Morning at the MCG

As I write this it’s raining at the MCG. It started just before lunch, and we’ll lose almost half of the afternoon session. It’s already been a very good morning, however and there should be a lot about which to talk by the end of the day.

Michael Clarke won the toss at the start of the day and chose to bat on a green wicket. I didn’t, and still don’t, agree with the decision. India’s bowlers are shaky, and there’s every chance that Khan or Sharma will go down with injury at some point in this series. (Sharma looks more likely; Khan, to his credit, looks like he’s in much better shape than when he was in England last summer.) Even if those two do last out the series, a green wicket is probably the best conditions they’ll get in Oz. With Australia’s batting still looking either very inexperienced or very frail it is unwise to give India’s bowlers what would probably be their biggest advantage of the series. A year ago today on a similar (though I think even greener) pitch Australia were bowled out for 98. On the green pitches of England India did not manage to score over 300 in eight innings. If I were in Michael Clarke’s position I would have much rather seen James Pattinson bowling at an Indian batting order that looked unable to play the moving ball in England than an Indian attack probably at their peak bowling at an Australian order who have failed to play the moving ball for four consecutive Tests.

Australia actually had a go at proving me wrong. (And they still might, lots of time left.) Ed Cowan, on debut, and David Warner got off to massively contrasting starts. It wasn’t particularly surprising, Warner being the T20 specialist and Cowan being brought into the side almost specifically because of his patience. At one point Australia were 25-0 with Cowan not out on two. Warner raced to 37 off 49 balls, including a hook for six. He tried to hook a ball that wasn’t really there, however, and was caught behind as it popped up off his glove. Cowan, by contrast, has 29 off 77 as I type this. He kept his nerve when the going was very tough in the morning and kept the innings together after Warner and Marsh went in quick succession. In particular he showed excellent judgement outside his off stump, something badly lacking in the Australian batsmen of recent Tests. Despite this, there were complaints of him being ‘boring’. It’s the same charge that is often levelled at Alastair Cook, who averaged over 80 this year, and is just as ridiculous. In particular I could hardly believe that any Australian would make that complaint. Did they not watch Cook and Trott grind them into the dust last year? Did they not watch their batsmen flash at everything outside off and collapse to 98 all out a year ago, or 47 all out a few months ago. I agree that it is more fun to watch Ian Bell bat than Alastair Cook, but Cook is just as much of a match winner. Australia don’t have an Ian Bell type player, and if they want to start winning Tests again they must embrace Cowan’s style of play.

Australia are now 116-2. The pitch has flattened out and Ponting and Cowan are looking settled. His critics probably won’t mention it, but Ed Cowan’s assuredness may have saved his captain some blushes.

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