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Hughes and Cowan plot a homecoming to remember

Date: January 02 2013


Chris Barrett

PHILLIP HUGHES and Ed Cowan could be forgiven for wanting to prove an extra point as they step back on to what was originally home turf for both of them. The expatriate New South Welshmen began their first-class careers at the SCG and each know the place like the back of their hands, even in its mid-renovation state.

Hughes, 24, left in the last off-season for South Australia, needing a fresh start to reinvigorate his stalled international career. The 30-year-old Cowan took off three years ago for Tasmania, chasing a regular start.

Both top-order batsmen have prospered elsewhere and there is a sense of comfort in their return for the third Test against Sri Lanka on Thursday, particularly as they grapple with the blow that is the pending retirement of their middle order safety net Michael Hussey. ''It feels good. I played a fair bit of cricket at the SCG over the years and scored a few runs here over the years so hopefully I can continue that this week,'' said Hughes, who in 19 first-class matches at the ground has scored 1215 runs at an average of 39.19 including three hundreds.

''I suppose being my home state when I was younger, moving from the country to here and having that opportunity with NSW first was very special. The big move to South Australia, I felt like that had to come but getting back here is a good feeling, no doubt about it. I've been in and out of the team for a few years now and I suppose I've got a few caps behind me now so I'm a little bit experienced. But I really want to make this three position my own. As I came in the team and got selected I really want to stamp my authority and I suppose be consistent over a number of years. I'd really love to hold that spot going forward and I suppose everyone has to step up now.

''(Hussey) has been unbelievably consistent now for years so it's about us all being really consistent and going to the next level.''

Born and bred Sydneysider Cowan averages 41.5 in 11 matches at the SCG and having not cashed in against India a year ago - when Michael Clarke made his unbeaten 329, and Ricky Ponting and Hussey both scored tons as well - he is keen to make amends.

''It's just nice to get back to a city I love,'' Cowan said. ''I've played a lot of cricket here as a young fellow, learned my cricket at Sydney Uni, spent a lot of time on the SCG, loved batting here. It was disappointing last year to sit and watch all those runs, but at the same time it was a great learning curve as to the hunger required on a good wicket in Sydney if you do get in to really go big.

''It's nice to go to your parents' home and have a cup of tea … a bit of normality to get away from it all.''

The loss of Hussey, Cowan acknowledges, will open a huge gulf in intellectual property among the Australian team, as did the retirement last month of Ponting, but the opener is adamant that once the veteran left-hander's career is properly eulogised - and hopefully capped with a win at the SCG - a young Australian team must be prepared to move on.

''There are two sides to every coin. You can say what a hole it leaves; it's pretty obvious. He's a phenomenal player, he's still playing as well as he ever has, so sure it's going to leave a hole,'' Cowan said. ''But the other side is it's opportunity, for this team to move forward how they want to, be shaped not by the past but have a real crack with a new group shaping a new Australian cricket team. That's exciting, and it has to be. If we don't think that's exciting then we've got an issue.''

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