Hughes determined to halt England
Phillip Hughes is not part of Australia's squad for the Gabba Test, but he's still keen to do his part to help the national cause less than a week from the start of the Ashes. Hughes was 58 not out at stumps on the third afternoon for Australia A at Bellerive Oval, and his plans for the final day include not only turning around his own form, but also halting England's charge.
It has been a tough start to the summer for Hughes, who was Australia's backup batsman on the Test tour of India in October, but has managed only 56 runs in his two Sheffield Shield games. A big hundred against England would keep him in the minds of the selectors but more importantly for the team cause, it could prevent another win for the in-form visitors.
"They're going to be fired up, they've got momentum behind them," Hughes said. "It's going to be a great contest for all the batsmen in the Australian line-up. When you've got momentum behind you, they're not going to back down. That's why I think tomorrow is a big day for Australia A. If we can keep them out on the field as long as possible then hopefully we can turn that momentum.
"That's something that I've definitely thought about. We'd like to bat as long as we can, and even have a crack with the ball later in the day. But it's going to be tough work, it's not going to be easy early on. We've just got to look a ball at a time."
Hughes began the previous Ashes series as one of Australia's first-choice players but after two disappointing Tests in England he lost his place to Shane Watson, who has been a success in the opening role. Since then, Hughes has played only two Tests as a fill-in - he also had shoulder surgery in May - and when he didn't make the 17-man squad for next week's Test, he knew he had to lift.
"When that happened I was disappointed at the time," Hughes said. "But the sun comes up the next day and you push on. That's just a little hiccup in my career. That's something I'm not even worrying about now. It's great to get a few runs out in the middle. I felt pretty good today. I wouldn't say I felt a 100%. A couple of balls were keeping a tad low throughout the day."
One of the reasons it was difficult to bat was the form of Tim Bresnan, who collected 3 for 25 from nine overs, including the wickets of Australia's Test contenders Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson. Bresnan's strikes took Australia A from 0 for 66 to 3 for 84, and gave England a strong chance of victory on the final day.
"I thought he bowled well," Hughes said. "To go bang, bang, bang like that, it's always a good sign. I thought he bashed the wicket away all day, he was very consistent with his lines. One shot [up] and a couple kept low, I thought he bowled quite straight, good lines."
Bresnan is unlikely to be part of England's side for the series opener next week but he knows that on a long tour of Australia, an opportunity could arise at any moment. He last played Test cricket in the home series against Bangladesh in May, but he has done no harm to his chances of adding a sixth Test cap to his existing collection.
"It's going to be a massive squad effort to win this Ashes," Bresnan said. "I'd be very surprised if the same eleven plays all five games, whether that be injury or form or anything else. You never know what can happen over a long space of time."
A short period of time is of more interest to Bresnan right now. England's batsmen feasted and reached 523 to leave them with a 165-run advantage at stumps, and Bresnan wants to help grab the seven remaining Australia A wickets to give England their second win of the tour, after they beat Western Australia and then drew with South Australia.
"We're in the best position we could be in to win this game, which is what we were striving for when we set out at the start of the game," he said. "We want to win this game, we were not thinking about declaring early and having another innings, we were thinking about winning the game."
They still should achieve their goal, though Phillip Hughes and his colleagues have other plans.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo