Hughes revives an endangered art

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert


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    Phil Hughes: 1988-2014. (AAP Image/Chris Crerar)

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    You just have to love writing about cricket and cricketers. On Wednesday, a day after I questioned whether he’s really playing that delivery angled across him any differently to how he was last summer, Phil Hughes compiled a beautiful century in the last match of the limited-over series against Sri Lanka.

    Batting at first drop in Hobart, Hughes didn’t look particularly good until he was north of 60, but really kicked on after that, and indeed, produced some late-innings carnage to push Australia’s total from 5/218 at the end of the 47th over, to their eventual 5/247.

    Hughes’ own innings could neatly be broken up into three blocks. His first fifty was raised in 82 balls, the second fifty came at a neat run-a-ball as the confidence started coming back, and the last unbeaten 38 from just 22 deliveries.

    As far as one-day innings go, Hughes’ 138* was certainly the highlight of this five-match series, and might even be as well-compiled an Australian one-day innings in the last twelve months or so.

    Such a well-constructed innings was timely, too, on a number of fronts.

    Not just for the obvious reasons in the context of the game, but rather that with the rapid infiltration of Twenty20 cricket, it’s not that often that we get to see the lost art of ‘building an innings’ against the white ball.

    And when it does happen, it invariably wins matches, as Hughes’ knock did.

    For those willing to see the 50-over format disappear, this is probably worth considering. Sure, you’ll still get the big innings in the shortest form, and nearly all of them will be match-winning, but how many of them will really be constructed, rather than just… well, bashed?

    The other timely aspect of Hughes’ hundred was that I’d only just read an interesting article in a book that discussed the beauty of the being able to build an innings in one-day internationals the night before.

    No, it wasn’t a Christmas present, but rather a two-year old book of Gideon Haigh’s comprising articles he’d written in the two years before that.

    I hadn’t even bought it deliberately; it was one of those you-might-also-like six-dollar beauties thrown up as you wander through the Amazon checkout.

    Haigh’s book, Sphere of Influence, is a collection of articles from numerous publications and media outlets, mainly concerned with the growing empire of Indian cricket and the IPL, and how its/their power is seemingly expanding exponentially. There hasn’t been much disagreement so far.

    One particular article, “How to save one-day internationals”, first published by our dear colleague, the late Vinay Verma, in the Seriously Cricket Chronicles in October 2009, made reference to a one-day century made that year by South African captain, Graeme Smith.

    Haigh described it as being “as complete an innings as no Twenty20 innings ever will be.”

    Now it’s true, Haigh is often less than complimentary about the Twenty20 game, though I believe his distaste is not necessarily toward the format itself, but rather the over-commercialisation of the format, and what effect that over-commercialisation is having on the broader cricket schedule. Not to mention the effect on the cricketers themselves.

    Regardless of the motivation behind the obviously pointed remark, Haigh’s point stands. And Hughes’ innings in Hobart should be similarly celebrated, rather than left to fall deep into the abyss that contains every other decent one-day performance before it.

    It’s an innings that shouldn’t be forgotten so hurriedly, even though it almost certainly will be.

    Cricket Australia could do a lot worse than to put Hughes’ innings onto DVD and send it to every junior coach in the country. This innings, kids, is what you should be looking to emulate when you need to bat for any length of time.

    There will be times when you’re coming off a couple of low scores in a row, and when the questions resurface as to whether you’re really as good a bat as was being made out. It won’t matter that you made a significant score four innings beforehand, scores of 3, 3, and 1 will get the tongues wagging again.

    There will be times when you start off looking very shaky, maybe even on the verge of giving the critics even more ammunition. But somehow, you’ll get through that early period. You might manage a few good shots, but largely, you’ll be looking streaky for a good while.

    Eventually, suddenly even, you’ll find yourself reaching fifty. You won’t have looked particularly good but you’re still eking out runs, almost in spite of yourself. However, this will also be a major mental hurdle you’ve overcome.

    Push this scratchy fifty a bit further, and you’ll feel the confidence starting to build. The shots will come more freely; the feet will move faster and more decisively, and the ball will start finding the middle of the bat more often.

    You’ll find yourself in the middle of a major partnership, and naturally, you’ll start projecting ahead, thinking of what kind of total you might be heading the team towards.

    The the runs will really start flowing, you can do no wrong, and luck starts coming your way. Your century will arrive, you’ll raise the bat, and then you’ll have a bit of fun at the end with wickets in hand and nothing left to lose.

    And you’ll walk off unbeaten, and look down to realise you’re wearing coloured gear.

    This is building an innings, kids, and its place in one-day cricket should never be forgotten.

    This is what I imagine Hughes went through on Wednesday afternoon. To be honest, this is what Hughes seems to go through whenever he makes a solid score. Ignore the colour of the gear and the ball, and this was just another Phillip Hughes innings.

    An innings like this makes you realise why Hughes’ record is as good as it is in all three forms of the game. He has that wonderful ability when he’s ‘on’ to ignore the surroundings, and even his most recent form, and just go out there and bat.

    With Michael Hussey now consigned to the ‘former’ prefix, Hughes is arguably the best innings builder behind Michael Clarke in the Australian team. It’s an art form that the proliferation of Twenty20 cannot teach, and which will be lost forever if the 50-over game is allowed to die.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (188)

    • January 25th 2013 @ 3:01am
      Johnno said | January 25th 2013 @ 3:01am | ! Report

      Phil Hughes has found his home it seems, at no 3. He could go on and not do a Bradmanesque, form, but a Pupesque form.

      Potential wise Phil Highes is now showing more potential, than Greg Chappell, Alan Border, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, and Pup.

      So potenital wise phil Hughes is the best batsmen since Bradman and has now overtaken yesterday’s man Ponting, and veteran of the team Pup.

      Phil Hughes has all the shots, but the boy from working class Macksville has more shots and more power and talent and reflexes, than the boy from working class Mowbray.

      Working class cricketers are generally the best cricketers , Australia produces, there tough men from tough towns and areas, .
      Mssrs : Dave Warners formt he working class Sydney suburb of Matriville, and Pup form working class tough west sydney suburbs Liverpool, and Punter and Phil Highes from working class Mowbray and working class macksville.

      Guys like Ed Cowan, Matt Nicholson, Jackson Bird, all from CAS and GPS schools in Sydney, didn’t have to fight and scrap for every pea at the dinner table unlike these working class lads, and didn’t have to get the most out of a trusty old gray Nicholls, they were able to get a new GM or duncan fearnley bat every year.

      So these men like phil Hughes grew up tough, and fight much harder for there wicket unlike the Ed Cowan’s of this world. Just look at boxing, just about every world class boxer has grown up tough, and all boxing trainers say it’s very rare to find a lad from a well to do family , to make it in boxing.

      Soccer is the same guys like Daivd Beckham and Wayne Rooney grew up tough. Beck’s said now with is son who , has played a bit of junior chelsea and LA Galaxy , he say he gives his son tough love like his old man did, and makes him fight hard working class hard, at every training session like his working training was. And he rarely gives him praise, just always says you must do better, and just alright but not good.

      these are the type of players the Gaffas(Englush working class word for manager).

      I know my self form experience , having been in both the public and private school systems, and playing sport in both, the public schoolboys were definaatly tougher and went in harder, and definaalty had to make do with out the fancy kits, and cricket bats, and fancy footy boots.

      So Phil Hughes talent and hard work, is another triumph for working class lads in aussy cricket, form Bobby Simpson too, Punter, SHane Watson (Watto is an Ipswich lad a working class town right next to Brisvageas and a rugby league heartland produced the Langer Brothers Alan and Kevin langer, and the Walters brothers make em tough in Ipswich)Dave Warner ex-Randwick boys High boy, and Pup.
      And phil Hughes is carrying on the tough as tee working class tradition, and leading form the front for the aussy cricket team.
      Well doen to the talented and working class lad from working class Macksville.

      I think Phil Hughes will be the star batter of the ashes, and will be a central batter in the 2015 world cup team , with the ODI world cup being held in OZ/NZ.

      Good luck Hughsey.

      • January 25th 2013 @ 9:08am
        Felix said | January 25th 2013 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        Johnno, Hughes, Clarke and Warner are well under 35 but you make it sound like they grew up in the great depression with their old man working in the coal mines, I doubt they’ve scrapped over a pea in their lives!

        I’m not going to weigh in on the merits of someone’s education and background and their cricketing ability, but think about Alistair Cook and his elite education. I’ll take his record over theirs. Interestingly there was an article written about this a little while ago, it seems the trend in the UK is for all of their players to come from private schools due to the access to grass pitches. Thankfully the average kid in Australia can wander down the road and find a fairly well maintained wicket to play on at their local club.

