West Indies v Australia, 2nd Test, Port-of-Spain, 4th day April 18, 2012

Cowan struggling to go global

The opener's series in the Caribbean has been characterised by a number of starts but no major score

Ed Cowan is learning the hard lesson that international cricket requires an international method. Over six Tests, Cowan is yet to play in anything other than a winning Australian team, and has contributed a series of middling scores that have neither defined him as a "walking wicket", nor gone on to the kinds of totals that won him a place in the Test XI in the first place. To his frustration, he has found it difficult to go on from his carefully compiled starts, and is also wrestling with the fact that two of his most productive shots down under - the pull and the cut - are seldom able to be used with confidence on the low, slow pitches of the Caribbean.

On the fourth day of the Trinidad Test Cowan had a dose of good fortune, dropped at slip early from the bowling of Fidel Edwards. He looked safe against the spin of Shane Shillingford, employing the sweep to decent effect. But he was again undone by the speed and line of Kemar Roach, burning his second referral of the match before again departing lbw, and left with some chastening thoughts about how he must improve. The question of whether the national selectors give him the chance to improve is an open one, with eight months separating this series from the home matches against South Africa.

"It's very different to batting back home," Cowan said of the Caribbean. "It's been a great experience I guess to play in such foreign conditions. You build your game up to play a certain way back home and I've played my entire career playing in Australian conditions so I've had to make a few minor adjustments to try to grind out runs however I best see fit over here.

"I feel like certain aspects of my game already have improved, for example, playing against off-spin. I feel like I've found a way that can now work here and in the sub-continent and you don't have to do that back home because there aren't that many wickets that turn. At the same time, my go-to shots, the cut shot and the pull shot, aren't really in the game either so I've got to find a way to score runs elsewhere."

As for the starts, Cowan said he was doubly frustrated by the fact that he has continually played himself in only to be out before breaking into more meaningful scoring territory. He said he had felt clear-headed at the crease and was not filled with dread the moment he reached 20 - though his sequence of scores across this series and at times against India would suggest otherwise.

"It's frustrating, to state the obvious. It's something I've prided myself on in first class cricket - If I get a start, I tend to go on with it; if I get to 30, I get a hundred, so it's been very frustrating," Cowan said. "On the flip side, it feels that it's nice to know you can consistently get in. And if your worse days are 20s and 30s and you start turning them into really good days, you start turning into a really good player.

"So I don't feel like I'm going out there as a walking wicket and that I'm going to get knocked over. So that's good. I feel like I'm not only good enough to be playing at this level but contributing. And dominating on my good days, it hasn't quite worked out yet. You need slices of luck and coming up today against a guy who was bowling pretty well. So that's the game of cricket.

"It's frustrating to get through what's the hardest time of batting and then to get out when the ball is getting softer. I think in these conditions to ground out 40 or 50 is a bloody good day. To grind out 20 doesn't look but it still feels like you've given some contribution to the team, not just taken the shine off the ball for the other blokes. I'm probably more frustrated about getting in and then getting out that anything else. I feel like my game is in good order. There's a big difference between being out of runs and out of form and I feel a little bit out of runs."

Cowan's use of two referrals for the match has not been at any great cost to Australia so far, but it has raised the question of who is best placed to judge them on the batting side. The batsman himself must fight conflicting notions of reason and self-preservation, while the non-striker, however helpful he wants to be, is not in line with the wickets so can be wide of the mark in his estimation of lbw decisions in particular. Cowan suggested the narrow margins for error provided by the DRS had encouraged batsmen to second-guess decisions they had previously considered to be out on instinct.

"It felt pretty close, as it turned out," Cowan said of the second innings. "We've seen on the referrals sometimes it felt like it would have been slipping down leg. Even seeing the replay, until that ball straightened from the angle he was on, it probably was missing leg. It's a great skill to be able to bowl from wide on the crease, around the wicket. It just felt like it was missing leg. I can't really see the last half a foot of what the ball does but it certainly hit the seam and straightened down the line but if it didn't it would have been missing leg.

"Everyone's played enough cricket to know if you're hit on the pad you have that feeling deep inside 'gee that's pretty close'. Even from my own experience in the first innings it felt pretty adjacent but it's half a ball width and the umpire to say not out initially and it's not out. I think we're finding with the review system that the margin for error what we consider to be out - even Michael Clarke to Shillingford in the first innings, he just said it felt out. That feeling of 'I'm out', I think the DRS is showing that not always is it out. With that in mind if you think you're out, review it."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on April 20, 2012, 1:03 GMT

    @Dubious - spot on! Clarke does not have much experience at batting @#3, rarely does it for NSW, & has done it once in a test match for Oz. I agree re: Chappell & Huss, also don't forget AB batted for a large chunk of his career BELOW #4! Who would dare say he had no guts??????

  • A on April 19, 2012, 19:33 GMT

    Randyoz a worldly wise observation...hope for you yet son!

  • Zaccharia on April 19, 2012, 15:03 GMT

    @Randy What does guts have to do with coming in at 3? Clarke plays spin terrifically, why would you waste his wicket at 3? We've seen Clarke struggle against the new ball swinging higher up in the order. If he's gonna make runs at 5, why squander that? Tell Greg Chappell he was gutless cause he batted at 4. Tell Hussey he's gutless cause he's a middle order batter.

  • Laurie on April 19, 2012, 13:07 GMT


    Cowan Test Record: 8 innings @ 31.75, HS 74

    Khawaja Test Record: 11 innings @ 29.22, HS 65

    Hardly a compelling argument to dump Cowan for Khawaja, especially given Khawaja's recent poor form in the Shield. Best to stick with Cowan for the current time. His technique is sound and he makes an ideal anchor to Warner's free stroke-play.

  • michael on April 19, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    @Ken McCarron. Please back up your statement on Anderson. How has he gone downhill since the ashes?? And how is over 250 wickets and counting middle of the road? If Hayden couldn't handle the swinging ball in 05 then how is Warner? He might hammer Anderson in his head, seeing the ball flying to the boundary, but in reality it will be nestling in Prior's gloves after another nick.

  • Sriram on April 19, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    Ah RandyOz...you are at it again mate! So much so for the finest batting line up to loose 4-1 in sub-continent, but for KP it would read 5-0. Ricky scored tons in England but has just 1 test 100 in India..would be intresting to see the Warner, Cowan, Watto perform in India where its low and slow..Only Clarke and Huss have exceled there. Cowan won't survive in England for you need to rotate your strike in english conditions..he simply gets stuck and will nick one inevitably.

  • Dummy4 on April 19, 2012, 12:48 GMT

    Australia have much better batsman than Cowan,Warner,Forrest and better keeper/batsman than Wade, but poor selection is keeping them out of the Test Team. The non selected players are not given the chances, thus exposing favoritism in the selectors' committee.

  • Aidan on April 19, 2012, 11:57 GMT

    Pad up Khawaja and Hughesy, spots at the top order are opening up

  • Arul on April 19, 2012, 11:51 GMT

    Like he blamed India for not using DRS after the first day of his international game, he should blame Australian board for not using him only in home series. OR blame ICC for not giving concessions like removing lbw decision or slip catch or bowled during his batting.

  • Matt on April 19, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    I agree Randy0Z however they need a stint in the subcontinent if they wish to learn how to play spin properly.

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