Kiwis look to exploit Hughes flaw


New Zealand will try to heap the pressure on out-of-form Australian opening batsman Phillip Hughes as they seek to level the series with victory in the second and final Test starting Friday.
The heat is off former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin after good performances in the home side’s comprehensive nine-wicket victory over the Black Caps in the first Gabba Test. Ponting hit 78 and Haddin 80 in the first innings after speculation on their Test futures following a run of low scores, but the spotlight has now shifted to left-hander Hughes and his technical flaws outside off-stump.
Hughes has passed 36 just twice in his past 17 Test innings and with all-rounder Shane Watson (hamstring) and Shaun Marsh (back) on track to return from injuries in the Boxing Day Test against India, the opener’s position appears vulnerable.
His six-ball failure on Sunday as Australia reeled off the 19 runs for victory in their second innings, highlighted his weakness. His average has dived from 69 after three Tests in 2009 to 36.
There have been calls for Usman Khawaja to move up the batting order to opener and make room for uncapped allrounder Dan Christian, who has been added to the Australian squad following a side strain to fast bowler Ben Cutting.
New Zealand captain Ross Taylor could not disguise his relish when asked if he wanted Hughes to play in the Hobart Test.
“I’d love him to be in the team,” Taylor said after the Gabba Test.
“We had a lot of video footage of all the Australian players and Hughes got caught at second, third slip and gully a lot in the Ashes and in South Africa.
“That was definitely an area we wanted to target, and with the way Chris Martin bowls, he bowls across the left-hander.”
Martin claimed Hughes’s wicket twice at the Gabba, both times caught by Martin Guptill in the slips.
Senior Australian batsman Mike Hussey believes Hughes should continue playing his natural attacking game.
“I just think it’s important for him to keep a real clear mind and to keep playing his way,” Hussey said.
“He’s had success playing his way. He’s still put together some really good scores for us in difficult conditions in Sri Lanka (126) and South Africa (88).
“He works extremely hard and he knows the areas he needs to work on.”
Australia remained unbeaten at the Gabba since 1988 with their emphatic victory over New Zealand, who are without a Test win in Australia since 1985.
“We don’t play as much Test cricket as some of the other nations but we need to learn quicker than we are at the moment,” Taylor said.
“That’s the ultimate goal, to apply pressure for as long as possible and absorb it as for as long as possible as well.”
Australia unearthed another match-winning fast bowler in 21-year-old James Pattinson, who took five for 27 to help rout New Zealand for 150 in their second innings at the Gabba.
Michael Clarke has welcomed the inclusion of Christian in the squad.
“He gives us options and that’s what we’re looking at in regards to the wicket in Hobart,” Clarke said.
“We don’t know what we’re going to get. It is always nice to have another option in regards to your bowling.”
Australia have never lost a Test in the total of nine played at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval, although the Kiwis have drawn twice in three Tests at the ground.