Two poor shots may have ended Test career, but Ed Cowan has a comeback plan

ED Cowan has no memory of the first of the two cover drives that destroyed his Ashes dream, which is hardly surprising considering he batted in a state of delirium.

Cowan had spent the day before the first Test at Trent Bridge by his daughter Romy’s bedside after she was rushed to hospital after being violently ill. Needless to say, he was worried he would contract whatever she had but the first day of Ashes battle dawned with him feeling, as he put it, fantastic and excited. It wasn’t until 10 minutes before the lunch break he realised he hadn’t been spared at all.

While Australia’s bowlers carried on into the afternoon ripping the England batting apart, Cowan had his head in a toilet bowl, vomiting for three hours straight. As the chaotic day unfolded, England was routed for 215 and he realised he might have to bat despite feeling “as sick as you could ever be”. Sure enough, there was a roar from the crowd, Shane Watson was trudging off and Cowan, playing for the first time in his new role as a No 3, was batter up.

“I had a jab from the doctor before I batted to stop me throwing up on the field and I walked out to bat,” Cowan recalled. He was out first ball, flashing at a wide delivery from Steve Finn, so wide he could barely reach it. It was such an un-Cowan-like shot. This is a batsman, after all, who could easily be nicknamed “Autumn” — so many leaves on the ground.

But, first ball he faced on Ashes debut, he was out, caught in the slips, just as he would be out for 14 in the second innings, playing the same expansive cover drive to a part-time spinner. “I think the first one was delirium,” he said. “I don’t remember much about walking out because I was in bed 40 minutes later, sound asleep. The second one, again, I was mentally up for it but not eating for three or four days in a Test match and Joe Root comes on to bowl . . . you’re not really expecting it to turn out of the footmarks.”

In retrospect, Cowan knows he should have asked to bat down the order to buy himself time to feel at least a little better. But he didn’t. The old order had changed, a new coach, Darren Lehmann, was in place, and Cowan felt he had a job to do for the team.

“In hindsight, yeah maybe that would have been better but I didn’t want to be the guy who was letting my mates down. In hindsight, maybe I would have done that differently but I’m comfortable with how it panned out. My only regret is that it could be, essentially, my last Test match.”

Certainly that is what the critics are saying, that at the age of 31 he has played his last Test, that his international career ended in his 18th Test just after he brought up his 1000th run at an average of 31.28. That’s not how Cowan sees it, of course. In his mind, those stats represent not the end product but rather what he views as “my baseline”. That’s what he hopes to build on in future.

Assuming, of course, that he has a future. Lehmann, who was brought in to replace Mickey Arthur virtually on Ashes eve, cut him no slack whatever after the Nottingham Test. “Having not known what’s happened or what’s been said before, we picked him to do a role,” Lehmann said afterwards. “He’ll be disappointed with the shots. So are we.”

Next Test, Lord’s, Cowan was out of the side and despite making two solid half-centuries in the tour match against Sussex, that’s where he has stayed, while the selectors have worked their way through Usman Khawaja and now James Faulkner without Cowan’s name ever being hinted at again.

What’s most bewildering about his abrupt banishment is not just that he was cut no slack for being ill but that the one lesson of this series has been Australia’s greatest failure has been not occupying the crease — and yet no one faced more balls from the Indian bowlers in March-April than Cowan, 706 of them across the four Tests in scoring 265 at 33.13.

So ruthlessly was he cut, when so many other batsmen were given so many other chances, that it raises the question of whether there is a place for Cowan in a Lehmann-coached team.

“I would like to think so,” Cowan said. “And you might have to ask him. His views might have changed about me. They might have changed about what he perceived about other guys in the team and what they can and can’t do and what I can and can’t do.

“When you have fresh eyes, you probably have new ideas on certain people and how you want your team to evolve and whether or not those are the same ideas that he now holds. So I think it will work out in the wash. I can promise that.”

Already his thoughts have turned to the three Sheffield Shield matches and the Australia A match against England that precede the Ashes series in Australia in November. “It’s the only thing that takes importance in my mind now . . . get my head down, score some big runs like I know I can — and my record for Tasmania would suggest that — so I’m prepared for that slog to keep fighting, keep throwing punches.”

Like all good batsmen, he has a plan. To make himself irresistible.

  • by: Wayne Smith at The Oval
  • From: The Australian
  • August 22, 2013 12:00AM

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