Equally untroubled by the the Dukes ball (being used in Shield matches for the first time) and the bowlers who propelled it, Ed Cowan scored an unbeaten 134 yesterday to guide New South Wales to a first innings lead over Victoria at the MCG.
Cowan came to the crease after the departure of Nick Larkin, who played confidently and comfortably until his dismissal for 11. Daniel Hughes was dismissed in the following over, leaving NSW in trouble at 2-17. But Cowan was immediately into his stride, driving the fourth ball he received back past the bowler, Jake Reed, for four. He batted through the rest of the day, defending securely and playing shots all around the wicket. Against the faster bowers he drove fluently and cut strongly; he used his feet to knock left-arm spinner Jon Holland off his length, and he successfully negotiated a spell of leg spin from Victorian captain Cameron White, whose bowling was described by one knowledgeable onlooker as "OK, but nothing earth-shattering". He added 141 for the third wicket with Kurtis Patterson, and 92 for the fourth wicket with Moises Henriques. A pull for two from the bowling of Evan Gulbis gave Cowan his 23rd first-class century and by stumps he had reached his highest score for New South Wales. He reached his century from 202 deliveries - altogether, he has faced 267 balls and hit 14 fours.
Update: After batting through the whole of the first session (in which he extended his partnership with Peter Nevill to 180 from 45.1 overs), Cowan drove Jon Holland for a single in the first over after lunch to reach his first double-century for NSW and the second of his first-class career. He also passed 6000 career runs in the Sheffield Shield during the morning session.