Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day December 18, 2010

Towering Hussey shows how it's done

The WACA pitch has felt like another planet for most of the batsmen on show in this game, but this stretch of soil is Michael Hussey's home

Michael Hussey's pulling power has dragged Australia to the verge of a series-levelling win and reacquainted him with the mountainous numbers he achieved in his Test youth. Without Hussey's 116, his fourth Ashes hundred, Australia would have faced a couple of days of nerves, but the hosts need only five more wickets to head to Boxing Day on level terms.

The WACA pitch has felt like another planet for most of the batsmen on show in this game, but this stretch of soil is Hussey's home. He is safe here. Those running into him have been the ones in discomfort, feeling the cracks and slaps of his driving and cross-bat shots. Hooks and pulls often disappear from view in tense times due to the extreme risk of dismissal.

Playing like this in Perth creates more physical danger because of the speed and bounce of the wicket. Hussey doesn't care.

He is among the most calculated batsmen in the game so it would seem a contradiction that he relies so heavily on a method with such little room for error. Except it's not a risk for him, because he's been hooking and pulling in Western Australia for three decades. He calls the shots instinctive, but they are ingrained, like chewing nails during tense chases, or roaring when an edge flies behind.

Hussey couldn't stop if he spent weeks in hypnosis. Should an opening batsman who has waited a decade for a debut hook when his only Test earning is a single? Should he let his mind convince him to pull when he's meant to saving the second Ashes Test on an unpredictable Adelaide wicket? To most batsmen the answers are no.

Hussey said yes to those times and thousands more because he knows the shot will pay off more often that it sends him bust. It has boosted his account considerably in this series, which started with him playing for his place. Since then he has hooked and pulled his way to heights not reached since the opening three years of his career, when his numbers were as close to Bradman as any mortal can reach.

The cross-bat smacks have been pivotal and productive, creating doubts for the bowlers over their length, and showing he will not be a target for overs of short balls. Seven of his 13 boundaries and plenty of singles and twos came from the shots in a masterful home-ground display. In the middle session England tried an at-the-body approach through Chris Tremlett but quickly gave up.

"Mike Hussey is probably not a player you want to bowl too short to," Peter Siddle said. "He showed that again today, same as he did in Brisbane when they attacked him with it."

Hussey is a traditional player and spent most of the first hour of the day adjusting to the conditions. Once he had, not even a long disruption for a jammed sightscreen could distract him. He also wasn't put off by three men in the deep at times, an attempted pull that caused an under-edge and a bruised hip, or the frightening short-ball treatment directed at his team-mates.

His first punched pull came off Tremlett when he moved to 40, the opening blast of a string of aggressive swipes. The most precise cross-bat effort came when he split fine leg and deep backward square with another cracking strike off Tremlett that landed him on 96. It was appropriate that a pull brought up his hundred, from only 136 balls, and as he ran to the stumps at the bowler's end he leaped and punched the air.

A similar celebration occurred four years ago when his 103 on a sweaty day also put his side in sight of a hugely satisfying victory. Back then he was near his peak; this display provided him with more statistical stardom. He is the leading run-scorer in this series with 517 at 103.40, and he has increased his Ashes record to six consecutive innings of scores of 50 or more. A man who spluttered for much of the past two years has achieved unrivalled consistency again.

Equally importantly, his innings built on Mitchell Johnson's day-two demolition and ensured Australia set England a now unreachable target of 391. Hussey was last out and his innings finished with a pull to Graeme Swann at deep forward square leg, but that didn't worry him. He knows the risks, and the rewards.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2010, 6:03 GMT

    i will never get why hussey always has to fight for his place on this australian side he is the best they have had for a while

  • Paul on December 19, 2010, 5:59 GMT

    Sai Prasad, you make me laugh. Comparing one merely respectable opening partenership when trailing by a 300+ on the first innings to a thumping victory?And Ahish Mehta clearly doesn't understand the importance of celebrating each achievement when you're team is fighting back - this is why SOME teams may go through form slumps, but are always fine sides. Form is temporary (see the current series in SA) but class is permanent (see the WACA).

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    LOL...loved JB77's comment. Indeed Peitersen is the most overrated cricketer of modern times.. he clicks in 1 match out of 20, yet Poms treat him like a special kid.. If they back Eoin Morgan as much, Poms cud acutally dream of becoming a better test team. Nice to see Aussies win back a game, the series isnt dead.

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2010, 4:21 GMT

    Huseey is having time of his life! This Ashes would be remembered for Hussey. Just a season back he was in ruins but he is now the only batsman (apart from Haddin) who has given up confidence to Ozzies to win and snatch back the Ashes from Pommmies!

  • Nadeem on December 19, 2010, 4:16 GMT

    I can see how bradman might be playing in his days. Hussey is playing like Don and thats a great compliment for him. Too good Mr.Cricket you are genius. Keep on doing what ever you want. By the way series is not over and its in england half because Ponting is injured. Big loss as far as captaincy is concerned and strategy is concerned. Lets see how england play without ponting. Are they going to be aggressive if not then it will be their mistake. They need to step up as ponting stepped out. Otherwise australia will not stop.

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2010, 3:46 GMT

    A day when tables were turned. Australia whipping England and an Indian fightback against the Proteas. This is what test cricket is all about. Teams winning/saving matches from difficult situations

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2010, 3:27 GMT

    Come on Aussies grow up. You have won a test not the series. Its amazing!! the great Aussie champs are so upbeat after this win. But the series is still up for grabs. Mind you, this is Test Cricket

  • Benjamin on December 19, 2010, 0:10 GMT

    Hussey has repaid the selectors faith in buckets. I had him out of the side 12 months ago. Credit to him though. You know a man is in form when he's pulling them in front of square with total control or hitting them along the ground behind square pulling or hooking. I'm not fussed if we lose the series I just want to see some of his team mates show as much grit and pride in the baggy green and fight to the death. Oh and a bit of sledging is always nice to see from both sides. It makes great viewing.

  • Jordan on December 18, 2010, 23:50 GMT

    I'd rather have one Hussey in the Aus than five Pietersens. Hussey shows that pride in representing your country comes from the heart and not from some tattoo on your arm.

  • Phani Kumar on December 18, 2010, 23:41 GMT

    hoping that aussie selectors does not treat him like Michael Bevan. am an Indian but a great fan of aussie cricket, but i feel bad when players like hussey and bevan are left out from team for their performance. they never trust on form and they performed consistently handling the pressure through out their career and contributed to the team a lot.......they deserve to be world class players alongside others......

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