Tasmania v NSW, Sheffield Shield final, Hobart, 1st day March 17, 2011

Hughes and Katich save NSW's day

The Bulletin by Alex Malcolm

New South Wales 5 for 316 (Hughes 138, Katich 96) v Tasmania

Four years ago in the 2007-08 Sheffield Shield final, Phillip Hughes announced himself as a future Test player with his first Shield hundred to help New South Wales to victory. Four years on, with suggestions that his international career was at the cross roads, Hughes made arguably his most important century to anchor the Blues on day one of this decider.

It wasn't the same Hughes that we've come to know and expect. It was a new and improved version. A mature batsman who has shelved his dashing, flashing, style for a recalibrated technique that allowed him to survive 278 balls, and compile a classy 138 on a fresh first day pitch in Hobart.

Tasmania fans might look at the scorecard and wonder why George Bailey decided to bowl when the coin fell his way. But the Blues captain Simon Katich admitted he would have done the same on a surface that had a lot of live green grass. Add to that the fact that the average first innings total in Hobart this year has been just 172, and that the side fielding first in all five matches at Bellerive this year has won, it was no surprise Bailey elected to bowl.

But the surface was harder than expected. Although it did plenty off the seam early, anything overpitched was driven without fear. Hughes and a rejuvenated David Warner set up the day with a wonderful opening stand. They put on 88 in the first 74 minutes. They played the lines and were unperturbed at being beaten on a consistent basis. But anything overpitched was punished. Warner was particularly savage on Ben Hilfenhaus, his first seven overs cost 40.

Warner looked set for another big score before Xavier Doherty was introduced. Doherty didn't produce consistent spin. But he spun two balls sharply and both claimed wickets. He enticed Warner to drive on 47 and ripped it back to through gate to rattle leg stump. Doherty then forced a defensive prod from Usman Khawaja, yielding an inside edge which was claimed by Ed Cowan's quick reflexes at short leg.

When James Faulkner trapped Phil Jaques in front just on lunch Tasmania looked to have reclaimed the ascendency. But the middle session belonged to Hughes. He had looked impressive but vulnerable at different times in the morning. He was 55 at lunch having been reprieved by the normally reliable Bailey on 48. But in the afternoon Hughes showed how far his game had come. He looked impenetrable. His movements were simple; his bat looked as wide as the Derwent. His previously unusual back foot movement to leg was now going to off. He covered off stump in defence. He drove magnificently straight when given the chance. He also cut responsibly and sensibly when offered width and struck one powerful slog sweep off Doherty for six.

He combined beautifully with his captain and, at times, Test opening partner who was unusually batting at No. 5. Katich was dogged prior to tea while Hughes flourished. After tea Katich scored prolifically while Hughes dropped anchor. It was typical Katich. Anything short and wide was punished and anything straight picked off. Their partnership of 185 looked to set the game up before Tasmania took the new ball and showed the wicket still had plenty to offer for the bowlers. Katich was trapped four shy of a century by James Faulkner. His 96 had taken him to fourth all-time for total runs scored in Shield Finals. Hughes fell to a beauty from Luke Butterworth who bowled better than his one wicket suggested. Butterworth consistently beat the bat all day but Hughes' was the only edge that went to hand.

The Blues sent in nightwatchman Scott Coyte with Katich falling in the 87th over. But the man they were protecting, Ben Rohrer, batted anyway with Hughes departure. New South Wales will look to post 400 plus with Peter Nevill and Steve O'Keefe still to come. It will be a good platform for the away side that need to win to claim their 46th Shield. A draw will be good enough for Tasmania.

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based out of Perth

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on March 18, 2011, 23:42 GMT

    re: Tour in August. I think I'd go; 1. Hughes, 2. Watson, 3. Katich, 4. Ponting, 5. Clarke, 6. M Hussey, 7. Haddin, 8. O'Keefe, 9. MJ, 10. Copeland, 11. Bollinger, 12th Smith, 13th Khawaja, 14th Butterworth, 15th Faulkner, 16th Richarsdson, 17th Lyon, 18th Ferguson. This is a large squad - what but I'd like to reward some really good domestic form. I'd have Paine or Wade on standby for Haddin. I know the large squad pre-Ashes was divisive, but its more acceptable for a tour. I have assumed Harris, McKay & Hauritz are unfit. I am keen to see how Lyons develops, I think Doherty should be in tandem with O'Keefe our premier Test bowlers. I think Copeland is a huge prospect even though he never gets above 130kph! He is accurate & keeps taking 1st class wickets. Ultimately I think Siddle will tour, & he does deserve it on effort alone, but I don't think he brings enough to the table - but his gradual improvement in batting, may see him become a future Allrounder (joking)!

