Ponting backs Hughes to bounce back
Australia have no Ashes fears for Phillip Hughes after the young Australian opener was twice dismissed by short-pitched bowling during the final hit-out before the first Test. Hughes fell in uncomfortable fashion for 7 and 8 when undone by Steve Harmison's steepling bounce, ensuring the tactic will be employed by England in Cardiff from Wednesday.
Ricky Ponting and Tim Nielsen, the coach, both supported the 20-year-old Hughes to overcome his sudden problems with the short ball. "Without wanting to make too much of that, that's how South Africa bowled to him all series when he had great success," Nielsen said. "A couple didn't bounce as much as he thought or were a bit fuller, it's one of Harmison's great strengths that he comes from such a height and can get lift.
"It's great experience for Hughesy because he hasn't faced that quality fast bowling in the last month or so. It's given him a chance to be aware of how they are going to attack him." After struggling in the opening innings of his Test debut in Johannesburg, Hughes responded with a half-century and two hundreds in the three-match series for a collection of 415 runs at 69.16.
Ponting was not concerned by Mitchell Johnson, who improved with each spell against the England Lions, or Hughes. "Both of those guys will come out of this game with a good idea and understanding of what to expect for the rest of the tour, particularly on those sorts of wickets," he said.
"Hughesy got out a similar way in both innings so he has work to do, but he will work on that. Mitchell, after missing last week, needed this hit-out but he should be topped up and ready to go for Wednesday."
Brett Lee was the outstanding bowler for Australia with seven wickets, including one on the final day, and he was the only visitor to be able to reverse the ball consistently. "He really stood up in that first innings when the ball swung like it did," Ponting said. "Nobody in the world is as good at exploiting those conditions."
Nielsen would not reveal the team's thoughts on the make-up of the attack, preferring to wait until they see the pitch in Cardiff. However, he was pleased with the performance of Lee and the pressure applied by the rest of the bowlers.
"[Lee's] was a very impressive spell of 90mph with the ball reversing in," Nielsen said. "It's his big strength that when the ball starts to reverse, because of his pace and the fact he stands the seam up so straight, he can do it and he's done it well in the past."
Both teams believed the conditions at Sophia Gardens would be similar to here, with low bounce and a hard square roughing up the ball. Ian Bell, the England Lions captain, said the Test squad would now know what to expect from the Australians after Lee's display.
"England are going to have to deal with reverse-swing, especially the middle-order players, and they can prepare for that," he said. The local selectors met in Worcester on Saturday and will name their squad at 10am (BST) on Sunday.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo