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July 26, 2013
Phillip Hughes doesn't bowl but he's rapidly becoming a different type of allrounder in this Australia line-up. After all, how many players can say they have batted in every position from opener to No. 6 in the space of five games? More than that, how many players could say they have done it with the success of Hughes, who has scored half-centuries everywhere except No. 4 on this Ashes tour?
It was not surprising that after his 84 as a reinstated opener on the first day against Sussex, Hughes used the word "frustrating" to describe his constant shimmying up and down the order. But if the tour seems like one long game of snakes and ladders to Hughes, he also knows that he has in his power the ability to make one of these positions his own. Instead, two scores of 1 batting at second drop at Lord's have potentially made him vulnerable ahead of the Old Trafford Test.
David Warner's 193 for Australia A in South Africa and Steven Smith's potential century at Hove could have the selectors considering Hughes' place in the lead-up to the third Test. That would be a strange scenario for the man who has scored more runs in the first-class matches on this tour than any other Australian, and the man who made a mature, patient unbeaten 81 at Trent Bridge, while his partner Ashton Agar was stealing the attention.
"I feel like I'm very comfortable at the crease at the moment," Hughes said. "The last Test match obviously didn't go to plan personally but it's only one game. I felt like the first Test match, the 80 I scored was probably one of the better innings I've scored in the international arena. Overall I feel confident and hopefully I'll be in that third Test side when it's selected. But you never know ... we'll have to just wait and see.
"It's quite bizarre [moving up and down the order] ... At times it can be tough to get your head around the different positions but you've just got to get on with it and that's the bottom line ... I don't mind where I bat but when you do bat one to six, mentally it can be frustrating. It is about opportunity as well. If you do get one position you do want to nail it down. I haven't nailed it down and that is why they have mixed it up and given people an opportunity."
Hughes started the tour with an unbeaten 76 batting at No. 5 against Somerset and was promoted to No.3 in the second innings of that match, when he made 50. In the second warm-up match against Worcestershire he made 19 not out at No. 6 and 86 at first drop. But since his 81 not out at No.6 in the first innings at Trent Bridge, he has followed up with 0, 1 and 1, and he knows that Test runs will count for vastly more than those against county attacks.
"When you lose Test matches there are obviously changes," he said. "When you lose it is not a good thing. It is about finding the right balance. You dont know what they are going to do. It is about improving day in and day out and doing the best you can in these games.
"I think there's always competition and that's a good thing. It's great to see Davey score a big 190 for Australia A and I thought we all batted quite well today. Ed Cowan up front, then Steve Smith and myself. It's always been competition from the word go. That's a good thing."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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