  • Andrew on March 18, 2011, 23:33 GMT

    @popcorn - don't really agree with your opinion of the 2009 Ashes. North should of been dropped but hung on primarily because of exploits in Sth Africa - why wasn't Hughes given that courtesy? As far as this 2010/11 Ashes - he ultimately shouldn't of been picked because he was coming back from injury AND was very much out of form. @hyclass - I was hugely dissappointed when he got dropped in England. There was no real justification for this action. I don't normally (although I like a good one), subscribe to conspiracy theories, but it is odd that he smashed the Saffas, came over to England early & flayed the county bowlers all over the place, & as soon as he joins the Oz squad - pow the magic dust is gone!! @hyclass - re: Katich, yeah I dunno, he has scored a 300, but you may be right on that. Certainly this time around due to return from injury. I'm tempted to take him to SL for the Test tour in August though. Not sure what order I'd have (TBC)

  • Christopher on March 18, 2011, 7:57 GMT

    I have maintained for some time that Katich suffers from a lack of stamina rather than nerves and thats why he gets out in the 90s @Meety.Even when he does carry on to a century,his innings is quickly over.Hes still a fine player and in a stronger body,may well have been a great player-both batting and bowling.I havent yet seen the new Hughes @Something Witty,but like you,i envisage a long and very successful career.He has demonstrated courage,work ethic and class far beyond his 22 years and i have always rated him highly.I cant wait for a time when he is free to reveal what took place at the start of that 2009 ashes tour.He has alluded to never having trouble at any other time with short bowling and im certain hes right because i cant imagine the Sth Africans not bouncing an opening batsman.Nielsen couldnt wait to get Watson into the team and said as much at the press conference.He sacked Hughes and told him to learn to bat.The 3 england captains commentating called it unaustralian.

  • Christopher on March 18, 2011, 7:38 GMT

    I have rarely read a less well informed blog than yours @popcorn.Not a single person who understands cricket or is capable of open minded appreciation would consider Hughes in any way reponsible for the 2009 Ashes loss.He averaged 68 in Sth Africa against the worlds best attack.He owned a Shield Cricketer of the Year,Bradman Medal,Steve Waugh Medal,youngest centurion in a shield final,youngest twin hundreds in a test,2 scores of 198 for NSW and 3 hundreds in 3 games leading into the 2009 ashes.He batted 3 times in that series for 36 bounced out,4 caught behind pulling down the leg side and 17 given out caught driving when the ball bounced well short of the england captain.His average at that time was 58.His batting had clearly been tampered with before the warm up game.He became undependable because he was ordered to change his style.I know of no other player to whom this has ever happened.It stank then and still does.We lost the ashes in 2009 because of shocking selection and coaching

  • Online on March 18, 2011, 2:19 GMT

    Completely agree with you Something_Witty; right on all accounts mate. Disagree with you popcorn. Hughes was never "found out" by the short ball. If he was, can you explain how he scored twin centuries against South Africa when AB de Villiers and Mickey Arthur claimed that they found out his weakness against the short ball and South Africa had three of the best test bowlers in world cricket: dale steyn, Morne Morkel, and Jacques Kallis to implement their plans? And how could he have then gone back to Shield cricket and carved out runs? His apparent "problem with the short ball" was known by everyone for about 1.5 years now and yet he has still scored runs. I must admit the changes in his techniques have made him a better player but you don't have the career he had up till 2009 without already being a good player. Dropping him after two ordinary tests hurt his confidence. I'm pretty sure he would have done well in the 2009 Ashes series if given the full 5 tests.

  • Dummy4 on March 17, 2011, 23:10 GMT

    Great to see Hughes hitting some form at the end of the season, should see him bring some confidence into the next. I actually read some commentary on the match when Doherty was bowling. Did he really loop the ball up so much?? He seemed to have a real problem with bowling the same trajectory and speed when playing in the test matches.

  • Andrew on March 17, 2011, 11:21 GMT

    I like Katich - but even in Shield cricket he gets out for about 90! Well done Hughes. Good bowling Doherty.

  • Rajaram on March 17, 2011, 11:14 GMT

    I have ALWAYS dreaded when Phil Hughes came out to bat as a Test opener because of his flashing outside the offstump and his problem against the short ball. He was undependable.When Australia lost the first wicket early, the opposition pounced on us. We lost the Ashes 2009 because he was "found" out" ,read bounced out. If he has truly curbed that flashing outside the offstump, and has compiled a CLASSY century, I would liken him to Justin Langer, and the RIGHT person to replace Simon Katich when Katich retires.

  • John on March 17, 2011, 8:51 GMT

    What an absolutely QUALITY innings from Hughes. This kid WILL go all the way at international level if given the proper opportunities. He's made a few small adjustments to his technique and I must say they just make him a complete package now. His trigger movement is back and across now, rather than backing away to leg stump and that has now opened up the on-side as a scoring area AND helps him get in line with the ball better. His on-driving today was an absolute treat. Superb innings and I really hope he opens for us against SL in August.

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