Hughes faces fight to keep opener's slot
The axe may be hanging over Phillip Hughes after another Test failure, but he has been given a chance to save his spot ahead of the Boxing Day Test. Hughes will face the Indians in the second of their tour matches against the Cricket Australia Chairman's XI in Canberra, a week before the Melbourne Test. But he won't be the only top-order batsman aiming to impress.
David Warner will also play in the three-day match starting on December 19, as will Shaun Marsh, who is hoping to prove his fitness after battling a back injury over the past month. If that wasn't a tasty enough prospect, Usman Khawaja is also in the side, meaning the top four batsmen will all be desperate to secure places in a Test side likely to welcome Shane Watson back from injury.
And Ed Cowan, the most in-form opener in the country after scoring three hundreds in his previous three first-class games, will captain a different Chairman's XI side against the Indians on December 15 and 16. It all means immense pressure will be on Hughes, who will have to find a way to handle Ishant Sharma, the fast bowler who will angle the ball across him.
It is a method that Chris Martin has used to great effect in the current series. There was a sense of inevitability about watching Hughes face Martin on the first day in Hobart. Four slips. Two gullies. The leg side was all but vacant. The plan was obvious, and Hughes obliged. His only scoring shot split them all and ran away to the boundary behind point.
The delivery that eventually accounted for Hughes was one he could have, and should have left. He did not flash at it in an attempt to clear the cordon. He poked the bat out tamely and edged to second slip, for the third time in the series walking off with a score of 10 or less and "c Guptill b Martin" next to his name.
After New Zealand struggled to 150 in their first innings, there is no guarantee Hughes will bat again in the match. It makes the three-day encounter against the Indians critical to his chances of playing on Boxing Day. Warner will captain the side for that game, which will also feature the former Test bowlers Trent Copeland, Doug Bollinger and Peter George.
"The two Cricket Australia Chairman's XI games against India provide opportunities for many of our promising young players to display their talents and to gain experience against some legendary Indian players," John Inverarity, the national selector, said. "In the second of these two Cricket Australia Chairman's XI matches a number of players in contention for the Boxing Day Test squad will have the opportunity to press their claims. In the second game, Shaun Marsh will be making his return from injury."
CA Chairman's XI squad (December 15-16) Ed Cowan (capt), Wes Robinson, Joe Burns, Tom Cooper, Alex Doolan, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Ludeman (wk), Joe Mennie, Jake Haberfield, Josh Lalor, Peter George, Dean Solway.
CA Chairman's XI squad (December 19-21) David Warner (capt), Phillip Hughes, Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja, Tom Cooper, Alex Doolan, Tim Ludeman (wk), Trent Copeland, Cameron Boyce, Josh Lalor, Doug Bollinger, Peter George.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo