South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Johannesburg, 2nd day November 18, 2011

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Christopher on November 19, 2011, 10:45 GMT

    @Marcio..There is a wealth of publicly available information to show that Nielsen butchered Hughes batting before the 09 Lions game.He wasnt expecting Hughes to succeeed in SA & had previously planned to include Watson as opener & allrounder for Flintoff for the 09 Ashes,regardless of what Hughes did.Hughes was brilliant,so Nielsen forced him to remove his back foot to leg trigger movement.This left him out of position for all his shots.He also demanded Hughes change his back foot play& bat more circumspectly,making him a sitting duck.He made 1637 runs at 96 with 8 100s,going into the 09 Lions game.Harmison wasnt in the same league as the Steyn led 1100 wicket SA attack.Nielsen & Co continued to propogate the Hughes technique myth to validate their own appalling behaviour.He was clearly playing a very different game in the 09 Ashes,very evident in the 2nd Test.Clarke was a Hughes supporter.They both went to the charity breakfast.They both scored SL 100s celebrating Nielsens retirement.

  • Alastair on November 19, 2011, 8:39 GMT

    Cant wait to see Hughes playing against England again - I hope he opens the entire series. :)

  • Matt on November 19, 2011, 7:53 GMT

    i hope the selectors can see just how lucky he was here. there were a handful of occasions where, on another day, he would not have survived. we NEED consistency in our openers!!!!

  • hari on November 19, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    I agree with Hughes that as long as he is scoring runs, technique will be ignored. As Donda mentioned if batsmen like Chanderpaul can score so many runs with vague technique, why not Hughes. He has scored over 1000 runs now and has 3 centuries. I think it is a better record than that of Ponting and Clarke in the past one year. If given the confidence that he will be in the side for some time, I think Hughes can become a very useful opener for Aussies. His predecessor Katich also had a unique approach to batting but was extremely successful. Like Hayden and Langer, Hughes and Watson can become a successful pair for Aussies. In the long run though one can look a Warner, Hughes, Marsh as the top 3 batters and Watson the middle order allrounder. I am not confident of Khwaja. He has wasted all the opportunities he got and does not look confident at all. Even after seeing Ponting struggle he is not attempting to seal his place in the side. Aussies need to look beyond him to replace Ricky.

  • Randolph on November 19, 2011, 7:24 GMT

    I agree with donda, technique is nothing. Gilly, Katich, Sehwag, Chanderpaul, all have weird techniques and look at their records. Hughes is going to be a superstar.

  • John on November 19, 2011, 6:53 GMT

    @donda, being unorthodox is not itself an issue. When that unorthodoxy is identified and exploited as a weakness by bowlers around the world then it becomes an issue. Have Hughes and those who have influence over him acknowledged that weakness and taken steps to correct it? If not then what reason is there to believe that his record will improve? If that has happened then you would want to see some of that improvement within a particular time period. If that period has expired or no such steps have been taken then sending him back to state cricket and bringing in someone else who can more likely do the job now would be the logical thing to do. Letting the guy learn by himself and change his technique in time is fine for someone at club or maybe even state level but that attitude to members of the test squad is, quite frankly, ridiculous and not something Australia can afford if they hope to move back up the test rankings any time soon. They need very good openers now, not in 5 years.

  • Christopher on November 19, 2011, 6:39 GMT

    Anyone obsessed with technique as the panacea to all ills,fails to understand the game of cricket.All that is required to succeed as a batsmen is an attacking plan,a defensive plan & the physical skill,endurance & courage to enact it.Virtually none of the great players have techniques that match the textbook exactly& they are all so idiosynchratic that it makes comparison pointless.Its their differences that bring us to the games,not their similarities.The ill informed comments that have dogged Hughes re his technique are a myth.Evidence can be seen in Youtube,Hughes 115 and 160 V SA.He was forced to change his technique before the England Lions game in 09.To that point,he had 8 100s in 10 games.He was instructed to be more defensive,play the short ball differently & to remove his back foot trigger movement to leg.He was given no choice & it ruined him.There is a statement by DeCosta,Clarkes mentor,alluding to the incident.McGain recently highlighted Nielsens odd & toxic behaviour.

  • crik on November 19, 2011, 5:34 GMT

    Take my word boys- Clarke is not an elite batsmen like Ponting, Gilchrist at their prime. Clarke is just like Dilshan, but Clarke perhaps is a better captain, but I won't make him for my side either. Since Waugh, Aus lacks a good captain. Ponting's captaincy issues were buried by the talented batsmen in Hayden, Langer, Symonds, Gilchrist etc. When Aus lack batsmen, their captaincy issues pops up. Dhoni is the best captain for India & the best captain in cricket world.

  • Ajay on November 19, 2011, 4:54 GMT

    Devil of the pitch rise again right after some break it happened in both the inning and both the test. Wanted too see how Warner would have perform but hopefully he will get some chance in series against Kiwis and now Australia should drop Khawaja from the squad (highest score 37 in 3 test not good) Watson (For me next Hayden) should open the innings with Hughes, Marsh at 3, Marsh can be the opener but australia should give more chance to hughes If he gets injured Warner Or marsh can take over opening possition and Warner at 6 like gilchrist used to do.There is nothing wrong with batting part of Australia Its the pitch which getting them out. its th Bowlers who need to step up & take wicket with their own ability or not because of others mistake. Why Jame pattinson not playing he can swing a lot i see a great tallent emerging in Australia Named Faulkner he can bat like top order batsmen and bowl fast.

  • Marcio on November 19, 2011, 3:55 GMT

    What goes around, comes around @NRI. Perhaps you didn't notice that Hughes was given out in the 2nd innings of the last game when it was unclear whether the ball had carried to the fielder. He was given out twice LBW in SL with the ball missing the stumps, according to replays (no DRS). He was run out by Watson in the last Ashes test when he was dominating the bowling and looking set for a big 100. He's had a tremendous run of awful luck. So good on him. He always looks like he might get out. That's the way he plays. That's how he looked when he carved up Steyn and Morkel 2 years ago, and that's the way he will always look.

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