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?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor