Run of outs show likely cause for confusion between the wickets

MICHAEL HUSSEY at least had one colleague in the dressing room in the Members Pavilion who knew how he was feeling. The advantage for the also run-out Ed Cowan, however, is that his Test career will not come to a full stop in Sydney.

Australia's case of the yips between the wickets cost Hussey a fairytale on farewell, and loosened their grip on the third and final Test against Sri Lanka. The veteran has barely ever been run out in his 79-Test career, and this was not his fault either. At the top of the Australian order, however, such mid-pitch catastrophes are becoming a regular event.

A member of the top three was run out in Sydney for the third time in the series. While David Warner and Phillip Hughes narrowly missed centuries on day two at the SCG, a despondent Cowan blew an opportunity to cash against a lowly rated and second-string touring pace attack.

It was the first time in more than 30 years since Australia had lost a top-three batsman to a run out in three successive Tests. The last time the trend of confusion occurred was in 1978-79 against England when there was one top-three run-out in each of five Tests against England, and Rick Darling and Graeme Wood were the victims twice each.

Cowan had sat down two days before this New Year's Test and recalled how frustrating it had been not to cash in during Australia's Indian summer at the ground nearly a year ago. He had plenty of time to come to terms with the missed opportunity, watching from the dressing room balcony as captain Michael Clarke clobbered an unbeaten 329, and Ricky Ponting and Hussey also pocketed hundreds.

He looked shattered in the morning on Friday, knowing another chance to make a pile on the home track of his native state had gone out the window.

Like the mode of exit of Warner in Hobart and Hughes in Melbourne, and just about every top-order run-out in Test cricket, Cowan's dismissal for four was criminally unnecessary. Australia, chiefly through Warner, were off to a rollicking start, racing beyond 30 in only five overs and making the fourth-gamer Nuwan Pradeep look every bit of his Test bowling average, which began the day at 345 and tipped 400 before it was halved by a wicket.

Then, out of nowhere, disaster struck. Warner parried a full toss delivered by the slightly more credentialled Sri Lankan seamer Dhammika Prasad wide of mid-wicket and raced off for a couple of runs.

Warner charged for the second without a second thought, but at the other end Cowan, turning without a look to the looming fieldsman, appeared to be coasting. It was only when he then glanced up that he realised the danger he was in.

He hesitated for a split second, and by the time Pradeep whipped the ball into Prasad, he was run out by a stretch. The distance suggested there probably wasn't a second run in the whole song and dance in the first place.

It was an unfortunate episode Cowan did not need. Some will use his modest average of 32.66 in 13 Tests as a trigger to say he is under serious pressure for his place again. The reality is not that black and white. The adopted Tasmanian has scored a maiden Test century (when he was also run out), and another two 50s, this summer, which must be seen as a passable result. And the axe will certainly not be coming if Australia are winning.

He will go to India next month, and then almost certainly to England in the winter. But as Warner continues to make hay, he could use another healthy return or two of his own, and no repeat of this mess.

Hussey, meanwhile, can only hope he gets another bat.

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