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Phillip Hughes earns Hilditch praise

Australia's chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, has said he is thrilled by the form of the opener Phillip Hughes

Brydon Coverdale
Brydon Coverdale
Phillip Hughes plays the pull on one knee, Tasmania v New South Wales, Sheffield Shield Final, Hobart, 1st day, March 17, 2011

Phillip Hughes is ending the Australian season with a flourish  •  Getty Images

Australia's chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, has said he is thrilled by the form of the opener Phillip Hughes, who made a century for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield final this week. Hughes had not made a hundred for more than a year when he raised triple figures against Western Australia last week, and he has followed it with 138 in the biggest match of the domestic calendar.
That return to form might give Hilditch's panel pause for thought when they choose the squad for Australia's next Test series for a tour of Sri Lanka in August. Until he tore his Achilles tendon and made way for Hughes mid-Ashes, Simon Katich was the incumbent opener alongside Shane Watson, but he turns 36 in August and could face pressure from the 22-year-old Hughes to retain his place.
"We want all those players scoring runs," Hilditch said. "If it's a tough decision for us, it's a good thing for Australian cricket. I was thrilled for Phil, I think he turned the corner the last game. I spent a bit of time with him before the last Shield game and he seemed to be in a really good place. Having had a tough season, to emerge like he has is a credit to him."
Hughes played the final three Ashes Tests over the summer but his best score was 31, and he struggled to show any better form in the Sheffield Shield. However, he wasn't alone in that regard - the highest run scorer before the Sheffield Shield final was Rob Quiney with 724, a long way down from the four-figure tallies that leading batsmen usually score.
It's a trend that has worried the Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who has questioned the techniques of some of the younger batsmen on the domestic scene. Ponting said when he was starting out a player wouldn't have been considered for Test selection unless he was averaging around 60, but Hilditch said having watched plenty of games this year, he didn't share Ponting's concerns.
"A lot of people are saying that," he said. "Because I've seen so much Shield cricket [I know] it's been an unusual year. Probably at least three wickets around the country have been particularly bowler-friendly. There's always been the odd wicket that has been like that. It's been tough conditions for batters.
"I think in the end that will be a good thing for Australian cricket, because rather than playing on flat tracks they've had to play on very difficult tracks. I think their techniques will improve the more they have to do that. It's probably been a good thing. We haven't seen this year the thousand-plus runs that we used to always see but the conditions have been a lot harder, so I'm not reading too much into it."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo