Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne December 23, 2012

Cowan, Warner indicate their worth

A year after they were first introduced as Australia's opening pair, Ed Cowan and David Warner are gradually learning how best to work together

Amid everything else that happened in Hobart last week, one statistic went largely unnoticed. Ed Cowan and David Warner produced their longest opening partnership. Not their biggest stand - that was their 214-run effort in Perth last summer when Warner went ballistic against India - but their most sustained. Together, they occupied the crease for 41.1 overs. At the WACA last summer they had spent 38.5 overs in the middle. None of their other partnerships have been even half as long.

It is now 12 months since Cowan made his Test debut, on Boxing Day against India, and it has been a year of solid gains for him. He has made five half-centuries and one hundred, his 136 against South Africa at the Gabba last month, while in the same period Warner has also played a number of impressive innings. Naturally, there have been failures. Facing the new ball in Test cricket is difficult. But six months from an Ashes tour, they are heading in the right direction.

The one lingering issue had been a lack of long-lasting opening stands, for it had tended to be that either Cowan or Warner moved beyond a start, but not together. Few of their partnerships had survived much longer than an hour. But in the second innings in Hobart, they batted together for 174 minutes, both playing their natural games. There will be times when Warner achieves the extraordinary, but they look at their most settled when both men are scoring steadily.

"I think we're getting the hang of it. It's not easy just walking in and trying to bat with someone as consistently as you do as an opening partnership," Cowan said in Melbourne on Sunday, ahead of the Boxing Day Test. "It takes a while to get to know each other's cues and that general relationship that is needed to open the batting. We're getting the hang of it.

"The coach said the other day that we've been the most successful opening partnership in the world in the last 12 months. If you asked us how we think we're going we'd probably say we're doing okay. It feels like there's lots of upside there. Hopefully if we both keep improving the way that we are, it can be a long-term thing."

There is no reason that it can't be. At 30 and 26 respectively, Cowan and Warner have many years of Test cricket ahead of them, provided the runs keep coming. And Mickey Arthur is right: over the past year, Cowan and Warner have been the most successful opening duo in Tests. During that time, they have put on 850 runs together at an average of 44.73 per partnership, well ahead of the other four combinations with at least ten stands: Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss, Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, and Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar.

Not surprisingly, they have also scored their runs at a quicker rate than most of those pairings, with the exception of Sehwag and Gambhir. Much of that is down to Warner, whose approach to Test cricket has been to play his naturally aggressive way, sometimes to mesmerising effect and at other times to the detriment of the team cause. Warner is learning about first-class cricket on the run, having played much more of the shorter formats, and Cowan said while there were times when his partner could go too hard, that was to be expected of a batsman with his gifts.

"We're learning to bat with each other," Cowan said. "That's part of it, just understanding when he's going and when to feed him strike or when to try to keep him away from strike if he's getting a little bit too excited, all those little cues that you do learn. I'd like to think that it doesn't change my tempo, but there are certain aspects to it that you need to grow into.

"Cricket isn't about how many runs I get or how many runs he gets ... it's about the partnership. If he's 60 and I'm 5, and we've had a 65-run partnership, we're doing a fantastic job. It's not relative as to how many's Ed, how many's Dave. It doesn't really matter.

"I'm a thinking player, he's a feel player. You just let him go and bat. There's no point me coming down [and talking to him]. He's analytical in his own way. One of his strengths is when he's playing well, he's very clear in how he plays well. There's no point in me trying to change that. He's good enough."

The different approaches have the potential to make Cowan and Warner a very effective opening combination. Rarely have two dashers made a long-lasting contribution together at the top of a Test order, but having one quick-scoring opener can put opponents on the back foot early. Cowan is keen to continue his trend this summer of playing in a more attacking fashion than he had during his initial Tests, and he said such a style was not at odds with his rational nature.

"For all the analytical side of things, once I step onto the ground I'm very clear," Cowan said. "I feel as though the last couple of years that's been a really big strength, regardless of what's going on off the field, preparation or whatever, as soon as I step on the field it feels like my own routines can provide good clarity.

"The analytical nature can kick in occasionally if you need it, if there's a change of tactics out there and you've got to think on your feet and be flexible in what guard you take or how they're trying to get you out. It holds you in good stead if you're willing to clear your mind once you're out there."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ragavendran on December 25, 2012, 14:16 GMT

    @WonkyFNQ: I am a passionate Aus supporter and would like to see them strive for the heights and excellence reached by the legendary team of Waugh & Ponting. I want to support them even through their lean period provided they are of strong character and strive for excellence like Ponting, Hussey, Hayden, Katich, McGrath, Steve Waugh even though they have weaknesses/limitations. It is the intent that counts more than the peformance because intent precedes the deed.

    Just because the batting averages were low or there was a scarcity of great teams before 1993, a good sporting team should not settle for it.

    Rob Quiney was picked for his fantastic form before SA series. We all know how that turned out. Why not pick players with awesome records over a long period of time when you have them?

    I agree though that the public must have patience. But isn't the public entitled to expect that the best domestic players are rewarded with the baggy green?

  • Ragavendran on December 25, 2012, 14:00 GMT

    @158notout: It does not really matter what records that Cook is breaking as long as his average remains "average". It is just that he is an Englishman who have not had consistent performers in the last 30-40..? years and him breaking them means a lot to the fans. His average is 49 and strike rate is 47 after 80 odd Tests. I don't know how that is extraordinary. All these record making/breaking achievements are already reflected in his career average & strike rate.

