Ashes 2013: Fear Takes Hold Of Ed Cowan
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The Ashes. Test One. Day One.
At 5:06 p.m. Ed Cowan walked onto the field at Trent Bridge and passed the dismissed batsman Shane Watson, who had been caught well by Joe Root at third-slip for 13 off the bowling of Steven Finn. Australia, in reply to England’s stuttering 215 all out, were 19-1.
Cowan is a cricketer who loves cricket. Truly loves it. The tradition, the intricacies, the history. He loves it all. If ever there was a player who would be feeling the emotion of this occasion, the heat and the energy, the tension and excitement, it would be Cowan.
Here he was, after all the nights on the sofa as a kid watching just this kind of match, it was finally, actually, really him. An Ashes debut. Australia poised to take a first innings lead in the First Test match of cricket’s most celebrated rivalry.
Lehmann good value. "Are you happy with your top 6?" "At four for 20?" Ed Cowan OK? "He's a bit crook". Worried about the light? "No dramas"— Paul Kelso (@pkelso) July 10, 2013
Sportsmen often speak of "staying in the present," taking one match at a time, one ball at a time, etc. etc. They speak of bubbles of isolation and concentration, sanctuaries of focus, islands of intensity. These are methods and practices used to distance cricketers from the enormity of occasions, treat it as “just another match…"
Cowan took his guard, fiddled with his gear and settled into his stance before looking up to see Finn charging into the wicket. Finn’s gangly 6'7" frame coiled into action, a moment of hang time and then a full, swinging, cricket ball, just outside off stump was delivered to Cowan.
On another day, on another cricket ground, or in a net, or against a different team, he would have just let the ball swing harmlessly past him and into the keepers gloves. Ball One; safely negotiated.
Who played the worst shot on Day One?
But at 5:08 p.m. Cowan hadn’t found his bubble, he hadn't found his sanctuary and was certainly not on an island. Ed Cowan was playing in The Ashes, batting at No. 3 for his country, at 19-1, facing Steven Finn and the ball was swinging. After years of dreaming of doing it, he was doing it. And he knew it.
Cowan’s eyes lit up as the ball momentarily swung into his arc, he flashed hard and fast; the ball, not quite full enough to drive, and moving away, caught the edge and flew straight to Graeme Swann at second slip. Caught. Out. Gone. A golden duck.
Cowan c. Swann b. Finn 0 (1)
On a day in which 14 wickets fell, at times to balls not deserving of success, Cowan’s drive was a shot to represent a day, and a shot to represent fear.
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