Ed Cowan is a greedy batsman, but not in the conventional sense. For most top-order players, the main aim is to score as many runs as possible, racking up the centuries so the statistics make for happy reading even as the team benefits. Cowan's approach, powered by a heightened understanding of his strengths, weaknesses and role in a team in transition, is to bat as long as possible. While cricket is, in the end, about runs and wickets, there is a logic to the manner in which Cowan operates, simply occupying the crease and protecting partnerships while other, more fluent batsmen go after the bowling.
This shone through in Cowan's approach on Friday (March 15), when he batted 238 balls and stayed out in the middle five minutes short of six hours. "My plans have almost come full circle. I guess, coming over here (to India), I had in my mind that I had to put pressure on the spinners by attacking them. I made that mistake in Chennai, not a great shot in the first innings when I was set," said Cowan of his method. "So I guess it has come full circle as to how I want to bat, and that's fighting and grinding them out, and if it takes all day to get 86 or 50, it doesn't really matter. My job in these conditions for this team is to bat for as long as I possibly can, almost taking the runs out of it, just try to bat up time, soaking up a lot of balls. I have got so many shot makers, so I guess my game plan has changed a lot in that sense... from putting pressure on them by them not being able to get me out."
Cowan told reporters he had hoped to bat 350 balls, in the firm knowledge that if he did that, a century would come his way. On the day, Cowan fell 14 short of three figures, but he was unlikely to lose sleep over not reaching the landmark, having set a different benchmark by which to judge himself. "What I said to Mickey Arthur was that I want to be accountable to bat for a long period of time and I put a figure on that, but that is between me and Mickey," said Cowan. "That is what I wanted to be held to and I wanted to be held to a few other team things as well but that is between me, Mickey and the team. My personal accountability is to bat a long time. I didn't bat for as long as I would like but felt like I did part of a job for sure."
If Cowan was the rock around which the Australian innings was initially built, it did not help Australia that Michael Clarke's move to No. 3 backfired, ending in a first-ball duck for a man who has done the bulk of the scoring for his team on this tour. "I think we have seen him play left-arm spinners like that (coming down the pitch) and he has played beautifully. I thought it was a pretty good piece of bowling from the other end, to be honest - first ball to turn and bounce past the bat," said Cowan. "That is how Michael plays, he likes to get down the wicket ... he has done it all series. I am sure it was in (his) plans but it didn't work out today but we have seen how well he has been playing. It is rare for him to make a mistake so I guess a bit of credit to the bowler (Ravindra Jadeja)."
Cowan conceded that Australia did not quite have the runs they would have wanted, but hoped that the tail would wag in the company of Steven Smith to push things on. "I think you can't judge a wicket till both sides bat on it. In Hyderabad, it was really that one brilliant partnership that brought us undone. But aside from that, it could have been a competitive total," said Cowan. "I don't think we have got enough runs at the moment but if we can get another 70 or 80 runs in the morning ... 350 runs on the board on a wicket that is playing (a) few tricks already, I believe that is a lot of runs if we bowl well. That is the key, because if you bowl poorly doesn't matter what the surface is like."