Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart, 2nd day

Hussey delivers batting masterclass

Michael Hussey's latest century was another example of the hardworking, fluent and busy innings that have typified his style of play over his career

Daniel Brettig in Hobart

December 15, 2012

Comments: 20 | Text size: A | A

Almost without exception, every man to enter the Australian team has described the sight of Ricky Ponting at training as close to their greatest education about what was required of an international cricketer. His intensity was unwavering, his spark ever-present, his attention to detail minute.

Seldom would a session conclude without one brilliant moment of Ponting fielding, like a staggering slip catch or a precision throw to knock back one stump. Similarly, never would Ponting finish in the nets without a sense of progress around his batting, even if in latter days that was not reflected in the middle.

On days one and two in Hobart, in the first match since Ponting exited the training and playing grounds for life beyond the dressing room, Michael Hussey gave a similarly comprehensive education in the ways of mature batsmanship. At 37, having watched Ponting's decline into retirement, Hussey appears remarkably undimmed by advancing years, and remains the foremost Australian batting technician of his time.

Every piece of Hussey's game, which has so confounded Sri Lanka across six Tests dating back to 2007, was fitted into the considered and accomplished whole after careful consideration and often painful experience. Starting life as an opening batsman, he gilded his technique and mental approach with additional knowledge when dropping down the order during county matches in England. When Hussey belatedly debuted for Australia in late 2005, he was 30 years old, and had learned even to temper his customary intensity, the better to profit on the journey.

"When I got to 30 and I was in the Western Australia team I had almost given up hope of playing for Australia," Hussey said. "I was always someone who put a lot of pressure on myself and tried very hard. Almost when I took the pressure off myself and said 'I'm not going to worry about playing for Australia, just relax', that's when I started performing more consistently and got my opportunity.

"Once I got into the team, that was the challenge for me, to keep that mindset, try to stay relaxed, just keep enjoying my game, keep playing my way, and hopefully the same consistency would come. It's a challenge because it's something you want so badly and you want to do so well, it's hard to stay relaxed, but I think that's where I've been able to play my best cricket, when I'm calm."

'I just want to enjoy it while it lasts'

  • Michael Hussey knows he cannot elude the march of time forever. Having scored a century and taken a catch at gully, Hussey earned the plaudits of Sri Lanka's coach Graham Ford, who reckoned the 37-year-old could keep going for at least another two years. But Hussey himself was careful not to laugh in the face of his advancing years, noting Ricky Ponting's final series.
  • "I thought watching Ricky he'd been batting really well, his Sheffield Shield scores were fantastic, and watching him bat in the nets, and this game sometimes it just can really sort you out," Hussey said. "I'm under no illusions that I'm sure that's going to happen to me as well. It just takes a couple of good balls, a couple of bad shots, or a couple of things not to go your way, and you can feel under pressure as well. At the moment it seems to have been going my way, but understanding how the game goes it can turn very quickly, and I just want to try to enjoy it while it lasts."
  • Possessing a startling record against Sri Lanka, Hussey said he had learned to enjoy series that began well but also rebound in those that began badly. "You get confidence from good scores if you can start a series well it does help you to relax," he said. "I've been through the different sorts of challenges along the way where you haven't started well and you can feel the pressure building. To be able to keep coming back to what you know has worked for you in the past and just believing in that, and eventually it comes back around your way."

That delayed entry to international company filled Hussey with desire and resourcefulness to expand on his undoubted natural talent, and knowledge of his strengths and weaknesses that allowed him to grow remarkably quickly into something approaching the complete player. This is perhaps best illustrated by his still critical role for Australia in all three formats of the game - as valuable in the helter skelter of Twenty20 as he is in the extended cut and thrust of a Test.

The latter was very much on display at Bellerive Oval, as Sri Lanka's bowlers did their best to corral Australia on a pitch that was presentable on the first day but has grown subtly more difficult with each hour, and will continue to deteriorate. In recent times Hussey has shown his ability to guide Australia out of one top order crisis after another in the company of the captain Michael Clarke, and this time his commission was eased slightly by a tally of 4 for 198 when he walked to the middle.