        Personally I don’t give a toss what their background is, so long as they play the game in the right spirit and give their all when selected. I’m not happy with the recent sense of entitlement to a position in the test team, P.Siddle I’m looking at you fella – there is no way known McGrath, Lee or Gillespie would have sat out shield games before a tour of India.

      • January 25th 2013 @ 10:05am
        Vivek said | January 25th 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        Hughes real test will come in the ashes when the ball is moving around. It is there where i predict our young batsman will show what they are made of and Warner and Khawaja are 2 that i feel will stand up as they play swing bowling well and i am hoping Hughes is among those batsman too.

      • January 25th 2013 @ 10:40am
        Happy Hooker said | January 25th 2013 @ 10:40am | ! Report


        So Phil Hughes fights harder for his wicket than Ed Cowan, beacuse of his background?

        Based on the evidence, that is, their actual performance in the middle, I’d suggest Ed Cowan fights at least as hard for his wicket because he has to. Hughes is a far more talented player and is extravagant with his shots whereas Cowan is a grafter with a limited range of strokes.

      • Roar Guru

        January 25th 2013 @ 12:36pm
        JDP said | January 25th 2013 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

        This is the biggest load of tripe I have ever heard. Who cares where they came from as long as they deliver results?

      • January 25th 2013 @ 9:35pm
        Todd Johnson said | January 25th 2013 @ 9:35pm | ! Report

        Terrible chat mate – seriously that should be you done on this site

        I guess working class boys like Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale make better footballers than soft private school boys like John Eales and Phil Kearns

      • January 26th 2013 @ 1:43am
        Yola said | January 26th 2013 @ 1:43am | ! Report

        Mate, Shane Watson went to Ipswich Grammar School…..not a good person to use in your argument.

        • Roar Guru

          January 26th 2013 @ 2:42am
          peeeko said | January 26th 2013 @ 2:42am | ! Report

          quite a bizarre post by Johnno

    • January 25th 2013 @ 4:57am
      AndyMack said | January 25th 2013 @ 4:57am | ! Report

      Hi Brett

      I’ve said it before, but will say it again: I love the ODI’s

      While everyone seems to moan about the “middle overs”, i love watching an innings build, watching the batting team judge when to explode, keeping a balance between wickets in the shed and keeping the run rate reasonable. It is cricket after all.

      Good to see Hughes do well. We need him to step up over the next couple of years and become a leading light. Pup cannot do it all.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 25th 2013 @ 7:14am
        josh said | January 25th 2013 @ 7:14am | ! Report

        Speaking of timing it right to explode. There was a West Indies game (forget who they were playing) where Gayle and Co. chose to use the batting powerplay at the 35th over. Then used that to then score at 10 an over for the next 15 overs. – If my memory serves my right.

        I think many teams have lost the nous to use the powerplays creatively.

      • January 25th 2013 @ 12:21pm
        Renegade said | January 25th 2013 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

        You nailed Andy-Mack.

        That’s the beauty of One Day cricket.

        Still my favourite form of the game.

    • January 25th 2013 @ 6:40am
      Vicboy said | January 25th 2013 @ 6:40am | ! Report

      I agree with the building of an innings theory. Great to see a batsman scoring runs, as opposed to a slogger getting away with a few. Very Geoff Marsh. Could we perhaps pick a few batsmen, rather than “bit of everything men” so we can see innings built regularly? I don’t watch as much cricket as the selectors, but Smith, Maxwell etc maybe good for 20/20, but too much to ask them to bat in the top 6 for Australia if they don’t bat in the top 4 for their state.
      With the swinging ball a constant threat to our batsman, and two new white balls, the “build an innings” could be the perfect training for test cricket, rather than 20/20 ( I am with Gideon!)
      Please don’t compare Phil Hughes with Ricky Ponting, other than their suburbs. Hughes has an eye like a dead fish, but Ponting played every shot. Hughes has worked hard to develop a pull shot, but it is not natural.
      Hughes has a good eye, and the ability to keep batting when he is “in”. He just loves batting, hence the big scores come. This is a trait of the greats, but Hughes technique will need constant supervision. He loves to hit the ball through point, but needs to keep at scoring all round the wicket. You can see this in his innings still
      I hope Phil Hughes plays the next 10 years for Australia, but he is not Ricky Ponting.

