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Hughes looks to Waugh for England advice

 
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hugesTwenty years ago the England attack was dismantled by a young Australian batsman who was a key figure in the Ashes returning to Australian hands and staying there for a decade and a half. Steve Waugh came of age on the 1989 trip to England and this month he has been handing out advice to another young man who Australia hope can do a similar job on this year’s tour: Phillip Hughes.

By the time the 1989 Ashes came around, Waugh, 24, was already a veteran of 26 Tests but hadn’t scored a century. He made up for it by pillaging 393 runs before England managed to dismiss him for the first time. There is some argument that Hughes, 20, has already come of age at Test level despite his career being only three matches old.

In his second Test, in Durban, he became the youngest player in history to score two centuries in a Test, knocking off George Headley’s 79-year-old record in the process. But facing quality swing bowlers in English conditions will be a vastly different challenge and Hughes is therefore thrilled to be flying out on Wednesday to start a six-week stint with Middlesex.

“It will be a lot different, I haven’t played in those conditions before,” Hughes told Cricinfo this week. “We sat down a little while ago and had to decide between playing in the IPL or going to England. There’s three forms of the game and we had to decide which way to go. I haven’t played an Ashes before so with that coming up this was definitely the way to go.”

Declining the chance for piles of money in the IPL was a mature decision for someone barely out of his teens but he had already displayed his level-headedness in his two seasons with New South Wales. He was so productive this summer that he won the Steve Waugh Medal in March as the state’s best player despite missing the final six weeks due to his Australia call-up.

It was another trophy for Hughes to add to an already bulging cabinet after he collected the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year Award in February. But the New South Wales awards ceremony gave him an extra bonus - the chance to speak to the man whose medal he won, a player who toured England four times for an average of 74.22.

“At the Steve Waugh night I spoke to Steve Waugh about England,” Hughes said. “Definitely before I go there I’ll be getting around and talking to a few guys like Justin Langer and guys that’ve had success in all the conditions all around the world.

“It’s a big one because England is very different conditions. The advice from Steve was more to keep enjoying it and be yourself. He said it’s different conditions but the longer you’re there you’ll get to know them pretty well.”

It’s exactly that fact that has frustrated the ECB over the past month. England’s national selector Geoff Miller was angry that counties had given opportunities to Australian players like Stuart Clark (Kent) and Hughes to adapt to the English environment for such a long period leading in to the Ashes.

It will be particularly valuable for Hughes, who hasn’t played in England before. When the previous Ashes series began in Australia in 2006-07, Hughes was a 17-year-old who had just completed his high-school studies and was yet to find his way into the New South Wales side. He spent the summer watching on as Australia completed a 5-0 clean sweep.

“Two, three years ago, you watch it on TV and now to get an opportunity to play alongside those guys is very exciting,” Hughes said. “It’s obviously one of the biggest series. Growing up as kids you hear the Ashes and want to play in that. Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity in the not too distant future so it’s very exciting.”

He need not use the qualifier “hopefully”. He averaged 69.16 in his three Tests in South Africa and thrived in a baptism of fire in his debut in Johannesburg, where Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel peppered the 170-centimetre opener with short stuff.

“It was the second best Test side in the world,” he said. “It was no doubt the best bowling attack I’ve ever faced. The likes of Steyn, Morkel, Ntini, they definitely came at me hard. When I’m out in the middle, bat versus ball, it’s a big contest that I like to get amongst. They had a lot to say and I’m happy with that. I thrive on that contest.”

That desperation to be in the thick of the action has made it hard for Hughes to watch the one-day series from home but he knows his time will come in the shorter formats. In any case, it has given him the chance to get back home to Macksville in northern New South Wales to visit family and friends. That has allowed Hughes’ rapid rise to sink in.

“Sometimes I do actually get up in the mornings and think how great it was [to make the centuries in Durban],” Hughes said. “I knew it was going to be tough. But at the end of the day it was only one game of cricket, I’m not one to drop pressure on myself. Now the biggest thing is I want to keep going and keep enjoying this.”

He has six weeks to enjoy things before the Ashes. And if he wants to frighten a few Englishmen with long memories, he could do worse than flashing that Steve Waugh Medal about.

Source:Cricket News

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