'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