Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth December 14, 2010

Hughes confident he won't short out


Phillip Hughes is sick of defending his play against the short ball, but unless he can prove to England's fast men that he can cope over the next week, the questions will keep coming on and off the field. Last year Hughes started the Ashes tour as Australia's wonder child and left it with the reputation of being weak against bouncers.

Steve Harmison roughed Hughes up in a tour match and then handed over the duties to Andrew Flintoff as they had him hopping even more awkwardly than usual with his jumpy, country-made technique. He was dropped after two Tests and has played only two games since then, with the high being a frenetic 86 not out against New Zealand. Simon Katich's heel injury has allowed him a chance at Ashes redemption.

"I've heard this the last three years of my career," Hughes said of the problems with the short ball. "I've heard about it all along and I'm not worried about it at all. Being a short opening batsman, [the bowlers] like it up around your ears and face as much as they can. Often it's not the short balls that get you out, it's the follow-up balls, but that's something I've always heard."

It should sound familiar because that's what happened to him when Flintoff got him last year for 36 in Cardiff and 17 at Lord's. The bouncers didn't dismiss him, but the fuller ones that came after forced his unbalanced body into a couple of edges. Flintoff has retired and Hughes feels much more comfortable facing a line-up of James Anderson, Steven Finn and, probably, Chris Tremlett.

"They're going to come out firing and they did in the Ashes series last year as well, but then they had Flintoff who was their x-factor bowler," Hughes said after training at the WACA. "He was outstanding in that series and he bowled beautifully."

Hughes was replaced for the third Test by Shane Watson, who quickly showed he could be converted into an opening batsman. It was the first bump in Hughes' explosive career and since then he has had to wait for injuries to Watson and Katich to get a chance. This time he knows he has three games to make a sustained mark.

"I lost my spot in England during the last Ashes series and that was disappointing at the time," he said. "In the back of my mind I remember losing that series and that was disappointing, so I've come in and I'm all smiles at the moment and I'm happy to be around the guys again. I can't wait to get out there and just enjoy cricket. I'm happier this time than I was the first time."

Hughes is still only 22 and owns a couple of hundreds in the same Test against the mighty South Africa, but he enters this campaign based more on a hunch than statistics. He has only 201 first-class runs for the season, which is well below his standard, and the haul was boosted by his 81 for Australia A against England's second string attack last month.

"Mentally I feel really good and I'm hitting them good in the nets, which is always a good sign," Hughes said. "It's been disappointing for New South Wales, I haven't really got that big score under my belt. But I've got a lot of starts over the last couple of weeks."

Starts have been a problem for Australia during the opening two games of this series and are partly responsible for them being 1-0 behind. Despite Hughes' flaws, he remains an exciting batsman and has won comparisons to Virender Sehwag at times during his seven Tests of slashing, slicing and edging.

"That's how I've always played, I've been quite aggressive especially the last few years and that's my natural game and something I'm not going to change over the next few years," he said. "I love watching Sehwag play, without a doubt he comes to my mind straight away as an opening batsman.

"Yes he's very aggressive, but what Sehwag can do is he can take a game away from any opposition." Hughes has done that regularly with New South Wales since debuting as an 18-year-old, but is still working out whether the same approach can succeed at the highest level.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 16, 2010, 12:10 GMT

    Oh dear!Got it wrong again. Tremy gets his wicket again. England will bat for two days again.

  • sandeep on December 15, 2010, 5:48 GMT

    If Phil hughes fails, then its all down to ponting and/or clarke/hussey, if australia don't win here, this series is over, in sydney they're up against swann and panesar probably, which is a lost cause in my opinion!

    Indian fan4ever

    * What is the most proficient form of footwork displayed by Oz batsmen? -The walk back to the pavilion.

  • sandeep on December 15, 2010, 5:37 GMT

    What did the spectator miss when he went to the toilet? -The entire Oz Innings.

  • Dummy4 on December 15, 2010, 4:35 GMT

    I really can't see Phil Hughes making runs at the WACA. To makes runs at the WACA you need to be able to play the short stuff and you need to be able to leave the ball outside of off stump. Hughes can't do either and he's not even in form.

  • John on December 15, 2010, 4:13 GMT

    I'm surprised that the Australian supporters don't seem to know much about their team. I regard Johnson as fairly irrelevant. I don't imagine he's fixed all his problems in the last two weeks. If the English batsmen ignore his bad balls he won't get many wickets. Harris and Hilf, on the other hand, are good, accurate, lively bowlers and will be tough on a pitch which gives them any help. If the pitch does break up, then a lot of the Australian batsmen don't have great technique against spin, as Adelaide proved (and this batting side is less technically sound). Australia is going in to this match with 2 spinners who have 2 tests and three wickets between them and very little first-class experience. This Australian side might play well, but it's a very high-risk type of team and Ponting has never shown much ability to captain inexperienced players. The England team aren't cocky, in fact they're very low key although they must be confident after Adelaide. England must be favorites.

  • muhammad on December 15, 2010, 4:02 GMT

    can he do some miracle to get AUs back on winnig track?

  • Ashwin on December 15, 2010, 2:18 GMT

    Hughes plays like a slogger from time to time and has been his downfall in the test squad, he has been given another chance here this time he has to play well. He usually gets caught at slip or cutting i think this will be his downfall again. He is Aggressive but gets out he has to stay thier knowing that watson will reach his 50 and than get out.

  • Tim on December 15, 2010, 1:46 GMT

    This should be a good test match. I think we're all hoping for a decent track rather than the rubbish produced thus far in the series. It will be interesting to see if england can maintain their performance to date - it's certainly been impressive. Regardless, I do find it quite hysterical reading the english papers and the proclamations of the 'greatness' of this england team because they might win one series against a mediocre australian team at home. I do doubt that this is a permanent decline for australia though. The selectors are finally starting to move towards the team they should have run with after the dismal performance in england last year - yes, a few tests might be lost in the interim, but a new breed of aus cricketers who look promising shouldn't be too far away.

  • Simon on December 15, 2010, 1:36 GMT

    We wont know what the final result will be until the last day of the Sydney Test. Bare in mind that Sydney has sometimes been a happy hunting ground for visiting teams. But we Brits underestimate the current team at our peril. Ponting and Hughes know Perth better than most, and remember Peter Taylor and Dutchy Holland! They were surprise picks but they took the match (bull) by the horns! The Pomms may not like the sound of Beer so much at the end of this Perth match but even more so at Sydney all the same.

  • girish on December 15, 2010, 0:42 GMT

    what happened to Phil Jaques. He had 9 +50 scores in 19 innings. Drop clarke and get phil jaques.

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