warner, for his heroic innings against NZ, has been granted the medal of 'a Test-quality batsman' far too early. For God's sake, he's just playing 3rd test match.

    When a dasher hits a purple patch runs come in hoards, however, it is when the run don't come is the time he proves that he is test-ready. As of now, he's just a dasher. Have you seen him play the spinners? All he knows is a when-in-doubt sweep shot.

  • featurewriter on December 26, 2011, 9:35 GMT

    Spot-on, Brydon. I was impressed by Cowan's mature and stylish batting. The guy is, without question, a Test opener. He's the perfect counterpoint to Warner. I truly enjoyed watching him bat today, and I was bitterly disappointed that he was given out on a day when he seemed destined to score a Test hundred on debut. The DRS let us down twice (though Hussey's was far more shameful than even Cowan's) and may have robbed us of two very rare and important things in Australian Test cricket: a debut Test century and, perhaps more significantly, the career of a great Test cricketer. I think our top three is now looking more settled, despite mixed results today. I hope the selectors reconsider the option to shift Watson lower down the order; the same with Ponting. I'd like to see Warner, Cowan, Marsh, Clarke, Ponting, Watson, Haddin, Johnson, Pattinson, Cummins, Lyon. (When they're all fit and available.) Sadly, I think, despite his misfortune today, that Mike Hussey's Test career is over.

  • satish619chandar on December 26, 2011, 9:37 GMT

    Good innings from Cowan.. Though a bit defensive, he was clear in what he is doing.. Somewhat same type of innings as Katich.. Punter had a good day and it was his good chance to get long term missing 100 but missed out yet again.. Rest of the batting simply unfolded.. As it happened in recent times, Siddle was the second most assured batsman in the team.. First best changes from Clarke to Warner to Cowan but he always retains the second best tag.. Good for him.. India's batting and the conditions at which they ll bat is the key provided the innings unfolds early tomorrow..

  • on December 26, 2011, 10:21 GMT

    He is not so good against pace bowlers also they did not make him play much early in the innings. lets see how he does against zak in 2nd innings new ball cause today zak bowled well within himself

  • Gizza on December 26, 2011, 10:26 GMT

    It was a very disciplined innings by Cowan. Every Test team in the world needs a few batsmen like him. Obviously not all batsmen should bat at that tempo since you need a mix of faster dashers and anchors but there is definitely room for a Cowan to get a permanent place as an Australian Test opener. Anyway, the more experience he acquires at the highest level, the easier the runs will come by.

  • Clyde on December 26, 2011, 10:32 GMT

    Quite right, Coverdale. I don't like being robbed of days of cricket because the selectors are silly enough to think they know what a batsman ought to do and give us batsmen who don't know how to take step one, stay in. For a while, suspected selectors of attending games of shorter forms. It has been a bad period with now the good omen of Cowan.

  • Wozza-CY on December 26, 2011, 10:42 GMT

    Hit the nail on the head there Byron, he is the perfect compliment to Warner in the opening partnership. It's one that is showing positive signs & one I hope that stands the test of time for oz. If it does, where does Watson fit in when fit? No3 for Marsh? No6 for Mussey? or No4 for Punter? That aside, an admirable debut for Cowan. It's Ironic that the old boys club that has prevailed over many poor recent results is being overshadowed by new blood when given the opportunity i.e. Cummins, Lyon, Copeland, Pattinson, Warner & now Cowan. Experience...pfff

  • Nathan30 on December 26, 2011, 10:42 GMT

    Great batting by Cowan. This is what we've needed for a long time. Cowan/Warner a good balance with plenty of other stroke makers below them. Good start.

  • Smithie on December 26, 2011, 11:14 GMT

    Common SRT you know in your heart that you have a responsibility to the game to stand up and support the use of full DRS at a public press conference. The intransigence of the BCCI is not in the interests of India or the game overall. Fletcher you need to support SRT in this cause and facilitate what you know to be right. Currently India is Not playing within the Spirit of Cricket.

  • on December 26, 2011, 11:22 GMT

    i wonder when watson gets fit, what would be the opening combination for australia.....!!!