Roseau: Ed Cowan sprang to the defence of former Australia captain Ricky Ponting after both had scored half-centuries to put the Aussies in a commanding position in the third and final Test against West Indies.
Cowan made 55 - his third Test half-century since making his debut against India in late December - and Ponting 57 to help Australia to a lead of 310 at stumps on the third day. Australia - who are 200 for 6 in their second innings - look set to seal the series as well as they only need to avoid defeat to take it having come here 1-0 up. However, 29-year-old Cowan used the occasion to talk up Ponting's innings which ended in bizarre fashion when he ducked under a Kemar Roach bouncer but had left his bat sticking up like a periscope.
The ball hit it and looped up for Shivnarine Chanderpaul to scoot around from slip and take the catch which left Cowan hoping it wouldn't provoke further ill-informed speculation about 37-year-old Ponting's place in the team. Ponting has played nearly 170 Tests for his country over 17 years and during the match has become the second highest scorer in Test cricket but his place has been increasingly under scrutiny. "Unbelievable, I guess if you play cricket long enough you are going to be dismissed every which way, I guess he was due for a periscope," said Cowan.
"I feel sorry for the bloke because he has been batting beautifully and again it will give ammunition to some bloody journalist back home. Ammunition to lampoon, but you guys have seen how well he is playing in tough conditions."
Cowan, who is regarded as the intellectual of the team possessing a degree in commerce and is an avid reader and a music and art lover, said that he enjoyed his time in the middle with Ponting, who he also plays state cricket with for Tasmania. "I really love batting with Ricky. I feel, maybe because we are both playing for the same domestic team," said Cowan, whose career has flourished since he left his home state of New South Wales for Tasmania in 2009.
"There's the same kindred spirit there. He's been a huge help to me, because I feel like the other guy really cares what I'm doing at my end and that's how really good partnerships and bonds and batting friendships can develop. That's developing. I probably need to stop trying to run him out occasionally, but so far, so good."
Cowan, who has travelled all over the world to broaden his experience and played cricket for Scotland as well as played in The Netherlands, said all the top-order batsmen had done well on the tour in what had been unfavourable conditions. "I was saying in the changing room when Ricky got his fifty that every one of the top seven has got a fifty on tour," said Cowan, who is married to radio and TV presenter Virginia Lette. "It means we're contributing. Fifty on a wicket like that can be as good as a hundred. "Sure the runs don't show on the scorebook but over 300 to chase is a helluva lot of runs.
"The contributions from guys haven't been huge admittedly which provides a little bit of ammunition if you're looking for it but at the same time it has provided scores that are putting pressure on them [West Indies] to respond."
Cowan, who has worked for an investment bank as an analyst, said he feared people back in Australia had gained a false impression of how the batsmen had performed. "I try not to read too much of it [the press] but if you're in the Australian cricket team and you're not consistently getting big scores, of course you are going to be under pressure," he said. "You don't need to be a genius to work that out.
"The only disappointing aspect is I think you guys here on the ground would appreciate how hard batting has been through the series. But people, because of the time zone, probably haven't watched a lot of cricket but they click on a link to see the score in the morning and they go 28, oh, Ponting 30, these guys are struggling. Well, it's bloody hard work and you need to see the ball spitting and turning the way it is to appreciate that. And if you're just judging people's form by looking at the scorecard, then you're not doing the game full justice”