The Investec Ashes 2013

Cowan resolves to fight for spot

Daniel Brettig in Worcester

July 2, 2013

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Ed Cowan and David Warner walk back for lunch, India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 2nd day, March 15, 2013
Neither Ed Cowan nor David Warner will be opening for the first Ashes Test © BCCI
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Life is suddenly a whole lot less certain for Ed Cowan. For the past 18 months he has answered to the title of Test opening batsman, but Chris Rogers' promotion to join Shane Watson atop the order against England means Cowan must now scrap for another commission.

While he met the news with good grace, Cowan has responded by vowing to fight for a place elsewhere in the order, citing obstinate efforts in India as proof he will be capable of tackling more varied challenges. Day one of the tour match against Worcestershire will be the first day of the rest of his life.

At New Road Cowan is set to bat at No. 3, after Watson and Rogers walk out to face the new ball as the coach Darren Lehmann's favoured opening combination. But Cowan said he was now very much in the contest for other batting positions, saying he had received "good communication" about where Lehmann and the captain Michael Clarke saw him fitting in.

"If you've got Clarke in there somewhere, there's three other spots I need to be fighting it out for," Cowan said. "I've always said if you can open the batting you can bat anywhere. And particularly now having been through four Tests in India, if I was to come in in the middle order against spin then I feel really comfortable doing that. I don't know if I could have said that having not been through that.

"So if you can open the batting against the new ball, you can certainly come in against the older ball. It's hard to go the other way. I started my career at six for New South Wales, I obviously bat at No.3 in one day cricket for Tasmania and five if Ricky, last season, was playing. So I've had some experience, if selected and I'm not opening the batting, then that will be the biggest challenge.

"Finding a way to distract yourself until it's time to bat because one thing about opening the batting is you start preparing when they're eight or nine down, you've got 10 minutes to put your pads on and out you go. If it's in the middle order, do you relax, do you stay up? All those little things and that will be a challenge but it's something I'm just going to have to deal with."

If Cowan's determination to succeed in India could not be questioned, given that he faced 706 balls across the series to be second only to the aggregate-topper M Vijay, a lack of centuries since the first match of the home summer against South Africa in Brisbane did not help his cause.

At Taunton Cowan was unfortunate in the first innings, given out caught behind though the ball appeared to brush clothing rather than bat, but in the second wasted a fluent start with an edged cut shot. Other such lapses against Sri Lanka at home prevented Cowan from establishing the sort of record that would have made him harder to dispense with.

"I think if you break it down I'm only really interested in being judged on what I do in Test cricket," Cowan said. "So you can look at all the first-class games, but for me, what happens in Test cricket, I think that was a really positive series for me.

"A few things happened in the Sri Lankan series I wasn't happy with and India was hard work but I felt I had my head above water by then in that series. This is a huge series, I feel playing against good fast bowling, when the ball swings is right up my alley I guess in terms of my strengths and I know if I get in this series I'll be making it count."

Knowledge gleaned from starting this northern summer with Nottinghamshire might count in Cowan's favour as a middle-order option, given that the first Test will be played at Trent Bridge. He is also aware of the quirky rhythms of an English day's cricket, as demonstrated on day one against Somerset when a batsmen's day was turned on its head by the second new ball.

"I think aggressive in England doesn't necessarily mean playing big shots," he said. "It means showing intent and looking to score but understanding if conditions dictate the other way you can still be full of intent but not necessarily rocking along on the scoreboard.

"At Trent Bridge there is quite a bit of swing, there is a little bit of natural variation in the wicket, a few little quirks like little sight screens at the members end and the members sit in front. Those little things I now know of and have dealt with, so I can just feel at home and go for my life I guess."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by   on (July 3, 2013, 11:14 GMT)

It seems to me that Khwaja is a better all-round batsman than Cowan; the verdict insofar as Hughes is concerned is mixed - he is more than a bit suspect against top-notch pace and spin, both of which England have in their armory. During this tour, and also on the prior tour to India, Steven Smith has shown himself to be a more than capable batsman who can take the attack to the other side, while Warner has the potential to be a dynamic lower order batsman.

Insofar as bowling is concerned, Australia needs to back their strengths - I don't see a point in filling up a spot with Agar or Lyon, when all they are going to do is play a back-stop role. Maybe Australia should consider going with 4 pacers including 2 work horses like Siddle and Faulkner.

