Why Australia turn to Hughes again
Only three men with the noble surname of Hughes have ever played Test cricket, and all of them have been Australian. You might ask why the Hughes name is so popular in a former penal colony, but we Hugheses are a much misunderstood and sometimes wrongly convicted people.
The shelves of the talent supermarket are full of regular options: vanilla flavoured Clarkes, low-fat Lyons, diet-Watsons. But the Australian selectors, unlike their English equivalents, know that if they reach into the cabinet marked Hughes, they're going to pull out something a bit special.
Kim Hughes was a jealousy magnet, an artist with a full palette of shots, and some of the crinkliest hair ever seen on a cricket field. Mervyn Hughes was a zoological curiosity, combining the moustache of an Edwardian walrus, the midriff of a hippopotamus, and the attitude of a cranky baboon who has just woken up to find the galah from across the river has moved his favourite banana.
So it's no surprise that Inverarity and chums, in an effort to enliven the snoozeworthy chore of finding another batsman, have returned to scratch the Hughes itch and given Philip another bash, or more accurately, another slash, at Test cricket.
This is the third coming of Phil, and though by now we have all realised that he isn't the cricket messiah, some Australians retain a touching faith in his career resurrection, clutching at Sheffield Shield scores as though they were holy prophecies. I'm sure his 158 against Victoria was a splendid bit of batsmanship, and is roughly 158 more runs than I could score against Victoria, but does it really prove he's ready for another international adventure? The fact that he was hidden from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel as though he was the future of the human race and they were time-travelling Terminators in disguise*, suggests not.
And just to make things easier for Phil, he's only replacing a legend. For many years, opponents found the Australian batting order to be a series of unpleasant surprises, a kind of advent calendar for masochists. Get rid of Hayden, open the little pavilion door and who's next? Oh it's Ricky. Ponting, it was always wee Ponting, trudging glumly out to the wicket to turn defence into attack more effectively than a Tiger tank arriving at the siege of Troy.
He didn't always turn defence into attack. Sometimes his job was to turn attack into massacre or massacre into utter annihilation, but he was pretty good at that too. He may be the last of the hairy, gnarly, grumpy, leathery Australians who made Englishmen feel slightly inadequate because we couldn't survive for three weeks in the bush living off spiders and creek water and they probably could. One look from Ricky seemed to say it all:
"No mate, I don't moisturise."
* Although to be honest, in Morne's case, the disguise is not all that convincing.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England