Cricket: Hughes makes headway on his hard-work ethic: Tourists' pace pair show signs of reaching their peak

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The Independent Online
Australians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323-3 dec

Leicestershire . . . . . . . . . . . . .168-7

BETWEEN the showers at Grace Road yesterday, the convalescence after injury of one Mervyn Hughes was maintained so impressively that any passing England selector would have been left in no doubt that he is nicely on course to be somewhere near his best by the time he is required to perform in the first Test.

Hughes was miserably out of luck and therefore out of wickets, but the girth seems to be diminishing (like F S Trueman he probably has the old- fashioned view that the way to get fit for bowling is to bowl) and even though he seemed to have something in reserve he gave the Leicestershire openers as rough a ride as they will have had this season. The word was that the Australians, with 323 behind them, fancied bowling Leicestershire out twice. The county's batsmen are not all in the greatest of nick, partly because of some of the pitches they have encountered, and Nigel Briers and Tim Boon will testify to the quality of Hughes's assault on them.

Moving the new ball away from the bat at a healthy pace and extracting awkward bounce, he turned them round and opened them up. Unfortunately for him it was not a great day for close catching (though one has known it colder in Melbourne and Hobart) and both escaped at slip at nought and one in his first spell.

Operating uphill and into the wind, he bowled only nine overs in all, kept fresh by two stoppages for rain, but that was probably all Allan Border needed to see. His name is now doubtless firmly pencilled in, and would that one could be so sure that England's opening attack will be in such competent hands.

Having to stop and start so often was no help to Boon and Briers. With Craig McDermott passing the bat or finding the edge enough to need a third slip, it was a long time before much was ventured off the front foot and, as often happens, it was the later bowlers who picked up the rewards.

Brendon Julian eventually deceived Briers and then Leicestershire had problems that owed something to the fact that not only Julian, but Leicestershire's Alan Mulally before him, bowl left-arm over the wicket, leaving accommodating footmarks for Tim May's off-spin. From just outside off stump, he spun the ball sharply and made it bounce. Thus Boon was on the back foot rather than front when he was lbw and when Shane Warne's wrist-spin appeared Leicestershire got themselves into a real tangle.

Phil Robinson was caught behind cutting at a ball that was probably too straight for the stroke, then Smith was bowled behind his legs and when James Whitaker met one that turned and bounced, the tourists knew they were on the way to achieving at least the first part of their objective.

(Photograph omitted)

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