Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
David Warner is brash; Ed Cowan is understated. Warner muscles runs where he wants, Cowan milks them where he can. By his own admission, Warner has barely read a book; Cowan has written a fine one. They seem as likely a pair as Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison. That's good for Australia. The Ungar-Madison partnership entertained audiences for five years on American TV. Australian fans would love to see the Warner-Cowan combination last that long.
On the second day at the WACA, they completed a 214-run partnership that placed Australia in a position of domination against India. It was just the second double-century stand by an Australian opening pair since the end of the Matthew Hayden-Justin Langer era. Shane Watson, the most constant thing about Australian opening in the past two years, was never part of one.
When Watson returns from injury, it should be in the middle order. How that affects the balance of the team remains to be seen. On current form, Shaun Marsh would be the logical man to miss out, but given Watson is unlikely to be part of the Test side until the tour of the West Indies in April, much could change in the meantime. What shouldn't be altered in the short term is the Warner-Cowan partnership.
It is early in their Test days, but the signs are promising. Warner has made two contrasting Test hundreds in his first five matches: a composed century full of common sense and ignored impulses on a tricky pitch in Hobart, and a breathtaking 180 at better than a run a ball against India at the WACA. Cowan has two fifties to his name, both so unobtrusive that they risk being forgotten. They shouldn't be.
The best Australian opening combinations in modern times have consisted of one man who dashes and one who dabs - think of Hayden and Langer, or of Slater and Taylor. The primary role of the openers is to negotiate the period of swing and seam, to take the shine off the new ball. As Warner observed after the first day in Perth, he and Cowan both do that, just in different ways.
"I know that Ed's working hard to see the new ball off," Warner said. "That's how Ed plays. It's not going to affect my game at all. With him at the other end soaking up the balls and getting himself in is fantastic, because he's taking the shine off the ball and at the other end I'm doubling that and taking all the lacquer off the ball."
Warner showed in Hobart that he can knuckle down. But at his most outrageous, as he was in the first innings at the WACA, his work can hardly be called Test batting. He said as much himself on Friday night, when he recalled his thought process as he approached triple figures - "this ain't Test cricket, this is something different", he said. The feeling didn't go away on the second day as he racked up 180 from 159 deliveries, including a six over extra cover off Zaheer Khan.
Cowan's style is nothing if not traditional Test play. He nudges and nurdles, pushes and prods, leaves and, ah, leaves again. When Cowan steered a two behind point to bring up his half-century at the WACA, Warner ran down the pitch to congratulate his partner. The crowd cheered politely. It was not him they had come to see. But his role was invaluable: had wickets been falling at the other end, Warner could not have felt as secure in his strokeplay.
Not that Cowan was slow. He still scored at a strike-rate of 61. Eventually, he was dismissed for 74. He walked off slowly, disappointed to have missed such a golden chance for his maiden Test century. He deserves plenty more opportunities. The value of his runs became more apparent when the rest of the specialist batsmen struggled to get past the teens.
Cowan proved himself a perfect foil for Warner. What two such different men talk about at the crease is anyone's guess. But as long as they bat even half as well as they did at the WACA, Australia's opening odd couple should not be parted.