HENRY: Hughes should be judged on stats, not on style
Could Phil Hughes be Australia's next key batsmen? (AP Photo/Chris Crerar)
Most of my mates have a pay TV prescription. They watch all types of sports from ice hockey to gaelic football, occasionally even soccer.
Yes, pedants, soccer, that’s what we call it in Australia.
It differentiates the variations of four football codes, it’s a clearly useful term – someone please inform the FFA.
Southern hemisphere winters provide terrific television viewing but you have to stay up late to watch the northern summer sports.
My watching debut this month included the Giro d’Italia, I have watched the Stanley Cup many times as well as the French Open (Go Slammin’ Sam Stosur!). This all adds up to plenty of late nights falling asleep on the lounge.
This week I had pencilled in some tennis watching as the French headed for the semi final stage, being an inveterate channel flicker I got a little bored as Djokovic flattened Jo-Wilfred in the first set (the big Frenchman turned that around quickly) and discovered a cricket game a couple of numbers away.
Worcester versus Lancashire from a cool and overcast Old Trafford filled the 16 :9, the greensward now surrounded by construction zones indicating that the 21st century is arriving at the ground where Laker took 19 in the 50′s and Benaud spun out the Poms from around the wicket in the 60′s . Soon the grimy east Manchester venue may well be rebadged ‘New Trafford’.
While the ground is being reinvented outside the boundary, in the middle wearing the bottle green and three pears of his adopted county Phillip Hughes was reinventing his own game.
I decided to stick with the one channel for a while, to watch Hughes bat against a mixture of quality fast bowling from Sajid Mahood, reasonable stuff from seamer Ajmal Shazad and some club bowling from O Newby.
Hughes began quietly, not getting a lot of strike, being watchful rather than aggressive. His batting partner Vikram Solanki made most of the conditions and obvious ability and duly made a quality ton.
The juxtaposition in the two techniques was stark. Solanki the former England 51 match ODI player was compact, tidy and elegant. He was scoring at or better than a run a ball.
Hughes was, well Hughes.
Left elbow apparently trapped behind the body, jumpy at the short ball and late decision making which makes him appear hurried but as in all things about his batting, appearances are deceptive. He always got there, waiting until the last millisecond to cut, drive or defend in a second or sometimes third thought.
He didn’t look particularly uncomfortable but neither did he look in command of the bowling on what was a very good batting surface. Mahmood shook him once or twice with pace and length directed at the head and chest, but he survived.
The shell was broken intermittently, Newby, at a military medium was belted over cow corner for six, the trademark slicing cut paid dividends as ever when any width was offered no matter the length, then the shell was resurfaced.
I watched closely the retreating left foot, the culprit that j’accuse his loss of balance and form which cost him a Test spot and contributed to his Chris Martin phobia. Was the left shoe shifting to leg as the bowler released?
Was the balance being swayed to a position where it was too difficult to access the ball with the full face of the blade? Was the head being dragged so slightly out of line that edges are produced rather than middles? I couldn’t spot a sign, not that the camera could see and the commentators didn’t bother with technical analysis.
In truth the appearance and substance of the innings reminded me of Phil Hughes whether he was making runs or not, and that is a major chunk of the Hughes enigma.
For Worcestershire so far he has successive limited over centuries and a first class fifty in just one championship outing. He is making runs, something that his 17 first class centuries at just 23 and half tender years suggests he has always done.
I did a double take when I checked his age, the 2009 Ashes when he was effectively dropped after three innings because Mitchell Johnson couldn’t hit the cut strip, feels like ancient history yet he is still a very young man in terms of professional sport.
Ultimately batting is about ‘how many’ not ‘how’, and Phil Hughes is the exemplar of that philosophy. Hughes should be judged on that statistic alone, aesthetics are for the Mark Waughs, Doug Walters and Sachin Tendulkars of the planet.
Hughes just needs to keep the scoreboard ticking and the selectors need to watch the numbers rather than the man.
Geoff ‘Henry’ Lawson returns to The Roar with his first article since 2009. He joins our expert cricket writers, and will offer thoughts as the Australians take on all comers with one eye on the upcoming Ashes.
Watch Glenn Mitchell's wrap of the second Test, where Australia were victorious early on the final day, winning by 218 runs and taking a 2-0 series lead into the third Test in Perth.
Geoff Lawson OAM is a former Australian cricketer and the former coach of the Pakistan cricket team. Nicknamed "Henry" after the Australian poet, Lawson was a fast bowler for New South Wales and Australia.
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