Chris Barrett, Manchester July 11, 2012
Short and sweet: Batsman Ed Cowan. Photo: Getty Images
QUICK sorties are something Ed Cowan is doing quite a bit of lately, and not simply between the pegs at either end of a cricket pitch.
The Australian Test opener found himself performing a time-honoured antipodean exercise on his arrival to England last week: the visa dash, catching the Eurostar to Paris and after a croissant or two at the Gare du Nord, heading straight back on the train to London.
The half-day mission secured Cowan authorisation to join county side Gloucestershire for three weeks, giving him a useful hit-out before he captains the Australia A tour, beginning in Derby later this month.
In the course of that three-week, four-match venture, he may find himself performing another frantic sprint, back to the Cotswolds, where he and his wife, television presenter Virginia Lette, have been renting a house. She is due to give birth to their first child in the first week of August.
''I'll be on the A tour somewhere up in Durham or Manchester,'' he said yesterday. ''Hopefully she can hold on.''
After the fruitless one-day campaign by Michael Clarke's Australian team, the A tour is shaping as a considerably more rewarding enterprise. A 16-man party includes at least half a dozen in the frame to return on Australia's quest to recapture the Ashes next northern summer.
Cowan, spinner Nathan Lyon and fast bowlers James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc are already central to Australia's Test plans, while Mitchell Johnson is out to show he still has plenty to offer, and Peter Forrest and George Bailey are vying to make impressions as the next batsmen in line.
Tim Paine, overtaken by Matthew Wade as the major challenger to Test wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, will also be on the plane after a year out with a finger injury.
''I think the A tour is a massive tour; it's probably as big an A series as can be played,'' Cowan said. ''It is a big tour for a few batters. It would have been easy for a guy like George, with his workload, to say, 'I want a rest', but he's really keen on pushing his name forward as the next Test batsman ahead of Peter.
''It's also a good opportunity, more so for the bowlers who haven't played Test cricket in England, to bowl with the Dukes ball in English conditions. It's a skill that requires practice.''
Australia A will play three-day games against Derbyshire and Durham before four-day games against England Lions at Old Trafford and Edgbaston.
Cowan managed to secure the overseas player spot on the Gloucestershire roster to fill the gap between the departure of Kane Williamson and the arrival of Rob Nicol.