Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne

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

Brydon Coverdale in Melbourne

December 23, 2012

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

David Warner and Ed Cowan walk out to bat, Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 1st day, December 26, 2011
Ed Cowan and David Warner have been the most successful opening pair over the past year © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Ed Cowan | David Warner
Series/Tournaments: Sri Lanka tour of Australia
Teams: Australia

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

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Posted by Ragav999 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?

Posted by Ragav999 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.

Posted by WonkyFNQ 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.

Posted by 158notout 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.

Posted by Ragav999 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.

Posted by Ragav999 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 forum....to 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.

Posted by Shaggy076 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.

Posted by landl47 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.

Posted by hhillbumper on (December 24, 2012, 20:04 GMT)

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

Posted by bonobo 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

Posted by 158notout on (December 24, 2012, 14:59 GMT)

@Marcio - sorry to disappoint you but I was at the MCG for Cowans debut, at the SCG in the same series and have watched at least highlights of just about every Test and most ODI's since then. I am well aware that Australia have flourished, from being beaten by NZ in Hoart the only way has been up. But most of the victories have come at home. For this reason I said that Australia will be a force to be reckoned with in the home series. However I think the series in England is too early and I cannot see the batting line-up performing on English wickets. The bowling should be even more of a concern for Australia. Hilfenhaus revivial appears to have been short lived and neither Pattinson nor Cummins seems able to remain fit. Lyon will get knocked about. I like Siddle but he will not be able to run through the English batting.

I trust this clarifies.

Posted by Batmanian on (December 24, 2012, 11:11 GMT)

Why the obsession with batsmen? The Ashes will be decided, as it usually is, by having the right bowlers for the conditions fit at the same time. Can't see Swann and Panesar in the same team. There's Anderson, then England needs Broad and Bresnan fit at the same time, or to unearth someone else. Lyon is no top class spinner, but Australia doesn't have anyone else. I think with Siddle and some combo of the young kids and maybe Johnson, Australia's stocks will have some bipolar performances. Could easily see depressing trouncings in India coming in between (which should be getting as much attention as the Ashes), but the specificity of English conditions are the problem there.

Posted by Fleming_Mitch on (December 24, 2012, 10:40 GMT)

@158notout is correct, we need Khawaja in for the ashes, my lineup for the ashes for the batting would be Watto, Warner, Hughes, Khawaja, Clarke and Hussey, that will get us the ashes.

Posted by Optic on (December 24, 2012, 9:01 GMT)

@Marcio Where do you get that England have been ordinary for 2 years straight, come in man if you're going to wum get it right, it's not even a year since the UAE. Without all this false bravado, I reckon both Ashes series should be a good contest but it's pretty clear that Aus have been riding on the coat tales of one batsman in Clarke, without his form and to a certain extent Hussey the Aus batting is rank ordinary. Also Aus fans have done nothing but bleat about their bowling, why I don't know, it's the same one that rolled up for the Ashes with Siddle & Hilf, sure Pattinson is a useful bowler but nothing more and Starc looks a prospect but there all of a similar standard that's if you can get any on the park. Don't get me wrong you've improved but it's not by as much as you lot think. If Clarke suddenly loses his form this year I bet even the most one eyed of Ozzies fans will doubt they have it in them to even win at home. It'll be interesting to see how you go in India.

Posted by landl47 on (December 24, 2012, 4:01 GMT)

I'm afraid that to have Cowan and Warner leading the opening partnership averages with 44 says more about the inconsistency of openers around the world than how good C. and W. are (of course, if the qualification was dropped from 10 opening stands to 8 then Cook and Compton's average of 70 in India would have to be counted and that would never do). However, both Cowan and Warner have shown glimpses of good form and look as though they might be able to create a decent partnership. Sri Lanka in Australia isn't much of a test, but over the next few months they will be tested in India and England and if they can come through that then they will be well on their way. Having contrasting styles is not a bad thing if both are comfortable with the way the other plays.

Posted by getaclue on (December 24, 2012, 2:14 GMT)

@marcio is spot on. Aus armchair critics have developed an extremely short memory and are calling for blood after one average game all too often.

Posted by   on (December 24, 2012, 1:22 GMT)

openers are fine. khawaja out, push up clarke and hussey and include maxwell. this would be the best batting lineup we could get in for the ashes

Posted by Marcio on (December 24, 2012, 0:46 GMT)

@158notout, it's pretty obvious that many of you English don't have enough imagination to see that things have changed, still thinking as if it is the last Ashes series, and that everyone has remained stationary. The reality is that the Australian team has performed consistently better than England since the last Ashes series, and there is no reason to believe they will suddenly regress. Australia is on the way up. But it's good to see so many Poms who haven't taken any notice. England have definitely gotten worse overall, and their form has been ordinary for two years straight now (up till the india tour), although they are still a decent team. I don't think England will be any tougher than the SA team AUS were very unlucky to lose to just recently. There are plenty of players there who could really pile on the runs in rapid time if they run into a bit of good form. Simply saying 'they won't pasd 50" is the height of arrogance. Who do you think you have bowling for Eng? Jesus Christ?

