Australia v New Zealand, 1st Test, Brisbane, 4th day December 4, 2011

New Zealand 'would love' Hughes retention


Australia's fidgety opening batsman Phillip Hughes may be the best thing going for a battling New Zealand outfit right now. After Chris Martin had Hughes dropped in the slips from a typical edge, then caught in the gully from a flailing cut next ball in the hosts' chase of a mere 19 to wrap up the first Test, the visiting captain Ross Taylor said of the Australia squad for Hobart: "I'd love him to be in the team."

This was a damning statement, but a true one, for Martin's bounce and angle caused Hughes all manner of trouble in both innings, and allowed New Zealand a way into the Australian batting order. The national selectors must make a difficult call on Hughes sooner or later, and Taylor's enthusiasm about the 23-year-old as an opponent, when most err towards the respectful when discussing the opposition, will be ringing in their ears.

"If Hughes plays in Tasmania then obviously Chris Martin will be bowling at him and hopefully Martin Guptill takes a third catch too," Taylor said. "We had a lot of video footage of all the Australian players and Hughes got caught at second, third slip and gully a lot in the Ashes and in South Africa. That was definitely an area we wanted to target, and with the way Chris Martin bowls, he bowls across the left-hander."

Since returning to the Australian XI during the Ashes last summer, Hughes has spent countless hours working with the assistant coach Justin Langer, trying to eradicate the problems outside off stump that have recurred all too often against diligent new ball bowling. But he remains as susceptible as ever to the presentation of a crooked bat and a resultant edge to the slips, accounting for a Test record that features three centuries but too many brief stays at the crease. In 17 innings since the Ashes recall, Hughes has passed 36 only twice.

Hughes' position is complicated further by the fact that the captain, Michael Clarke, is his staunchest defender in public and his closest friend in the team. As a selector, Clarke is part of the discussions that must be edging closer to removing Hughes from the XI, but he is refusing to budge in his support.

"I look forward to a press conference where I don't get asked about Phillip Hughes," Clarke said after Australia's victory. "Once again, not concerning for me. I have confidence that Hughesy will come out in Hobart and perform. He got a hundred not that long ago, 80-odd not that long ago. I've seen Hughesy cut that ball for four a number of times. I'm sure he would be disappointed personally that he hasn't made any runs in this test match, but I'm confident he can put his hand up in Hobart and get a big score for us."

Clarke said he had seen plenty of improvement in Hughes' technique since his first bout of problems, against Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff in England in 2009.

"I think his technique has improved out of sight," Clarke said. "Every one of us has deficiencies in technique. And these days with the footage you can get on players, it's very easy to find out what those deficiencies are. It's no different for any batsman. I have seen a lot of improvement. I continue to see him scoring runs. Probably not as consistent as he would like, but he's still scoring them. His record for NSW is better than any 23-year-old in this country. He's scored three great hundreds for Australia and I'm confident he can score a lot more."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roo on December 7, 2011, 23:27 GMT

    @Meety... lol... After the 1st Test in SL we were above them... Your point?... Then I picked out Warner/Khawaja/Hussey/Marsh & Watson as openers & all you could come up with is a lame "Booney wouldn't of flinched"about Marsh... lol...

  • Andrew on December 6, 2011, 3:13 GMT

    @zenboomerang - SL was ranked above us prior to the Test series, Marsh didn't look very composed when he got nutted in the first test against the Saffas, Booney wouldn't of flinched. @ AidanFX - agree its more of confidence v technical issue, as for the 2nd innings, I tend to think they were trying to wrap the match up in 2 overs. I would be more interested in the mode of dismissal in the 1st innings. In Saffaland, I thought he received some absolute corkers! @dsig3 - I actually disagree re: Sehwag. Hidden behind the swinging 6s is an organised defence better than most players in the world. When he first came on the scene - he was a Sachin clone, (a picture of perfection in defense). Since then he only seems to want to smash 4s & 6s, so I'd say his biggest issue is between his ears.

  • Randolph on December 5, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    I'd love another 4 tests against NZ, so we can wallop them like the poms in 07.

  • david on December 5, 2011, 13:09 GMT

    nice to see some of the usual suspects coming down from their giddy heights. for a while was getting quit girlish. i did not see much of this test, did one of the teams change to a higher ranking, it was nz was it not the 8th team in the icc rankings. but played more like the team that should have beat them last month zim. dpk

  • Richard on December 5, 2011, 12:07 GMT

    Many, many moons ago I played in my school's first XI. If one of our openers had been dismissed in the same fashion as Hughes, the very ball after he had just been fortuitously dropped at slip, he would have been dropped from the team for the next match and told to 'have a good hard look at himself'. That would also apply in the many teams I've played with since. Ross Taylor's comments are irrelevant really, and getting defensive about them is a mistake. Frankly I think he's right-Hughes has the most problematic technique I think I've ever seen in a first class player, let alone one who is lauded as a future test star. News travels fast in the international cricket scene and no sensible or capable test bowler will feed him the stuff short and wide outside off that he happily murders. His technique would be problematic in an all-rounder batting at say number 7 or 8, let alone a test opener. I don't see him as a solution to our opening problems I'm afraid.

  • Mark on December 5, 2011, 11:19 GMT

    This is staggering. Guys like Hughes are going to be part of the future of the test team. Guys like Ponting are not and should be the first to make way, not the younger talent. As @disco_bob rightly points out, its a bit rich for Taylor to sneer at Phil Hughes, 14 and a duck and dropped an important catch at an important time in the game. But when you have nothing but problems, very little upside anywhere and have just endured a complete rogering, the best course of action is to deflect attention away from yourself. Hopefully Hughes comes out in Hobart and makes them pay for their sneers.

  • david on December 5, 2011, 10:20 GMT

    Do not see why the Australia's are getting shirted with Nz talking the talk,as that has been a australian game for as long as I can remember.Case in point was the last ashes series when apparently according to the aus media,siddle and M Johnson england were running sacred of them, well the only thing Australia run into was a pancaking they have never forgotten LOL !

  • Mehul on December 5, 2011, 8:30 GMT

    Again shows the inconsistency in the Aus selections. Guys w/o enough chances or bad performance were dropped (in bowling or batting department). Think Clarke has a role to play in this. Really surprised to see aussies go these ways on selection issue from selections to dropping someone.

  • Tim on December 5, 2011, 7:27 GMT

    Interesting little fact, Taylor made less runs than Hughes and was also out to the same bowler twice. Hughes wouldn't have had identical dismissals either if Taylor could catch. Maybe the Kiwi's should keep their mouths shut or risk looking more stupid than they already do.

  • Rajaram on December 5, 2011, 7:10 GMT

    THIS is the BEST TIME to try out the following, with an eye on the future: 1. Drop Phil Hughes - PERMANENTLY. 2. David Warner and Usman Khawaja to open. 3. Ricky Ponting at No.3 - his favourite place. 4. Daniel Christian at No.4 - he is a bowler too. 5. Clarke at No.5 - his favourite place, where he has scored the MAXIMUM centuries. 6. Hussey at No.6 7. Haddin at No.7 8,9,10 - between Siddle,Pattinson and Starc 11. Nathan Lyon.

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