      • January 25th 2013 @ 9:09am
        jameswm said | January 25th 2013 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        Not yet. It isn’t impossible that Hughes can end up as good as Ponting. He’s got the eye and the temperament.

        I won’t be writing him off.

      • January 25th 2013 @ 12:25pm
        Renegade said | January 25th 2013 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

        I don’t think anyone said he is better than Ricky Ponting however at the age of 24 he seems to be ahead of where ponting was at the same time.

        By the time he is 37 we can certainly make a better judgement and i think hughes is going to go down as a great of australian cricket.

        • January 25th 2013 @ 12:41pm
          Jason said | January 25th 2013 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

          At 24y and 2 months:

          Hughes 1305 runs at 36.25
          Ponting 1209 runs at 36.64

          • January 29th 2013 @ 1:18am
            Matt h said | January 29th 2013 @ 1:18am | ! Report

            That’s a bit freaky

    • January 25th 2013 @ 6:55am
      Steve said | January 25th 2013 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      I’m confused, should I admire Phil Hughes for making as many centuries he has at his young age (in all forms of cricket) or should I lambast him for getting out the same way year after year with a technical deficiency and looking awful doing so?

      When he gets out caught in the slips I think he’s not up to it because he just looks like he has no idea, and then he goes and top scores with 130+!

      • January 25th 2013 @ 9:10am
        jameswm said | January 25th 2013 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        Steve, most left handers get out this same way. Right arm over sliding it across them is standard operating procedure.

        He’s less troubled by it than he was, for lots of small reasons.

      • Roar Guru

        January 25th 2013 @ 9:44am
        TheGenuineTailender said | January 25th 2013 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        He’s not the only batsmen to have ever been caught in the slips you know…

    • January 25th 2013 @ 7:24am
      Red Kev said | January 25th 2013 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      Good read Mr McKay. I must admit it is an aspect of ODI cricket I had overlooked, I honestly believe the two new balls makes the ODIs far more interesting again. Until that change, the games seemed to be about how much more than a run a ball you could get, not anymore. Building an innings makes ODI’s useful again as test auditions as they used to be.

      • Columnist

        January 25th 2013 @ 11:45am
        Brett McKay said | January 25th 2013 @ 11:45am | ! Report

        Absolutely Kev, Hughes has proved that form with the bat translates to any format, too. That’s probably one thing he has over Khawaja, if we’re honest, even though Khawaja has also has success in all forms – I mentioned last week that he’s just shy of 1000 runs of the season already – he does seem to take time to adapt.

        But your point about two new balls is also very valid, too, it would have to be easier batting in the last ten overs against balls that are by that stage only 20 over old themselves..

        • January 25th 2013 @ 12:30pm
          Red Kev said | January 25th 2013 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

          I posted in a thread yesterday that I thought Khawaja had been really consistent in all forms of the game averaging 41 per innings regardless of the format this summer.

          • Roar Guru

            January 25th 2013 @ 12:37pm
            JDP said | January 25th 2013 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

            I would love to see more Khawaja analysis his treatment is swiftly heading towards the sort of ‘Hodge’ territory. Wondering how much that is the case – god I hate Australian cricket politics.

            • Columnist

              January 25th 2013 @ 12:46pm
              Brett McKay said | January 25th 2013 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

              John, I’ll be honest, I’m getting bored by all the Khawaja commentary. No doubt he’s getting a rough time, but no amount of analysis is going to change the selectors’ minds currently. Only Khawaja can do that, and he just needs to keep making the runs and make his case unignorable..

              • January 25th 2013 @ 1:18pm
                Bearfax said | January 25th 2013 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

                And how does he do that Brett when the selectors refuse to offer him an opportunity. He is doing very well in Shield cricket, he just had a good T20 performance. Yet he has only been given ONE game in international cricket this summer. He was made 12th man several times, he was made stand in for Clarke and Ponting at different times. But whenever a definite position became available, it went to another player. We all thought at last in the ODI games that he would be given an extended chance. Played one game, got unfortunately run out early in a mix up with Hughes, and again other than coming on as 12th man he has been ignored. T20, where he was one of the best and might I add in a very poor team, he’s again been ignored.

                The problem is Brett, he is not being given the chance to prove himself to the selectors (if thats what they want). In the meantime he is getting very little game time because he keeps getting held in reserve.

                This kid is probably over a three or four year period the best or second best performed Shield batsman. Only Hughes would be his equal. Yet he’s being ignored. I wonder how many games he’ll get against West Indies, despite the poor showing of Australia’s batting middle order in the latest ODI. Hardly an opportunity to prove himself for India, and increasingly gives selectors the right to take a lesser batsman in his place.

              • January 25th 2013 @ 2:18pm
                Peter said | January 25th 2013 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

                Brett i would have to agree with Bearfax, how can Khawaja state his case when he gets dropped after 1 ODI where he was unluckily run out, not picked for the SCG test even though he was the backup batsman and we lost Watson who was primarily a batsman. All the guys are asking is for him to get his chance to show what he can do, if he fails we accept that but he isn’t been given a chance.

              • Columnist

                January 25th 2013 @ 2:20pm
                Brett McKay said | January 25th 2013 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

                He has to keep doing well for Qld, Bearfax, it’s that simple. If he’s called into the Aust squad his attitude, work-ethic, everything needs to be faultess, and his net form excellent.

                He can either sit back and believe he’s been hard done by (and get nowhere), or he keep putting the runs on the board. That’s what it comes down to; that’s his currency..

              • January 25th 2013 @ 3:17pm
                Red Kev said | January 25th 2013 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

                His form in the nets? Oh Brett, you’ve fallen to Ponting disease, so sad.

              • January 25th 2013 @ 3:59pm
                Bearfax said | January 25th 2013 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

                Brett I appreciate what you are saying and that could apply to anyone wanting to get into the Oz side. But I know of no other player who has been stuffed around like Khawaja in the last few years. And this year he is not being given the opportunities a lot of other lesser players have. How does he demonstrate what you think he needs to do if he is not selected. He is doing what you said he is required to do, and it is not him who is complaining. He has been a paragon of virtue about the whole issue. perhaps he shouldnt be.

                We’re the ones complaining and we’re doing it because of perceived injustice. He’s not being given a Fair Go. I agree if he fails after several stints then send him back. But let him play the several stints. And by the way I said the same things about Hughes when I felt he was not being given a Fair Go. He got his chance et voila

              • January 25th 2013 @ 5:38pm
                Sunil said | January 25th 2013 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

                Brett great article, I just think that in hodge era we had the best batting lineup whereas at
                the moment there is no excuse not to give khawaja the run he deserves, and even you have to admit he has been hard done by, most recent example being that he wasn’t called up for Clarke in the Hobart ODI

              • January 25th 2013 @ 5:38pm
                Sunil said | January 25th 2013 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

                Brett great article, I just think that in hodge era we had the best batting lineup whereas at
                the moment there is no excuse not to give khawaja the run he deserves, and even you have to admit he has been hard done by, most recent example being that he wasn’t called up for Clarke in the Hobart ODI

              • Columnist

                January 25th 2013 @ 7:21pm
                Brett McKay said | January 25th 2013 @ 7:21pm | ! Report

                Bearfax, or course that applies to all other players as well, but the fact remains, it’s all that Khawaja can do. At the end of the day, perceived injustices or not, Khawaja needs to keep making runs in order to get in the national side. That’s all there is to it..

                And Kev, just to clarify, when I mentioned Khawaja’s net form, I meant that in the context of being in the national squad, as in whenever he gets the chance to bat in front of the selectors, the captain, and the coaches, he needs to be at the top of his game. Not his net form for Qld!!

              • January 25th 2013 @ 10:58pm
                Bearfax said | January 25th 2013 @ 10:58pm | ! Report

                Bleeding obvious Brett. This is about our anger, not the reality of the injustice. Of course he has to keep performing. But that doesnt make what is happening right and these forums at least give us some opportunity to express that frustration. The present coach and selectors, as is being noted even by leading commentators, albeit very politely, have lost the plot. Hopefully promoting that enough even on these forums may assist in getting rid of them. Get Boof as National Coach for a start.

          • January 25th 2013 @ 2:16pm
            Peter said | January 25th 2013 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

            What’s impressed me most about Khawaja is that he is getting runs in the shorter format(Big Bash and Ryobi) which we didn’t see last season,this shows that under Boof he is becoming more aggressive and backing his game. I am hoping we get to see more of this in the Indian tour.

    • January 25th 2013 @ 7:26am
      Robert said | January 25th 2013 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      Hughes is a must for Australia in Tests and ODI’s.He makes big scores unlike Watson,Cowan and Warner.Every now and then he’ll fail but if you have a player in your side that you know if he makes a start he’ll go on with it,gives others confidence

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