Hughes upbeat about pairing with Watson
Phillip Hughes is confident that his 174-run stand today with Shane Watson was the breakthrough they needed to form a powerful opening combination. Australia's selectors signalled their intention to make Hughes and Watson the long-term top-order pair after Simon Katich was axed earlier this year, and this was their first century partnership since becoming full-time partners.
Hughes was coming off single-figure scores in both innings at Newlands, while Watson has also struggled for runs in recent times while juggling the opening responsibility with his bowling load. Both men were disappointed to fall short of triple figures - they departed on 88 each - but Hughes said the partnership had been encouraging.
"It was good to get runs and it was good to have that partnership with Shane," Hughes said. "We haven't had that in our short Test career together opening the batting so to get a 170 stand was great. But it was disappointing for both of us not to cash in and get a big 150. That is what we spoke about over the past few days as a batting unit."
During the first session, Watson and Hughes powered ahead, attacking every loose delivery offered by South Africa's bowlers, and there were plenty of those as the fast men struggled to find their line. At lunch, Australia had reached 169 for 0, scoring at 5.12 runs per over, with the wayward efforts of the South Africa bowlers suiting the natural aggression of Watson and Hughes.
"If the ball is there to hit, Shane and myself, that's how we play," Hughes said. "If it's there to hit you hit it. You don't want to miss out on balls if they're in your areas. We had that positive intent today. It was nice. When we came out after lunch it was definitely a lot more difficult to bat.
"I thought their lines were very good and their areas were very consistent. It definitely showed. Once they bowled a couple of maidens and bowled quite tight it was tough to score. We looked at that and we'll definitely be going in with that attitude when we bowl tomorrow."
Hughes passed 1000 Test runs during his innings, becoming the fourth-youngest Australian to reach the milestone, behind Don Bradman, Neil Harvey and Doug Walters. Despite the spikes of Hughes' short career, including twin centuries during his second Test in Durban in 2009, there have also been plenty of troughs, but he has stuck firm with his unusual technique.
"To reach that 1000 mark is quite exciting but hopefully there's a lot more to come," he said. "Criticism, I've faced a lot of that and there's been a lot of ups and downs in my short career to date. I hear the word technique a lot and I'm sure I'm going to keep hearing it and it's something I've dealt with now and I don't really worry about that. I'm just liking and enjoying every moment I can and hopefully there's a lot more Test cricket to be played for Australia."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo