Magical Hussey highlights the Australian approach

Northants 636-6 dec v Essex 152-1
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The Independent Online

As if the Waughs, Slater, Ponting and company are not enough for English cricket to contend with, up pops Mike Hussey, 26, from Western Australia, to remind us of the incredible depth of talent available to the Australian selectors.

Compact and organised at the crease, he possesses the nimble footwork of a ballet dancer and the balance of a high-wire artist, but more important than any of this, he has the merciless attitude to cricket and scoring runs that sets the current crop of Antipodeans apart from the rest.

It is this single-mindedness that kept him picking off easy singles and sprinting twos as he approached his triple hundred. And on 320, he actually padded up to a ball outside off stump. The discipline required to treat each ball on its own merit is a hard-learned skill, but to do it on 320 is extraordinary.

Well, thanks to that discipline, he became only the sixth Australian to score a triple century in England, the fourth Northamptonshire player to do so, and with a push to long on off the 436th ball he faced, he broke Mal Loye's county record of 322 for the highest innings. The list of Australians he joined is a veritable who's who of the greats of the game; Victor Trumper was the first followed by Charles McCartney, