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Peter English at Perth
December 14, 2006
Michael Hussey is quickly becoming Australia's most complete batsman after steering the side through some unexpected trouble with an unbeaten 74. Pushed up a spot to No. 4 after Damien Martyn's exit, Hussey grabbed the role as successfully as he has with most of his tasks since entering the Test squad a year ago.
Only the Western Australians who laud Martyn would have missed him as one of their other local heroes coolly avoided the early trouble of a moist surface and then increased his rate as the juice disappeared. After crawling to four from 46 balls he stepped up as his team-mates fell to Monty Panesar and Steve Harmison and were dismissed for a disappointing 244.
Andrew Flintoff and Sajid Mahmood were crashed for stunning off drives and Monty Panesar was regularly worked for square-driven boundaries as Hussey showed his shot-happy team-mates the way to succeed on his home ground. The half-century was Hussey's eighth in his past ten innings and he was only cut short of a century by the lack of support from the rest of the order.
The innings continued an impressive streak of 86, 91 and 61 not out in the series and he is not concerned by the absence of a three-figure return. "It would have been nice to get there but it's been nice for me to contribute in a positive way to the team," he said. "I've been able to contribute and we've won two Tests."
Hussey said he would bat anywhere if it meant he could play for Australia and he slipped easily into the No. 4 slot. "It was a bit different and I got nervous a lot quicker," he said. "Usually I can kick back and relax for at least the first session, but I did enjoy getting in there early and getting into the fight."
England produced their best bowling day of the tour and Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison were particularly difficult when the pitch suited them in the opening session. "It was a good battle," Hussey said. "There was plenty of moisture in it early but as it dried out I found it less challenging. I found it hard to get any rhythm in the first session then it slowly got better and better." He expected it would become easier for batting as the game wore on.
Australia started the day with a 2-0 lead but England finished it with a third-Test edge as they cut the advantage by 51 for the loss of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell. "We're going to have to get early wickets tomorrow," Hussey said. Australia are eyeing the long tail created by the inclusion of Panesar and Mahmood and are desperate to make inroads.
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