"It was sort of a pitch where you never really felt in on," Hussey said. "There was definitely quite a bit of variable bounce, and if you get enough balls in the right area there's a little bit of seam movement as well. It didn't really swing as much as what I was expecting, but there's certainly enough variable bounce there, and a couple that took off from nowhere, and that made it hard to feel really in. It's difficult to score freely."

One of Hussey's greatest attributes as a batsman is to score unobtrusively at times, but always regularly enough to keep himself from becoming inert. This was very evident here, as his innings contained no fewer than 49 singles. On a second morning of careful batting following Clarke's early departure to a lively Shaminda Eranga, Hussey sustained himself at one point with 14 runs in succession collected the hard way. This had the dual benefits of keeping Hussey's tally ticking but also rotating the strike, posing different challenges for Sri Lanka's attack, which remained diligent throughout the period up to lunch. Apart from everything else, Hussey is an outstanding runner between the wickets.

After rain lengthened the interval significantly, Australia's priorities were changed. The time sucked out of the match, and the prospect of more delays over the next three days, lifted the emphasis on runs collected quickly, and the attack to be taken to the bowlers. Hussey and Matthew Wade lifted their rating, and after notching only two boundaries in going to his 50, he cuffed six balls to the fence and heaved another over it on his way to 115 not out.

The only moment in the entire innings when Hussey lost noticeable poise was on 96, when he pulled at Shaminda Eranga's short ball and offered a chance to Angelo Mathews on the boundary. It was the sort of chance that might have been taken this summer if offered by Ponting, but like Clarke, Hussey's luck appears to be in. Some good fortune for Hussey was altogether fitting anyway, given the quality of the innings, and the quality of the player. Right now there is no better man in the world for an aspiring young batsman to watch.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by I-Like-Cricket on (December 16, 2012, 1:42 GMT)

@FFL do you actually ever have anything clever to say? Or is this mind-numbingly boring taunting of the Australians the only thing you're capable of? Even when you're wrong. ie. only club-graders? Michael Clarke has scored far more runs than anyone in the English side this year while playing fewer matches including a triple and a double century against the former world number one team and two doubles against the current number one with the best pace attack in the world. If you want to go in to Cook's centruy last game being made on a terrible surface then we'll just go back to Clarke's 150 against SA in SA, probably a better innings than his four doubles this year.

Posted by bonobo on (December 16, 2012, 0:39 GMT)

I just cannot understand the logic of playing your two best batsmen at 5 and 6, particualrly when you have an inexperienced vulnerable to order......yet Clarke and Hussey have shown the form of their lives and are consistently giving Australia big totals....so maybe i am completely wrong about how a batting order should look. Wade looks a tough cookie, like him

Posted by Mary_786 on (December 15, 2012, 23:53 GMT)

He is the best example of all the youngsters coming through on how cricket should be played on and off the field.

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 15, 2012, 19:59 GMT)

A huge heart, positive mindset and an instinctive feel for the state of the match. Marry that to supreme fitness and considerable batting skill and you have yourself a Mr. Cricket. .. one of my favourite Oz players of all time. Just such a good, good player. ... @ FFL : you haven't been taking your pills lately, have you?

Posted by Bjan on (December 15, 2012, 19:17 GMT)

Heh. Based purely on the title I thought this article was going to refer to the Masterclass he had during the Cricket Show yesterday with Tubby. That only strengthened the notion of aspiring batsmen watching him play, and not just because he was answering questions of said aspiring young'uns.

Posted by CricLook on (December 15, 2012, 17:07 GMT)

Hussey is a modern day legend of cricket. It is unfortunate for cricket fans all around the world that he came in international scene so late. Had he debuted in his early twenties , he surely would the gain the stature of Ponting, Waugh or Border or Chapel brothers. Enjoy man..!.every bit of your game..bless the game itself. Salute you old champion...Stay as long as form remain with you.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 15:29 GMT)

Hussey Always rocks....he is only person to be called as Mr.Cricket....

