The Investec Ashes 2013 August 15, 2013

'Need form nearly every innings these days' - Hughes


Phillip Hughes knows a thing or two about being dropped and, as a result, he feels better about his current exile than his previous omissions. Hughes was left out after two Ashes Tests in 2009 when he struggled against the short ball, and again after the home series against New Zealand in 2011, when he became the bunny of bowler Chris Martin and slip fielder Martin Guptill. This time, though, Hughes has been shuffled out at a time when he is confident in his own game.

Making way for the Old Trafford Test was a harsh blow for Hughes, who at the time was Australia's leading run scorer in the first-class matches on this Ashes tour. Even now, after two more Tests, he sits behind only Test centurions Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers on that list. His fighting 81 not out in the first innings at Trent Bridge was followed by 0, 1 and 1. But Hughes believes that despite the low scores, he is in a much better place than he was after his 2011 axing.

"It's never easy to be dropped but I feel that one was tougher than this one, and I'm being really honest about that," Hughes said. "I feel this one, it was only three bats before I got dropped. I probably scored one of my better Test innings so it's something I'm not overly concerned about. I feel my game is in a really good place.

"Also I got runs in Sussex [in a tour game] as well and I suppose the games that have been on tour in Worcester, Somerset and Sussex, I feel like I'm hitting the ball well. But I did miss out and had a real poor game at Lord's. I suppose they're trying to find the best combination and I wasn't in that for the last two games and I respect that. But hopefully I can get back in the side sooner rather than later. I feel like my confidence isn't shot at all.

"There is always pressure. I have always felt pressure at this level. When you lose there is more pressure. In my short career in the past couple of years we haven't won enough Test matches. You feel you are only in the team for a couple of games. That comes with losing. You need form nearly every innings these days to hold your spot and until we start winning that's going to continue."

Hughes will have a chance to remind the selectors of his tour form during Australia's two-day match against the England Lions in Northampton starting on Friday. Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Brad Haddin have already traveled to London ahead of The Oval Test but the rest of the squad is in Northampton and there are a number of men who will be searching for batting form, including the Test No.3 Usman Khawaja and the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.

"When you do play games there's an opportunity," Hughes said. "Whoever plays will have an opportunity and that's a good thing. I haven't had an opportunity since I got dropped - or got left out the side - so I've really been looking forward to going out and playing some cricket and hopefully push my claims forward with a big score. It is always disappointing to get dropped, but it's about moving on and I'm not one to dwell on what's happened."

Hughes said he had been given feedback by the coach Darren Lehmann and the on-duty selector Rod Marsh after being dropped, and knew that one of his areas for improvement was to ensure he gets a start. That Hughes fell so early in his three innings following the 81 at Lord's hurt his chances of retaining his place in the side when David Warner returned from South Africa.

"You have to take your chances. That is something I didn't do at Lord's. What hurt was scoring three very low scores after that 80," he said. "I missed out twice. I feel that in my career I've got a lot of low scores but when I get in, I go on with it. I have to start and get my scores up to 20s and 30s and get more starts. My record would say if I do that I go on with it. I have to get better at getting through the first 20 or 30 balls."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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  • Patrick on August 18, 2013, 21:58 GMT

    Hughes & Khawaja will both come good given time, aside from Bell EVERY batsmen has failed to dominate this series, in general Eng batsmen have managed 20-30's where Aust have walked off in single digits if that. Would like to see Hughes given a chance in his natural opening role, Warner dropping back to 3 as a Dean Jones/young Ricky Ponting style counter attacking first drop. Khawaja is a 4-6 who will find his way sooner down there. There simply is no-one indisputably better knocking down the door, give this team/squad another year and see what happens, there's greater hope in perseverence than there is in waiting for illusory selection salvation.

