• Somerset v Australians, Taunton, 4th day

A good outing for Australia's batsmen

Daniel Brettig in Taunton
June 29, 2013
Australians 321 for 5 decl and 263 for 4 (Khawaja 73, Haddin 52*, Hughes 50) beat Somerset 320 and 260

Phillip Hughes came in at No. 3 and impressed © Getty Images

Usman Khawaja, Phillip Hughes and Ed Cowan were all useful, but not quite compelling on a day of sunshine and blue skies at Taunton as they duelled for places in the Australian batting order for the first Test.

Each played fluently until the moment of his dismissal, but none turned their start into the sort of tally captain Michael Clarke and coach Darren Lehmann so desired from their charges.

Still, a win is a win and as the first such result in a first-class match by an Australian team overseas since the third Test in Dominica in April 2012, it should not be sniffed at. Brad Haddin, the vice-captain, completed formalities with a second six in an innings that underlined how the tourists' goal of an outright result has never been in question.

Haddin's was in fact the most arresting batting of all the Australians. He walked out with a potentially tense 56 runs still to get and proceeded to clobber 52 of them himself. Following on from fluent runs for Australia A, Haddin looks more than capable of playing in the top six if required.

The Australians made one concession for preparatory needs by keeping Shane Watson from batting in the second innings, even though four wickets fell. He is completely certain of his place, but others less so. Khawaja and Hughes gained most from the final day's batting, on a surface that had finally begun to wear. Though he did not impress in the first innings, Khawaja was composed and unhurried while compiling 73 runs, including 10 boundaries. Hughes played his shots with increasing levels of self-assurance, benefiting from the gains of day two.

However Cowan trudged grimly from the wicket after falling short of a major score, despite looking untroubled until the moment of his dismissal, which for the second time in the match went the way of the tall seamer Gemaal Hussain. It remains to be seen whether he will get another chance to push for his retention in the Test team against Worcestershire next week.

Sun blazed over the County Ground as Cowan and Khawaja resumed play in the morning. Runs were soon being collected with efficiency and no great fuss, any edges snuck through the gap between slips and gully running along the ground. Cowan drove attractively through cover and also punched through point off the back foot, while Khawaja rotated the strike more effectively than he has done so at times in the past.

So comfortable did both batsmen look that the fall of a wicket was unexpected. Cowan, on 46, flailed at Hussain in search of the boundary to reach his half-century and managed only to edge behind. The dismissal continued a worrying pattern: not since the first Test of last summer against South Africa in Brisbane has Cowan made a first-class century, despite consistently making starts. Australia may be able to afford this kind of recurring issue with one of their openers, but having guaranteed a berth to the hundred-shy Watson they may be hesitant about including another.

Hughes walked out at No. 3 as the tourists sought to bolster his confidence further, and it was evident in a rollicking start to his innings including one big six heaved over midwicket from the bowling of George Dockrell. This was the sort of shot Hughes looked afraid to play in India, and he balanced his aggression with plenty of singles while at the other end Khawaja raised his fifty.

Lunch came and went, and just when Khawaja appeared to be cantering towards a century, the rough Dockrell had been floating his left-arm spin towards caused him to play for too much spin and snick a catch to slip. Hughes and Clarke prospered for a time, before the former slogged at Dockrell and was bowled. Clarke had played his second pleasing cameo of the match but played a similarly inattentive stroke three runs later, dancing down the wicket and playing around a ball that did not turn.

But Haddin was in a joyful hurry, and he allowed the tour bus a chance to be revved up for Worcester well ahead of the scheduled close. It gathered valuable momentum at Taunton, even if Cowan, Hughes and Khawaja might have preferred more runs to take with them.

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