Sussex v Australians, Tour match, Hove, 1st day July 26, 2013

Changing roles 'mentally frustrating' - Hughes


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 here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • H on July 28, 2013, 13:10 GMT

    @jmcilhinney think there's a bit of a hangover in some of the fans' mentality from a time when they had so many batsmen to pick from that a batsman genuinely had to feel grateful if he was given more than a couple of chances to put things right. The talent pool now isn't as deep. A batsman who's struggling (and bear in mind, he did score 81* in the first innings at Trent Bridge) has to be persisted with now because there isn't anyone better who's ready to step in.

    Hughes needn't feel "grateful" for the opportunity (although he should be honoured to represent his country, and I imagine he probably is). The fans should be grateful they have him. Who else is there? Silk and Doolan didn't do enough on the A team tour to press their claims, while Maddinson averaged 35 in the Shield last year.

    The truth is, despite their failures, these are the best batsmen Australia have got right now, with the possible exception of David Hussey, who must wonder how he keeps getting overlooked.

  • Dummy4 on July 28, 2013, 12:04 GMT

    Too much is made of batting positions. Hughes should be thankful he even has the chance and should get on with it. Having said that, Clarke should get the idea out of his head that he can only bat at 5 and push up the order. When he is in he brings the best out his partner but that is wasted when they are already back in the sheds.

  • Dummy4 on July 28, 2013, 11:49 GMT

    He has no right to express frustration at where he is put in the bating order. He should be pulling his head in and learning to play spin bowling and nailing down any position he is given. Black mark for Hughes

  • John on July 28, 2013, 4:46 GMT

    @popcorn on (July 27, 2013, 15:44 GMT), I agree with what you say but I think that you're being a bit hard on Hughes with regards to what he's quoted as saying here. Many people make comments on these stories as though a player has called a press conference to make an announcement. I doubt that Hughes sought out a journalist to voice his frustration. He would have been giving an interview and would have been asked how he felt and given an honest answer. It would be frustrating for any batsman to have their perceived role change after almost every innings, especially when they are desperately trying to justify their selection. I imagine that he finds his lack of runs somewhat more frustrating though. I also imagine that, if Khawaja was asked how he felt at having such limited opportunities, he would say something like that he was frustrated too. It's not a complaint; it's just an expression of emotion that you would expect a player in that situation to have.

  • Robert on July 28, 2013, 1:03 GMT

    An Aus side to compete at Old Trafford? I have one from numbers three to eleven - Khawaja; Clarke; Smith; Watson; Haddin; Siddle; Bird; Harris; Lyon. On the basis of the tour so far I do not have a clue as to the openers and I think the Aus selectors are in the same situation!

  • Dummy4 on July 27, 2013, 23:51 GMT

    I have been following cricket for roughly 40 years and aside from the Packer era and now, I can't think of any time where Hughes would be in even the top 10 available Aussie batsmen. He is lucky Magoffin and Anyon are rested for this match, as they both made short work of him last time he played Sussex (for Worcs) and would almost certainly have done so again.

  • Rajaram on July 27, 2013, 15:44 GMT

    Here is Phil Hughes expressing frustration at having been moved up and down the batting order - as if his Test Place was a given, a shoo in. He should consider himself lucky to be in THIS Team after three failures - first, The Ashes 2009,next New Zealand - caught Guptill (in the slips) bowled Martin - 4 times,and most recently in the four Tests against India. In contrast, spare a thought for the unflappable, never complained, Usman Khawaja, a superb batsman with better technique than Phil Hughes,who replaced Ricky Ponting at Number 3 for the SCG Test,when Ricky had a finger injury,and since then moved to Number 6,and failed because he is NOT a Number 6 player. Or Chris Rogers, Or Rob Quiney. Or Martin Love.Or Brad Hodge.

  • Mashuq on July 27, 2013, 14:55 GMT

    Spot on @Travis Marke on (July 26, 2013, 23:53 GMT), but given the past it was hard to be humble! What now? Take sentiment out of it. The top 6 need to be re-configured which can't be done in the middle of an Ashes series. Rogers must go, sadly, as must Cowan. Age is not on their side. I regard Hughes and Warner as stop-gaps. Find Khawaja-like players in their place and stick with them: Silk may be such a one within a year or so. Everything is up for grabs atm. A line-up for Ashes II needs to be based on both current form and ability to play in a certain way, also bearing in mind how left-handers struggle against Swann: Doolan, Hughes, Warner, Khawaja, Clarke, Burns, Paine, Pattinson, Siddle, Bird, Fawad Ahmed. With Siddle and Bird capable of long spells there is no need for an all-rounder, so no Watson. Cummins could come in for Pattinson on a rotation basis. Stick with them all except Warner and Hughes until a more solid type emerges (if ever!).

  • H on July 27, 2013, 14:15 GMT

    @Chris_Howard to be fair, Watson should have a better batting average than Fred. I always said Fred was a bowling all-rounder, where Watson's clearly a batting one.

    As for his better average with the ball, he's been used more as a containing bowler than Flintoff, who was always used as an attacking option. Need a wicket? Get Fred on. And more often than not, he delivered the vital breakthroughs.

    Fred's also the archetypal "Stats don't tell the whole story" player. His strike rate is higher than I realised, because whenever you watched him, he was a threat. But as I look back now, I remember that he bowled a lot of hostile spells where he applied pressure without much luck, only for another bowler to get the wicket.

    That said, I agree with your overall point. For years Watson was selected based on "potential". He's 32. Meanwhile, as Barnesy points out, Hughes, a guy with genuine potential and time on his side, gets the run around by the selectors.

    Like Lyon, and Hauritz before him.

  • P on July 27, 2013, 12:50 GMT

    never has a team come for a tour with so many openers - cowan, watson, warner, hughes, rogers ... and people wonder why they are a brittle line-up. its just clarke + openers + the now-customary last wicket partnership.