Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 2nd day November 26, 2010

How Hussey got his groove back

Coming into this match with questions over his place in the Test side, Michael Hussey responded with an innings of freedom and purpose that kept his team in the game

The Australian player with the most to lose has improved his team's chances of developing a winning position. For two years Michael Hussey has been clinging on, but with his spot in increasing danger he has let go. By choosing his destiny and combining freedom and purpose, he is being watched by the selectors purely for pleasure. Their red pens now look elsewhere to mark crosses.

A true professional stirs when the danger is most severe, but Hussey didn't merely save his place by grafting or working the ball, like he did at The Oval in 2009 and the SCG in January. This time he was a fresh shot-maker, an aggressor chasing early boundaries instead of settling in by leaving and hoping. When the rain and bad light arrived with 17 overs still to bowl he had breezed to 81 and belted 13 fours and a six.

The only periods in which he looked like the Hussey of the recent past were his opening ball and when he was fretting about the conditions towards the end. As he walked off he carried the heavy steps of a man with a major responsibility, rather than the light-striding batsman who had pushed his team to within 40 runs of England's first innings.

At his most consistent, Hussey is an accumulator who becomes less cautious the further his account inflates. He entered this series without any credit and knew it was time for some risks. Having re-trained his mind to attack during his century against Western Australia last week - an innings which convinced the selectors he was still valuable - he was quickly showing signs that he could move on from his run of Test troubles.

There was none of the fidgeting and reliance on defence in the early stages, even when he edged Steven Finn just short of Graeme Swann at second slip. "It just goes to show how much the game is a fine line," he said. "Nicking that first one, I was praying it would fall short and thankfully it did. A foot more and I was gone for a first-ball duck."

His intent was soon evident in the size of his purposeful lunges, either forward or back, as he waited to swing. This was the version of Hussey that was so successful between 2005 and 2008. Finn dropped a touch short and Hussey unleashed a brutal pull for his second scoring shot, an attack he repeated in the bowler's next over and beyond.

Swann, a former team-mate at Northamptonshire, initially wanted to tease Hussey forward with some flight. There was no doubt or delay as Hussey raced at the ball and dropped it for six to long-on. "I was beaten in the flight, just followed through, and it came out of the middle," he said modestly.

The start was so fresh he was more like Brad Haddin or Matthew Hayden than the workmanlike Hussey. When Swann dropped short he was also pulled and by the time Hussey was on 40 only two runs had not come from boundaries.

The Australians were desperate to attack Swann early to dent his confidence ahead of a pitch that will suit him better in Adelaide. Despite the unsteady scorecard, Hussey followed the plan and five of his boundaries and 37 of his runs came from the offspinner. Another five fours were taken from Finn, a 21-year-old, who the hosts would also like to ruffle.

At one point Swann had three men on the boundary on the legside but it still was not enough to stop Hussey's pulling power. "I wanted to be positive," he said. "I do get in a bit of trouble when I'm tentative and a bit negative."

Finn had already seen one of his short balls split the two men protecting the rope behind square. The crack of the strokes even told those who were unfortunate enough to be looking away that this was a man with his game back.

"It's a time where my mind is a lot clearer and maybe I'm just seeing the ball a bit clearer out of the bowler's hand," he said. "At other times in the last couple of years, there's maybe been other clouds or doubts or negative thoughts going through my mind. Or the situation of the game, or what the pitch is doing. It stops you playing with the same freedom."

There was some caution displayed against James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but Hussey was in command throughout the performance. However, he knows there is much more to do. This is the longest Test series in the game and Hussey is aware of how swiftly the contest can change.

Australia were in the dominant position until their latest batting wheeze, which allowed England to feel better about their first-innings 260. The hosts are strong at the top, with Shane Watson and Simon Katich putting on another half-century stand, but they have been weak in the middle. The stomach of the local order softened again and after Ricky Ponting (10), Michael Clarke (9) and Marcus North (1) departed, it was left to Hussey to deliver the punches.

In this game Australia have relied on two men who began it with doubts over their spots. The selectors were right to look to Hussey and Peter Siddle, who have covered up the deficiencies of some faltering team-mates.

No side performs with all its recruits on fire, but the lack of output in key areas is as concerning for the locals as the return of the real Hussey was brilliant.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sajjad on November 27, 2010, 5:15 GMT

    * * * * * * Pakistan made England Look good * * * * * * * *

  • Rashid on November 27, 2010, 4:18 GMT

    When Salman Butt said that Englan would have difficulties in Austraila, English press and coach targetted were abrasive against him. He has been proved right now. Well played Hussey, well played Australia. Aussies are still the number one team and no team can beat them when they play in their own conditions..

  • Marcio on November 27, 2010, 2:27 GMT

    Hussey is the most thoughtful cricketer going round. Good to see fortune finally favouring him & Aust. Oz have had some horrific bad luck in the last few series (to top off some bad play). Hussey was given out lbw in both second innings in the recent 2 Indian tests when he was not out - decisions which cost Oz the first test, and any chance in 2nd, & the series. But fortune comes & goes (it's a pity India failed to understand that on their last Oz tour). That's what I like about the Oz team. They never whinge when they get the wrong end of the stick. They thank the opposition, acknowledge their weaknesses, & get on with it. Petty bitterness from some Ind fans won't change that. I can only hope they stay away from watching the Ashes, rather than endlessly whine about how "mediocre" Aust and Eng. are. There is almost nothing in points, & standard, amongst teams 2-5 in tests, & as the Ind-NZ tests showed, India are only marginally better.

  • Dummy4 on November 26, 2010, 22:04 GMT

    North. Has. To. Go. He has had so many chances...if he fails again in the second innings, get someone else in.

  • N on November 26, 2010, 22:02 GMT

    Great that Huss has cemented his spot and some top form for the rest of the summer. Now it's time to replace North with a real batman/allrounder. Either Steve Smith or Usman Khawaja would do the trick.

  • David on November 26, 2010, 21:53 GMT

    Good on ya Huss - and wasn't it needed, seeing as we've gone into this test with only nine players against the poms 11.

  • Dummy4 on November 26, 2010, 19:01 GMT

    Mike Hussey, the run machine for aussies was in a bad patch for some time as every cricketer undergoes this. Once a batsman comes out of it, he will surely acquire his rythm. So, now we are going to see a lot more batting from this great run getter. All the Best to Hussey!

  • Dummy4 on November 26, 2010, 18:30 GMT

    What a pleasure to see some pace and bounce in a pitch-those dead.slow, low pitches at most test venues make such soporific viewing especially if theres no swing,ordinary or reverse.The Aussie quick attack isnt loooking too shabby with Watson shoeing in the Kallis role. Beating Australia in Australia is still the ultimate test cricketing achievement.

  • sri on November 26, 2010, 17:02 GMT

    Hussey is the great rescuer,he shows his prowess when his team needs the most. today , Ponting was UNLUCKY to be given out, surprising why he didn't opt for referral. it was clearly NOT OUT,, m. North,, you perform well man..make ponting and fans happy .. INDIAN OZZIE FAN..

  • Shyam on November 26, 2010, 16:27 GMT

    Iam happy Hussey has come back. One point to note Hussey is what dravid is to India but ian chappell is so biased when hussey plays like this he is g8 but when dravid does it he goes on his critical analysis. Anyway one thing to note hussey is struggling to hold onto his 50plus average and he has only played 60 odd. Dravid and sachin after 140plus matches still have more than 50. That is real class and so is ponting.

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