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (December 15, 2012, 15:19 GMT)

Ask him how the last whitewash went when Aus came to Eng last year. Hussey is the only decent Aussie batsmen worth mentioning in amongst the other club-graders he plays with. Being a flat track bully and playing against a fellow minnow team counts for little in a day and age when playing on difficult crumbling surfaces highlights true batting skill.

Posted by vrn59 on (December 15, 2012, 14:22 GMT)

Great article! Michael Hussey is truly one of this decade's finest...

Posted by Beertjie on (December 15, 2012, 14:05 GMT)

Got to agree, @MisterObvious. Knowing Swann so well from county cricket means he and Clarke will be key to playing spin. Hope he has a good 'un in India too!

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 13:50 GMT)

The best player in the world! He's always been my favorite player not just cos of his skill but also cos of his team spirit and trait of always playing well in pressure! That too he's such a good human being....Hope to see you playing for at least 3 more years!

Posted by kickittome70 on (December 15, 2012, 13:40 GMT)

A modern monument as the ideal cricketer. Just an all round solid sportsmen & human being. I hope and pray he doesnt retire. He is immensely respected in Australia - his consistency is what defines him. I hope and pray the selectors dont move on him. Plus he's the most entertaining cricker in our side - who else plays a cover drive better than Huss? He must stay in for the next two Ashes series as he has a real taste for english bolwers. Other countries are envious that we have him and they dont.

Posted by Rooboy on (December 15, 2012, 13:35 GMT)

Huss sure must love playing SL. I think by now we all know his phenomenal batting feats vs the lions, but he also has a bowling avg of 3.5 vs SL! Small sample size notwithstanding, this is surely one of the most dominant individual records against any team.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 12:52 GMT)

Hussey should play for Australia for another 37 years

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 11:43 GMT)

@Misterobvious, i'm sure most Aussie fans will share those sentiments, well said! The poor Sri Lankans must be getting a little tired of him, after three MoM performances in the last series he's probably looking like getting it again here!

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 10:47 GMT)

Fine Inning`s, from Huss`, and Wade, great effort, on a difficult pitch.

Posted by Trapper439 on (December 15, 2012, 10:34 GMT)

Great player. It's a pity he wasn't given a chance in Tests before the age of 30.

It's also a real pity that his brother is going to end his career without having played a Test. Dave Hussey actually has a higher first-class average than Michael Hussey.

One can only wonder how different things could have been for Aussie cricket over the last few years if it wasn't for the knuckle-dragging idiocy of the Aussie selectors during the lamentable Hilditch era.

Posted by MisterObvious on (December 15, 2012, 10:20 GMT)

There are few cricketers who'll take a serious lofty whack at a ball like that while in the nervous 90s. Mr Cricket is just such a bloke. I really loved that he was dropped by Mathews in such a manner that the ball made the rope & Huss got his ton. Almost better than if it went for a high 6 in a way, since it perfectly demonstrates the fickle nature of cricket - which makes us sit & watch 5-day matches (which my Yank mates can't understand - I live in the US). The grin that broke out on Huss's mug right then was bloody priceless. Hell, I was as happy as he was.

Oodles o' kudos to Huss for being the saviour of our bloody awful top order so many times over the years, especially during the last two when Punter was in decline & became a walking wicket. (So long, RP, it's been great.)

And who runs harder for singles than our Mr Cricket? Bloody no one, that's who - not even young whippersnappers 15 years his junior. He definitely eats his vegemite.

My fav bloke in a Baggy Green.

Posted by disco_bob on (December 15, 2012, 10:00 GMT)

I understand the calls for Ponting to hang up his gloves over the past few years however I am utterly mystified as to why we get similar calls for Huss just because he's 37. Unless he goes downhill very fast, I'd want to see someone with his experience playing in the b2b Ashes series.

Posted by liaqathussain on (December 15, 2012, 9:55 GMT)

there's only 1 mr cricket

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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