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Australia are looking for a No.3 in their ODI side. Phillip Hughes might have been the man for the job, but has been overlooked again
July 16, 2012
Twenty players were chosen in Australia's limited-overs squads for the series against Pakistan. A few others must have come close, including Aaron Finch, Rob Quiney and Nathan Lyon. But there was no sign of the man with the highest one-day average of all current Australian batsmen. He also has the highest Twenty20 average of all time among Australians, and is the No.1 run scorer in the county T20 competition this year.
His name is Phillip Hughes. And he has played 17 Tests, no one-day internationals and no T20s for his country.
It is odd that Hughes has been viewed as a Test specialist. The only other batsmen in the past decade to play Test cricket for Australia without appearing in one-dayers have been Ed Cowan, Usman Khawaja, Chris Rogers and Martin Love, all men with conventional techniques, whose role is as much crease occupation as run-scoring. Hughes is not in that category.
Of course, it is easy to look at Hughes and say that he has had his chances. That is true, in the longer format. He has made Test hundreds but has also had his technique picked apart, first when facing the short ball and then when he could not help playing at balls seaming across him. But a slashing, stroke-playing technique is not a bad thing in limited-overs cricket.
Perhaps the selectors have felt, in the past, that Hughes was better off focusing on his Test-match game. That is not an issue now, for Cowan and David Warner are settling as an opening combination, with Shane Watson capable of stepping back into the role should Cowan falter. Hughes has lost his Cricket Australia contract and is not part of the Australia A squad to play first-class matches in England over the next few weeks.
But he has proven himself capable of scoring runs at international level, and is a naturally aggressive player who can pierce or clear the field. Not to mention the fact that Australia are currently looking for someone to play first-drop in the ODI side. Since Ricky Ponting's departure from the ODI outfit, Australia have tried Watson, Peter Forrest, Matthew Wade, Michael Clarke and George Bailey at No.3, for a collective average of 25.33.
Hughes has been batting at No.3 for Worcestershire this year, and he has made two centuries there. He is fourth on the run tally in the Clydesdale Bank 40-over competition, and is averaging 96. In the Friends Life t20 tournament, nobody has bettered his 322 runs at 80.50, with a strike-rate of 121. For the first time in the competition's current format, Worcestershire have reached the quarter-finals.
Consider the all-time list of T20 averages. Hughes is the leading Australian, averaging 47.16 at a strike-rate of 115. That may drop as he plays more games - he has appeared in only 24 T20 matches - but it's a pretty good start. On the list of all-time List A averages, only the retired Michael Bevan, Dean Jones, Darren Lehmann, Matthew Elliott and Matthew Hayden sit above Hughes' 44.48 among Australians.
Of course Hughes is far from the only man worthy of an ODI call-up. Callum Ferguson deserved another chance, and has been given it. Quiney would be a capable one-day international player, as would Aaron Finch or any number of others.
But Hughes has form, style and international experience on his side, not to mention youth - he is still only 23. His chance in the coloured clothing for Australia might not have arrived just yet, but it should soon. He certainly has the game for it.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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