Taking the above considerations into account, my Australian XI would be:

Watson, Rogers, Khwaja, Clarke, Smith, Warner, Haddin, Faulkner, Siddle, Starc, Pattinson

Watson, Smith, and Warner can take up part-time bowling duties.

Posted by H_Z_O on (July 3, 2013, 11:03 GMT)

@Shaggy076 it's an impression I get, but obviously I don't know the man personally so I'm speculating. Not sure I agree that it would make him "not cut out to play Test cricket", though.

Ian Bell always struck me as being a bit like that, until maybe five years ago (that 199 against South Africa). Before then he'd scored 7 hundreds in 70 innings, one of which was against Bangladesh at home. Since then he's scored 10 in 80 innings, including a 199 and 140 against South Africa, a 159, 235 and 116* against India, two centuries against Sri Lanka and his first Ashes century.

I think this idea that "no one deserves a run of 10 games" is a hangover from when Australia had stacks of quality players to choose from and that dog-eat-dog thing helped make you into a side that not only had heaps of talent but a ton of grit and almost unbeatable at times. But that's not the case right now. When that changes, sure, but right now you've got to give players who show signs of talent a proper go.

Posted by bobagorof on (July 3, 2013, 1:36 GMT)

xylo: Agreed. When Warner is in form he can be devastating, but recently the Australian side has shown a lack of application and that's something Cowan cannot be accused of. Warner's recent results and lack of form on tour also suggests that if he's selected it will be on the basis of something other than performance.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (July 2, 2013, 23:24 GMT)

H_Z_O ; If your description of Khawaja is accurate then surely he is not cut out to play test cricket. No one deserves a run of 10 games you get a chance and you have to take it. I'm not sure your description is accurate and sure that he has a chance of playing the first test but this time he has got to be ready to take it. My preferred team is Watson, Rogers, Cowan/Khawaja (interchangeable not much difference), Clarke, Hughes, Smith, Haddin, Pattinson, Siddle, Harris, Lyon. However I see them going with Starc over Harris.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2013, 22:57 GMT)

Ed's sure got his work cut out for him. He really, really needs a big hundred next innings to have a shot at playing. These middling scores, while consistent, are nowhere near matchwinners.

Posted by xylo on (July 2, 2013, 19:59 GMT)

If Warner finds a place in the test XI and Cowan does not, it would be very clear where Australia's problems lie.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2013, 17:41 GMT)

It can be hard when you have half a dozen opening batsmen to fill in the middle order. We can also blame Watson a bit as he has failed to score in the middle order. Reminds me of the days when the Indian test team used to have multitude of make shift openers like Laxman, Mongia, SS Das, Badani, Bangar etc. In case of australia it's just the opposite now. Apart from Clarke there is no specialist middle order batsman of class and experience. Technically it should be easy for an opener to be shifted to middle order than vice versa. Have to wait and see. This series may covert some openers to middle order batsmen forever.

Posted by H_Z_O on (July 2, 2013, 17:22 GMT)

@Anirudh Krishnan but Haddin's a better keeper than Wade. Why would you take the gloves off him? Either Wade plays as a specialist batsman (doubtful) or cover for Haddin in the event of an injury. In England, the ball occasionally has a nasty habit of hooping away from the keeper after it leaves the bat, so an injury might happen (hope not, though). Easier for your backup to stick with the squad, ready for action if he's needed.

Posted by Big_Maxy_Walker on (July 2, 2013, 17:06 GMT)

As proved again today Cowan does not convert starts. Only 3 50s in 10 FC games this season. Not good enough. He is all talk. An average of less than 40 at 30 years of age. So we know he wont get any better. I would pick and stick with Usman who has much more potential and deserves at least as good a run as Ed has had(17 tests). Plus he is 5 years younger. UTK top scored in a run chase against South Africa, then was dropped, run out by Ponting when in the 40s another time. His weaknesses and problems have been publicly talked about by Uncle Arthur and others when more major discipline problems and failures by others get swept under the carpet. Another commenter mentioned Faulkner. He should only be picked as one of four bowlers, as his batting is not up to test number 7 standards. He is a 8 at best. Watson, Rogers, Khawaja, Hughes, Clarke, Smith, Haddin, Pattinson, Siddle/Harris, Lyon, Bird

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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