Gloucestershire v Essex, Cheltenham, 1st day July 11, 2012

Cowan fights to earn instant cap

Gloucestershire 147 for 2 (Housego 60, Cowan 51*) v Essex

It was quite a matter of convenience that Gloucestershire were able to employ the services of Australia Test opener Ed Cowan. But right place, right time is so often the making of so much success. Just ask Darren Bent.

Gloucestershire just happened to be the county where Ed Cowan decided to stay with his heavily-pregnant wife, Virginia. He is in England for an Australia A tour and Cricket Australia were keen for him to get some cricket before their fixtures begin at Derby on July 27.

Cowan is staying in Cirencester, a 16 mile trip from Cheltenham, and got in touch with Gloucestershire who signed him for six matches. But this is his only County Championship appearance. As such, his debut was greeted with the presentation for his county cap. It is quite conceivable that he could never play for Gloucestershire again. It is a disgrace, a debasement of the capping system.

But maybe a cheap cap is worth a few bonus points. Cowan's unbeaten 51 helped Gloucestershire towards their first in just over half a day's play. Bonus points could be the only reward from this match given the forecast.

"Ryan ten Doeschate was joking with me," Cowan said. "He said it took him six years to get his Essex cap and I've just turned up to earn mine. But I respect the policy they have here and it's very special to be playing my first first-class game for the club. Any time you're capped by a county it's a pretty special moment."

Rob Nicol, the New Zealand batsman, will be the next recipient of a Gloucestershire cap when he arrives to play for the rest of the season next week. But this week Gloucestershire have the services of a very determined man who recognises he has work ahead of him to prove his worth at Test level.

"The Ashes is something that would be very special to be a part of," Cowan said. "But we've got some landmark series before then. I feel I'm good enough to be in that Test team and not just chipping in but dominating games for the team. I'm yet to prove that but I look forward to doing that. And It's nice to be playing cricket over here a year out, getting used to different conditions and different balls."

Cowan said the chance to play at the famous Cheltenham festival - which all Australians have heard of apparently - was a factor in him approaching Gloucestershire. And he immediately had a chance to bat on the college ground as Alex Gidman won the toss: possibly Cowan's only chance to bat here.

The recent weather saw the members' car park at the college lawn end declared off limits. The wicket, although appearing a fine surface, also showed signs of the poor summer. "Having played a little bit in the UK before, it reminded me of an early season wicket," Cowan said. "There's not a whole heap of pace there, it's not really conducive to a huge amount of strokemaking but not great for bowling either. But I think it will quicken up as the game goes on. I think it will turn, too. Harbhajan Singh has already spun a couple."

Cowan seemed to struggle on occasions to pick Harbhajan's length and he conceded just 15 runs from his three spells, the last a single over before the umpires sensibly suspended play before rain brought stumps.

James Foster, Essex's captain, only gave Harbhajan six overs. Curious given that he caused problems to Cowan, a left-hander, who survived a strong lbw appeal, and that the Essex attack began to toil in a 108-run second wicket partnership between Cowan and Dan Housego - another who received his Gloucestershire cap this season. He was making his return after a shoulder injury and played a controlled innings.

He struck a sumptuous cover drive off ten Doeschate through the covers before inside edging another drive for four more to bring up his half-century. But trying to play a length ball from Reece Topley into the leg side lost his middle stump.

The wicket inhibited Cowan, who didn't score for another 19 balls. He finally got going again with a mistimed cover drive for a single before manoeuvring Harbhajan to fine leg to bring up his 142-ball fifty.

He walked off unbeaten having shown admirable composure in at times difficult weather, for a period against the new ball, and throughout facing the opening pairing of Topley and David Masters who together sent down 30 overs for 66 runs.

Gloucestershire were in the right place at the right time to inherit the services of a fine player. And they may have hooked Cowan for the future. "I've really loved the dressing room and the coaching structure," Cowan said. "It's a really impressive set up and definitely a place I'd like to play some more cricket." Perhaps that cap wasn't hastily awarded after all.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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