The first ball upon Sarabjit Ladda’s introduction, Usman Khawaja attempted to unshackle himself. Shimmying down the track, he intended to loft him over long-on only to take a meaty edge to the vacant deep long-on. Three balls later, on a similar urge to unsettle the spinner, his engaged the slog-sweep, not counted among his strengths, and duly perished.
This was a continuing pattern of the Australian innings, as their batsmen stuttered in pursuit of disquieting the spinners, barring a few donations from Ladda. Premeditation was as much as a fault as leaden feet. Apart from opener Ed Cowan and Steven Smith, the footwork of most other batsmen was indecisive. Either they were too conscious in covering the turn that they were glued to the crease or they were too cautious to advance down the track and smother the spin.
Often, they tentatively thrust onto the front-foot defensive, almost reaching the ball from the crease. Opener Ed Cowan put their deficiency into perspective, “It was almost as though the most dangerous shot was the forward defence. You had to find a way to get to the other end and get in a position to score runs. If you’re kept on the crease defending, then you’re playing into the spinners’ hands.”
Consequently, only Cowan crossed the half-century mark. Cowan, whose doughty 58 indicated his readiness for the sub-continental turners, sees the brighter side. “At the end of the day, we need to be practicing against the turning ball. The wicket was turning, so it was good practice against some really talented spin bowlers. The wicket was a bit two-paced. The ball reversed pretty quickly. So it was hard to score but it is a small ground, so a decent score for a first hit,” he said.
Besides, the top-four got substantial starts. “All the top three faced more than 80 balls.That’s a significant time in the middle. Also everyone from one to 11 got to bat, and that’s important I think,” he said.
On a personal note, the knock was vital for Cowan. “Just to get back the mindset of being able to bat for a long time was important. I was happy I could not only spend time at the crease, but also get some runs at the end of the day,” he reflected.
Successful overseas batsmen, have relied on the sweep for distorting the spinner’s length. But many of Australia’s top order batmen were hesitant to deploy the sweep. Cowan came to their defense. “It’s not like they can’t play the sweep, but you needn’t play it every ball. Every one has a different game plan,” he said.