Cowan resolves to fight for spot
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