The West

Ed Cowan has a strong precedent for SCG success tomorrow going on his performance in the nets before the third Test.

The Australian opener, who said any prospect of him leading the team was groundless given that Michael Clarke had recovered from a hamstring strain and was certain to play, had a tough session against a series of club bowlers.

He was bowled several times, edged behind a few more and was the last batsman to leave the nets after having an extra session with team analyst Dene Hills.

And Cowan's summary of the last mandatory training hit-out before the final Test of the summer indicated a batsman searching for touch.

"Sometimes the first day back after a bit of an extended break as it was for this Test is just about finding rhythm and getting going again rather than worrying too much about really being up for it," Cowan said.

"I think at the end of a series, training can sometimes become a little monotonous, so it's important to try to stay sharp."

Yet for all his nicks, mistimed strokes and plays and misses, Cowan's session was nothing like the ordeal experienced by Steve Waugh before the corresponding Test in 2003.

Paceman Brad Williams was bowling for a Test place and had Waugh in fearful trouble that session, dismissing him repeatedly when he was not striking him on the arms, legs or body.

Waugh walked out of the nets and growled: "I'll probably make some runs now because there is no way I can bat that badly again."

Waugh was spot on. He completed the day by striking a last-ball boundary to bring up his century, salvaging his Test career and carving out a prominent part of SCG history.

Cowan said no discussions had taken place about what would happen if Clarke was not fit and it was presumed within the team that he would play. Clarke completed a vigorous 30-minute running drill under the supervision of physio Alex Kountouris.

"He's certainly better than he was two days out from the Melbourne Test and we saw what happened there," Cowan said.

"He's right to go mentally and physically I imagine he'll get up for the Test match.

"We saw just another example of mind over body last Test when he batted so beautifully but didn't look inhibited in any way.

"Everyone's assuming Michael's playing. It (captaincy) hasn't even been discussed."

Cowan has not had a convincing summer despite scoring 324 runs at 40.50, including a maiden century, but has forged a reasonable relationship with David Warner that has seen them average 52 for the opening stand this season.

Australia's top-order problems have started when one of the pair has been dismissed, a factor that Cowan recognised when he said he had failed to make the most of his opportunities.

"I've left a lot of runs out there in the last couple of Tests but looking back at the dismissals none are really screaming either you're out of form or technically in trouble," he said.

"It doesn't feel like I don't know where my next run is coming from, it's just a question of getting my head down for a bit longer."

The West Australian

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