England v Australia, 3rd npower Test, Edgbaston, 1st day

Hughes needs to work at his game - Nielsen

Peter English at Edgbaston

July 30, 2009

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Phillip Hughes talks with former Australian opening batsman Matthew Hayden, England v Australia, 3rd Test, Edgbaston, 1st day, July 30, 2009
Phillip Hughes was dropped for the first time in his Test career at Edgbaston © Getty Images
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Phillip Hughes is a quiet boy who will hear a lot of advice after his brief international entrance was ended when his spot was taken by the stand-in opener Shane Watson. Life on this tour has been exciting but hard for the 20-year-old Hughes, who is in his first slump as a senior player following England's short-pitched attack in the opening two Tests.

And now come the tips, starting with the coach Tim Nielsen telling him he has to tighten up. That way he can avoid the sort of dismissals that make fast bowlers fight among themselves to get a go at him.

"He does need to go away and work at his game," Nielsen said. "He probably exceeded our expectations initially with the success he had in South Africa, and the way he played. He's been a little bit unlucky here."

After two fends ended his innings in the warm-up in Worcester, he looked generally uncomfortable against Andrew Flintoff and Co in scraping to 36, 4 and 17 in Cardiff and London. With Australia behind in the series, they could no longer carry him on potential in such a crucial series.

"I'm not going to go into an inquisition about what Phil Hughes needs to do," Nielsen said. "We made the decision that we thought we could strengthen the side by playing Watson at the top and getting some extra bowling. Shane was here as the spare batsman and that's the way we've gone." Watson celebrated the promotion with an unbeaten 62 as Australia reached 126 for 1 at the end of the first day at Edgbaston.

So Hughes is not the new Bradman, just a boy with a loose, homespun technique that prevents him from avoiding balls aimed at his body, and makes him susceptible to catches behind. It is only a serious issue against the game's elite, which is why he was able to career to all sorts of records playing for New South Wales and Middlesex.

After five games, including one in which he posted two centuries against a mighty South Africa, he is now the spare batsman in England instead of a main man. Hughes also leaves with a lesson about not letting those close to you reveal that you've been dropped half a day before the news is officially released. For someone not playing, it was a busy day.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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