Rested Hussey enjoys 'rewarding' innings
An unscheduled break has refreshed Michael Hussey and helped him regain the form that made him one of the game's most prolific batsmen. Hussey broke through for his first century since the opening Test against India last October with an unbeaten 143 against the England Lions in a perfectly timed innings ahead of next week's opening Ashes contest.
With most of his team-mates struggling, Hussey guided Australia from trouble in the opening two sessions as they reached a useful 337 for 8 at stumps. While some problems started to emerge - Phillip Hughes looked uncomfortable against Steve Harmison's short balls and Marcus North failed for the third time in a row - Hussey's return to form brightened the touring squad's mood.
"That was very rewarding," Hussey said. "It's been a long time for me to spend so much time at the wicket so it was pretty important, at the start of this tour, to get my confidence up."
After a couple of years when his Test average stayed above 70, Hussey's output dried up over the past 18 months and he scored only two half-centuries during the home summer. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't [get me down]," he said. "You almost get out of the habit of batting a long time and scoring hundreds, and I was starting to get to the stage where I'd almost forgotten how to do it. It was nice to spend a long time out there."
Hussey's family is staying with him in Worcester and it was a holiday at home with them while the limited-overs team was playing Pakistan that started his comeback. The coaching staff noticed a change in his demeanour and he felt more energetic around the group since arriving in England.
"I really enjoyed the time off, it was a weird feeling because I don't like missing games for Australia," he said. "It didn't feel right relaxing at home with my family while the boys were doing the hard yakka over there. The time was really good for me and I really needed it."
The focus now switches to Hughes and North after their slips, but Hussey had faith that both of them would prosper during the Ashes. "I think he'll be fine," he said of Hughes, who was caught on 7 fending Harmison to gully. "As long as he is playing his way, it's unorthodox, but he's got to stick to it and he will have success."
Harmison was a tricky prospect, taking 3 for 67, and was backed up by Graham Onions, who returned 2 for 62, and Tim Bresnan's three wickets. Onions still believed there were vacancies in England's XI in Cardiff.
"I think everybody in our team, whether it is the opening batter to the opening bowler, they'd like to think they have the chance to play in the first Test," he said. "That's the reason why we're here."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo