Cowan's inspired century

BRISBANE - Gazing towards the heavens after reaching his maiden Test ton at the Gabba yesterday, besieged Australian opener Ed Cowan at first looked like a man simply relieved to have silenced his critics.

But when the dust settled on a remarkable fourth day of Australia's first Test against South Africa, Cowan, 30, revealed a much more poignant reason behind his emotional salute.

Twelve months ago to the day, his mentor and close friend Peter Roebuck was found dead at a Cape Town hotel while covering Australia's Test tour of South Africa.

"I am well aware of the date. That was why I looked skywards upon making a hundred," Cowan said after his 136 helped Australia reach 4-487, 37 ahead of South Africa.

"I had a conversation (about him) with my wife this morning on an earlier than normal walk because I couldn't really sleep.

"(And) it was this day last year that started my season, the day I found out that he had died.

"I was battling away a little bit (for Tasmania) so that kick-started me."

By the 2011 Boxing Day Test, the memory of the respected commentator, player and writer had helped a rejuvenated Cowan earn his first baggy green.

But by the time Cowan had arrived for the Gabba Test against the world No.1 Proteas, he again seemed in need of inspiration.

On borrowed time after failing to reach triple figures in his 12 previous Test knocks, Cowan had also been passed over when Cricket Australia handed out its 17 contracts this season and had averaged only 21 in Shield cricket this season.

However, Cowan finally got the monkey - and selectors - off his back as he chimed into a record 259-run fourth wicket stand with captain Michael Clarke (218 not out) yesterday.

The usually patient Cowan appeared to follow a new attacking game plan in his 6 1/2-hour knock - featuring 18 fours - that was abruptly ended after lunch by a freak run out.

But Cowan revealed the plan had been set at his last Test knock - 55 on a difficult Roseau deck against the West Indies in April.

"A lot of you weren't watching but in the last innings in the West Indies ... I thought that was a pretty good blueprint," Cowan said.

"Before that I had a heart to heart with J.L. (batting coach Justin Langer); he was all about going out there and playing my shots.

"I felt like I backed that up."

Cowan survived a caught behind shout at 47 on Sunday before a run out scare on 106 and being dropped on 123 yesterday.

One of Cowan's few complaints was the fact the Gabba crowd's warm applause for notching his ton woke up his 12-week-old daughter Romy while she was being nursed by wife Virginia in the stands.

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