Hussey goes on the pull as tourists fluff their lines

Strauss gambled but he underestimated his foe's fitness and judgement

A batting masterclass from Mike Hussey thwarted England on an absorbing third day. Referrals, bumpers, pulls, drives, songs and a sudden clatter of wickets came along and, through it all, Hussey remained intact. His contribution presented the visitors with an improbable target. If Australia prevail, the MCG will be packed. And it is a coliseum. Let's hope the pitch is as firm and the cricket as absorbing.

Hussey was superb. Unlike his comrades he did not need any help from fieldsmen or umpires, hardly missed a ball and did not endure an appeal. It is not in his nature to make batting look easy because he is earnest and attentive. Suffice it to say that he did not look like getting out.

Nor did England have any clear idea how to shift him. Like the South Africans three years ago they could not find a fault in a game shaped by ability and experience and driven by devotion and ambition. And to think lots of people demanded his head before the series began. How England wish the selectors had obliged!

Apart from Shane Watson, none of the other batsmen looked like lasting long. Several were rattled by the smell of leather passing their nostrils, or else by the threat of it. Throughout the series, England have played Australia at their own game – ruthless, efficient and physical. Now they kept demanding wickets. Most likely they will retain the Ashes regardless of the result here.

Hussey's innings was a lesson in application, courage and execution. In truth he only played two shots with any regularity, the extra-cover drive and the pull, but he played them well and often. Of his 14 boundaries, eight came with pulls and four with off-drives. These strokes counterpoint each other admirably because they indicate that runs can be scored off both feet and on both sides of the wicket.

Hussey has a hunger for the game that shows in every stroke he plays, every moment on the field. He is a cricketer from tip to tail, utterly involved, single-minded from birth. Here his judgementwas quick and his mind was uncluttered. In a trice he was able to assess length and line, whereupon he moved rapidly and decisively into position before playing his shot. He also knew the pitch well enough to ignore anything bouncing over the sticks unless he felt a riposte was warranted.

Hussey's pulling was the highlight of his innings. It has always been a typically Australian shot born of firm pitches and daring young batsmen. Over the years it has been a feature of most of the best local batsmen, or at any rate those of small stature. His execution was flawless. It is no small thing to pull a fast bowler operating on a hard track thrice, let alone 30 times, and on each occasion to play the shot with complete control. Only great batsmen can do that.

That Hussey pulled and hooked frequently was partly due to England's strategy of bowling to his best shot and setting the field accordingly. Strauss gambled that sooner or later the left-hander would miscue but he underestimated his foe's fitness and judgement.

Placement counted among the left-hander's other strengths. Repeatedly he threaded the ball between cover fieldsmen or else split a collection sent to patrol the leg-side boundary. Doubtless he did find a fieldsmen a few times during his long occupation but the lapses were far outweighed by his pinpoint contribution.

Hussey has always been comfortable against high pace but until recently he has been less sure against spin. The sight of him stepping down the pitch to counter Graeme Swann in Brisbane was the revelation of the campaign. He suffered a relapse in the first innings of this contest and learned his lesson.

Swann was forced out of the attack by the left-hander's capable response. As it happens England benefited from his eclipse because Paul Collingwood promptly claimed a cheap wicket. That too was typical of a well-drilledtouring team.

Hussey celebrated his hundred and then resumed the fight. Long before the end of the innings, Australia were heavily in his debt. And the same can be said about the selectors, captain and colleagues. Thereafter it was left to the flingers to finish the job.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Lavigne performing in Seoul at the beginning of last year
people
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?