Hughes form is huge worry for Australians



The Australia selectors have not made too many misjudgements over the years, mainly because the team have pretty much picked themselves for so long. However, they may be starting to regret the decision not to include a reserve opener for this tour after another failure by Phillip Hughes yesterday. In fairness to Andrew Hilditch and his selection panel, they could be forgiven for not foreseeing Hughes's struggles in England after he blazed Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini all around the Durban outfield on his way to back-to-back centuries against South Africa in March.

Hughes seemed to confirm his prodigious talent when he made 882 runs in just 13 innings for Middlesex at the start of the summer. However, Ricky Ponting had sent a note of caution when the squad was picked. "I am a little bit worried that he's scoring so many runs and I would like him to keep a few in the bank for a little later down the track," he said. Hughes must now be starting to wonder where his next score is coming from.

It has not just been the nature of his low scores - he made seven and eight in the warm-up game against the England Lions and 36, four and now 17 in his first three Ashes innings - but the manner of his dismissals that will be causing concern. His unorthodox technique has been exposed on this tour by the steepling bounce of Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff, a worrying chink in the armour for any opening batsman.

The trouble for Ponting is that the cupboard of openers in Australia is bare since the retirement of Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. Phil Jaques is still recovering from a second back operation while Shaun Marsh is viewed ostensibly as a one-day specialist. Simon Katich graduated as an opener after Langer retired two years ago. It should be remembered that Hughes will not be 21 until November but an Ashes contest is an unforgiving series in which to learn your trade.

kaffleck@thenational.ae

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