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Australia v West Indies, 2nd Test, Hobart, 2nd day

Gold at the end of Hussey's rainbow

The Verdict by Peter English in Hobart

November 17, 2005

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Michael Hussey came up with an innings of immense promise as Australia held sway at Hobart © Getty Images
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Warming a seat for a long-term player is one of sport's least-rewarding roles. If the replacement performs outstandingly, as Michael Hussey did today, the fill-in is immediately pushed back a rung when the injured player returns and must wait for further misfortune to a team-mate. If they fail in an outfit such as Australia's, the door may stay eternally closed.

Hussey owes Justin Langer's fractured rib for his first-Test opening and its slow recovery for his second. After the national anthems were played in Brisbane, Hussey was so nervous he struggled to feel his legs and a wild attempted pull ended his welcome. Cross-batted lapses again created his only problems in the second innings and as the 379-run victory was celebrated he must have pondered how long he would remain a one-Test wonder.

Fortunately the wait for his second coming was less than two weeks and today he overcame the disruptions of a damp day and more flirtations with the pull shot to reach his maiden century. The joyous jump he completed as his leg glance rolled over the rope and the bear hug he collected from Matthew Hayden easily erased the Gabba mistakes and gave him hope of a distinguished international career.

Hussey is a better and cleaner batsman when he drives and flicks, but in his desire to impose and impress quickly he has added regular horizontal bat shots. With shoulders clenched above his thin frame, he has been prepared to swivel them towards midwicket and square leg, providing a mixture of sharp runs and moments of worry.

On 49 he aimed a pull off Daren Powell and accepted a blow on the chest, a mistake he corrected when the next ball was posted to midwicket to seal a half-century. A low standard of bowling can quickly turn weakness into strength and more fierce pulls - and another airy one from a Fidel Edwards no-ball that was dropped at midwicket on 91 - were executed as he fired 17 boundaries in his century from 163 balls, bringing squeals of "Hussey, Hussey".

Despite his cross-batting intentions, no shots were better than his drives through cover and while Langer is certain to come back when his rib repairs, which could be as soon as next week's third Test in Adelaide, Australia now have impressive and in-form cover that could be used down to the middle order.

With a 231-run partnership in 56.2 overs, Hussey and Hayden added further misery to the ailing West Indies, who started the day with an 89-run lead and managed to end it 107 behind. The wet conditions helped Australia more than the tourists, but their apathetic attitude was on show through constant loose bowling - Corey Collymore was again the exception - and lazy fielding once the opening pair settled. Australia's 100 arrived with a Hayden drive and a Brian Lara misfield and the batsman repeated the method to bring up his fourth century in consecutive Tests.

While both teams were disrupted by the rain, the frustration was felt most by the almost 7000 schoolchildren spending a day off at the Test. Wildly excited at the prospect of missing lessons and watching cricket, they spent hours on the hill under the cover of flimsy raincoats.

Ricky Ponting, the only Test captain from Tasmania, was one of a handful of players who wandered over to the youngsters, signing a banner saying "Marry me Ricky", and Brett Lee pumped sixes into their tiny hands. Play began at 2pm when the lines back to most of the buses were snaking, and as the openers started moving towards three figures the piles of abandoned raincoats were the main reminder they had been at Bellerive Oval the day Hayden reached his 24th hundred and Hussey raised his first.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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