    How many batsman did England produce in the last 40-50 years who average above 50 or bowlers who average around 25 mark? I would assume very few. Probably that is why Cook is hailed as an "English great". We all know how he fared in 2006-07 Ashes against quality attack. On one hand, everyone (English fans mostly) acknowledges that the Aus bowling is terribly poor and worth nothing but use the statistics gathered against the same terrible bowling in Ashes 2010-11 to anoint their batsmen as great. Reeks of double standards.

  • Nigel on December 25, 2012, 11:27 GMT

    @Ragav999 - oh sure, drop half the squad and then replace them with a 35 year old who has never quite produced at international level and is in pretty poor form in first class cricket at the moment. The "all conquering" team was a once in a lifetime group of players. Such a strong team is not going to happen again anytime soon (just ask the West Indies). Take a reality check and a look over some of the test batting averages from pre-1993 (including those, at that point, of some of the players in the all conquering team). This squad has potential, the public, media and the selectors need to be patient and realise that the days of anyone winning all the time are over.

  • Allan on December 25, 2012, 10:53 GMT

    Ragav - Cook is just an ordinary player? This is the guy that just breaks record after record, has more centuries than any other England player in history, has a record for consecutive tons in first matches as captain, until recently had the highest Test score at the Gabba and was the youngest player to 7000 Test runs. Yep, thats pretty ordinary.

    I would like to add that I think there are a lot of really good players in Shield cricket, especially for Tasmania and South Australia that are under-rated but unfortunately I dont think enough of them are quite Test standard.

  • Ragavendran on December 25, 2012, 9:02 GMT

    @Shaggy, though players improve with international experience, I believe Watson has passed his peak form as a Test batsman. He did not make use of his fantastic form when he crossed 40's almost every innings when he opened with Katich. @landl: What exactly has changed from Ashes 2010-11 is that England were at their peak then with batsmen like Cook,Bell and Trott reaching their lifetime highs. Now the curve is going down. In fact, I suspect Anderson is also on the other side of the hill and I won't be surprised to see his career average end above 32-33. The England fielding was very good in the Ashes and it has gone downhill in the last 6 months. Basically both Aus and Eng are average teams with SA 5% better than them.

  • Ragavendran on December 25, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    Oh my, Compton, Warner, Cook and Cowan are being compared, dissected and analysed by Aus and Eng fans alike. What a terrible state the international cricket has come to! Four ordinary batsmen being discussed in a prove that one country is better than the other. England have no batsmen having an average above 50, and their lead pace bowler averages over 30 and the fans keep boasting how superior their team is. Aussies are not picking David Hussey who has a higher first class average than Mr.Cricket. When will Watson be dropped from the test team for not contributing with the bat? Cowan, Watson , Lyon, Johnson, Hilfenhaus have been given enough chances to conclude that they are never going to take the Aussies to the heights of the all conquering team that they once were. Hughes has at least contributed few runs even though he has a significant weakess in technique. Bring Ryan Harris, Cummins, Pattinson, Siddle into the test team for all conditions and all opposition.

  • Graham on December 25, 2012, 0:54 GMT

    Landl47 - Its quite simple players improve with international expereience, the Australians won 5-0 against a team including Bell, Panesar, Anderson, Strauss and Cook who all had very poor series. These guys improved and its reasonable to suggest after more test matches that Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Hughes and JOhnson have improved. Watson has had a poor series through recent lack of batting but still is a quality cricketer, Wade is getting picked in front of Haddin and the Aussies now have extra fast bowlers in Pattinson, Cummins, Starc and Harris. The opening batting combination is a worry, I dont like Warner but his recent results have been pretty good. I'm not sure how the series will go but expect it to be competetive. I think English supporters forget that the last series in England if Australia managed to win in Wales then the series would be drawn and the last series in Australia it was very even for three tests before Australia played 2 shockers.

  • John on December 24, 2012, 20:42 GMT

    @ Marcio: I'm just curious to know exactly what you think has changed for the better in the Australian side since the 2010/2011 Ashes. Cowan and Warner are new, but they're replacing Watson and Katich- is that an improvement? Hughes, who did nothing, has come back in at #3. Ponting has gone, but Watson's batting has dropped off since 2010/11. Hussey's the same, only he'll be 38. Wade for Haddin- Haddin had a very good Ashes series, Wade would have to be very good for Aus just to stay the same. Siddle, Hilf and Johnson all bowled in the 2010/11 Ashes and are still in the side. Starc's a great young prospect, so that's an improvement. Pattinson and Cummins- do they make the side even if they're fit? Lyon's a better spinner than those in 2010/11, but how effective will he be in England?

    The one big change is that Clarke has been a great captain and has batted out of his skin. Will he keep that up? If he does, Aus will be tough. If he doesn't, the gap might not have closed enough.

  • stuart on December 24, 2012, 20:04 GMT

    They are the greatest opening partnership in World Cricket. Ironic chuckle across the rest of the world

  • Neil on December 24, 2012, 19:13 GMT

    I am not convinced by Cowan, apart from the Saffers, he has not faced the toughest bowling and his record still seems decent at best. His stance looks very awkward (it looks like mine ;-)) and although many players succed with less than perfect techniques, I dont see how he can get himself to play a range of shots against good fast bowling. His best quality looks like patience in this sense and clearly good character. But he is scoring less than Watson did against stronger opposition. I know there is a problem with Watson converting, but he averaged 40+ as an opener, saw the new ball off consistently (and Clarke clearly wants to protect himself). Warmer and Watson could really also take a game away at the start of a match with their aggresion. Still Cowans centiry against the Saffers was very impressive, so maybe there is more there. I dont care about Watsons bowling. I would like to see him and Warner open, with Cowan or someone proven in English conditions like Chris Rogers at 3

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