Posted by Busie1979 on (December 23, 2012, 23:31 GMT)

Let's put Cowan's performance into perspective. He is 30 years old with a modest FC record. We can't expect too much of him - he is at the peak of his career and is not going to dominate attacks. I think deep down he realises that he is not going to replicate Hayden, Slater or Langer. Best case scenario - average in the high 30s - low 40s. Good luck to him riding the ride until someone comes along with a compelling case to open for Australia. Warner on the other hand could be a fantastic player - so needs to be judged by a higher standard. I think he's done ok so far, but expect him to start dominating in a year or so.

Posted by Meety on (December 23, 2012, 23:13 GMT)

@Marcio on (December 23 2012, 09:21 AM GMT) - on averages, they aren't that far behind Lawry/Simpson & Taylor/Slater! I think the problem is, that unlike those other partnerships(& Langar/Hayden), at least one would inevitably get a big hundred. IMO - they are doing their job. @Lewis_of_Macksville on (December 23 2012, 12:23 PM GMT) - IMO, I think Cowan has the game to do well in England. I have a feeling he will be a major surprise packet during the Ashes.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2012, 22:21 GMT)

Cowans average of 33 must be put into perspective he has batted for long periods. If he can give Australia 560 Test Matches at around 35-40 thats a win IMO.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2012, 15:51 GMT)

Meh, the stats can always be twisted slightly, Cowan seemed to do very well on flat tracks this summer while struggling on the greentops of last summer and the square turners in WI. Warner is a little more consistent in terms of getting starts and decent scores. Indian openers are nothing to go by, Whilst both the SA and Eng openers are probably averaging more than the Aus pair individually, which is debatedly more important. For example, I never remember SA being 3 for something small like Australia always were...

Posted by 158notout on (December 23, 2012, 15:26 GMT)

I think England will be pretty happy if Australia have Cowan, Warner and Hughes in the batting order come the Ashes. A tenner says Warner does not pass fifty in England whilst Cowan may grind away without really putting a score on. Need I mention what will happen to Hughes? If Khawaja and Watson are in there as well then so much the better. Realistically though it looks like Clarke and Hussey vs England. None of the Aussie bowlers really match up either. However I am confident that come the winter Ashes down under the Aussies will be able to put up more of a fight.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (December 23, 2012, 12:23 GMT)

An average in the low 30s after 3 full series is not good enough for Cowan, he needs to stop talking and show that he belongs. I would move Hughes to opener as he is the best opener in the country and move Watto up to 3 as he is a much better player of pace. Bring Khawaja in at 4 and leave Hussey and Clarke where they are. That's the best lineup for the ashes.

Posted by ozwriter on (December 23, 2012, 12:07 GMT)

gogoldengreens, well said. cowan is way too theoretical. stop talking to media and try to score decent runs faster than a snail. "I'm a thinking player, he's a feel player". this is not a philosophy, its a outdoor sport.

Posted by Mary_786 on (December 23, 2012, 11:43 GMT)

Oztraya Cowan is a good talker and has only averaged 33 after 11 consecutive tests but obviuosly the selectors see something there. I can only hope the likes of Khawjaa and Hughes also get the extended run Cowan has got to show what they can do at the top level.

Posted by gogoldengreens on (December 23, 2012, 11:05 GMT)

If new players to the team were as interested in improving their stats as they are to place a comment in the press that would be great... Taking the "analytical side of things" Cowan saying that 5 runs in a 65 partership is good is a big worry as he hasn't turned over much strike!!

Posted by ozwriter on (December 23, 2012, 10:04 GMT)

you get the feeling that ed cowan is all talk. he always talks the big talk but doesn't perform to australian opener standards. of course he would say getting 5 in a 65 run partnership is OK. only he would.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2012, 10:03 GMT)

Decent opening pair that will get better. They are both averaging over 40 so far this summer and that is pretty handy, I don't really feel there is a big need for an opening stand if one of them is at least going on to make a score of some sort. Where we do need to start seeing runs is at 3 & 4, hopefully Hughes' efforts in Hobart were the start to that.

Posted by Marcio on (December 23, 2012, 9:21 GMT)

Personally, I hope they both do well for a sustained period. There are way too many armchair critics around who want players dropped after one bad game or even one bad shot. The reality is that aggressive and unorthodox players like Warner and Hughes will always look bad when they get out. But who cares if you get out playing a nice straight bat defensive shot, or playing something more extravagant - as long as you keep getting runs?

Posted by Nightwing32 on (December 23, 2012, 7:50 GMT)

That is really a surprising stat and awesome as well.

Posted by crashdog on (December 23, 2012, 7:35 GMT)

Always wanted to be the first to comment, ha ha! I was initially surprised by this article, though it seems they haven't had many massive partnerships they have been consistent....Langer and Hayden were always a hard act to follow. I like the fact that they are both so different and I think that that will prove to be very successful. Cowan is a grinder and a fighter, whilst Warner is a dasher. Both of their games will suit different situations - a quick run chase or a hold on for a draw situation. Keep it up boys!

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (December 23, 2012, 7:28 GMT)

Lets hope they continue to improve and neither one has a sustained lean period. Hughes has his sights set on a decade long test career so here's hoping we have a long term top order, finally.

Posted by nthuq on (December 23, 2012, 7:26 GMT)

Something very strange is going on here. Just a few weeks ago there was an article on how they need to improve their partnership. Has just one big stand since by the both of them changed that already? Make no mistake, I do respect the both of them and do reckon that they'll continue to do a good job for the next few years barring loss of form or injury to either. Though the caveat of '10 stands together' probably does save them from being bettered by the Compton-Cook partnership.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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