Prior to their 139-run stand, Australian openers Ed Cowan and David Warner’s efforts read 64, 10 and 56. Decent numbers considering the overall unreliability of their batsmen. While it signifies a comparative comfort in setting the foundation, they hadn’t until this match constructed a substantial partnership.
As was often the case, spin has been their nemesis. In Chennai, Ravichandran Ashwin ended the partnership that threatened to bloom. In the second stint in Hyderabad, Ashwin again turned the bogeyman. It could have been frustrating in that they had floundered after getting off to good starts.
But on Friday, they were determined to strive further, accomplish a tone-setting start in their revival bid, and in the process they not only achieved what they had aspired for but also happened to be the pair’s longest partnership — not to be mistaken for their biggest, which was the 214-run effort in Perth against India. While the duo may not have the gusto of Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer or the infectious bravado of Mark Taylor and Michael Slater, their contrasting approaches bode well for them, and in a bigger picture could solve Australia’s search for a reliable pair of openers since Hayden and Langer.
It’s a chemistry of contrasts — Warner the unbridled aggressor and Cowan the grinder. But an out-of-sorts Warner reckoned it better to embrace his partner’s route of accumulation. Cowan, though, was Cowan himself. “My plans have come a full circle. There was a period when I premeditated and tried to take the attack to the spinners, so as to relieve pressure, and I got out to poor shots. But in this Test I stuck to my old game plan of fight and grind,” said Cowan.
Deft placements and sharp running meant less than 50 per cent of their runs came through boundaries (15 fours in their partnership). India’s lackadaisical fielding, too, helped (Warner was once dropped and Cowan thrice). “You need a bit of luck some days. This series I hadn’t had much of it. Half a mistake and I was back in the pavilion, that is whenever I played outside my plan,” elaborated Cowan.
Both would repent missing out on hundreds, more so as Warner’s dismissal triggered a collapse. “Half centuries don’t matter much, I wanted to bat as long as possible. This is the sort of wicket where if you bowl well It’s tough to score. But if you get in, it’s tough to get you out. If we score anything around 350, it’s going to be competitive, but only if we bowl well,” he said.
Cowan couldn’t have done much than trust his luck to the particular delivery that consumed him — it was a near-perfect off-spinner’s delivery to a left-handed batsman. Warner’s was rather freakish, though a split-second indecision was the reason.
This was a sort of coming-of-age association for Cowan and Warner — their most satisfying stand. But Cowan put this into perspective, “It’s probably not worth a book, but would make for a good couple of pages.”