  • Gerry on August 18, 2013, 9:21 GMT

    You Hughes fans must be kidding, since the "twin centuries" he has had 45 innings at an average of around 27, in about 40 of those innings he looked like he could get out any ball. Now the best that can be said is he got an 80 before his last 0,1,1. Nobody bothers to point out that a 19 year old kid who had never played test cricket before got a 90 at the same time, I suggest that those scores had more to do with a below par bowling effort rather than any exceptional batting talent. If you picked any top order batsman from Sheffield Shield and said you are going to get 45 test innings no matter how you perform he is likely to have an average of 27 or more. Sad to say Hughes is simply not test standard, let him play ODI and T20 where his stand and slash technique is perfectly suited and nobody really cares about the result. He will be entertaining and will in all likelihood enjoy himself.

  • anton on August 17, 2013, 7:38 GMT

    Don't mess too much with people's technique. The game would be boring if everyone played in a textbook manner. I would rather watch a hundred from Hughes than one from Tendulkar any day.

  • Shanmugam on August 17, 2013, 4:35 GMT

    @Someguy, although Watson will fall leg before sooner than later (and waste a review after that), the Aussies value his bowling and the fact that he is a right hand batsman. The Aussie side has too many left handers and don't want to replace Watson with another left hander. Makes sense against Swann whose record against left hand batsmen is terrific. Problem is, Watto doesn't last long against pace before he can settle down and wreak havoc.

  • Shanmugam on August 17, 2013, 4:32 GMT

    With his technique (or the lack of) against spin, I wonder how he managed to make that 80 against Swann in Trent Bridge. 0,1, and 1 is the norm. 80 was the exception.

    Still, good player against pace though. You don't get twin hundreds against Steyn and co. if you are not a really good player. However, Flintoff exposed his weaknesses in 2009. Since then, he has improved against pace but has been vulnerable against spin.

  • Brenton on August 16, 2013, 14:59 GMT

    Any cricket coach will tell you the three most important things when batting are: 1) Watch the ball. 2) Keep your head still. 3) Concentrate. Phil Hughes has all three of these in spades. Yet people say his technique is terrible? These are the same people singing the praises of Simon Katich!

    Stop trying to stuff around with his "technique", just let Hughes bat, then sit back and watch the runs flow.

  • David on August 16, 2013, 12:43 GMT

    @Steve Back. Of course The Don is twice as good as everyone else and I said that a bit tongue in cheek. But I have heard that his technique was different, The way he held the bat, turned to leg more than usual. He favoured leg and when interviewed when he was about 86 he said that this was probably the reason he was rarely caught in the slips.

  • Dummy4 on August 16, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    @Chris_P: Relax, Chris, I was only joking and being facetious. However, you cannot compare Phil Hughes' technique to those of Chanderpaul and Katich. That just doesn't make sense. They are completely different and the other two are far more inventive and effective. I've seen a lot of Hughes and I just think Australia will have better batsmen around somewhere. There must be a reason why he struggles to rotate the strike against spin bowling, and how open his stance is on the off-side; this has often prevented him from being able to clip the ball on to the leg-side confidently. It's as if his scoring area is severely limited by the position of his pads.

  • Dummy4 on August 16, 2013, 11:43 GMT

    @DragonCricketer: Are you for real? You're saying Don Bradman didn't have a good technique?! Do you know anything about cricket? Have you watched any footage of him? His technique was the most effective in history! The way he maximised his use of the crease, getting deep into it when pulling the ball, the power he achieved in his cover drive could not have been replicated by anyone else's technique. Phil Hughes can do little of this - he is too open on the off-side, which makes him struggle to clip the ball of his pads. Bradman would laugh at this.

  • ashley on August 16, 2013, 7:38 GMT

    Bout time people started to back our young players instead of trying to bring them down. The difference in the ashes test thus far has no doubt been the inability to build middle order partnerships. But I also expect people to accept that our young players are facing a seasoned test bowling attack and provided we remain patient and don,t throw the baby out with the bath water, these guys will learn immensly from this tour and be far better players for it. All those bagging Hughes, khawaja should take a step back and realise there attitude would have ensured one Stephen Waugh would not have gone on to become one of Australia,s immortals. He showed talent as well but using the same yard stick would have ceased to play more the 20 tests. It's disappointing to lose if not gut wrenching for the enthusiats. But losing builds hunger and determination so get behind the team and insist they fight and be patient. The poms are not that far ahead. Lets get em in the 5th test GO BOYS

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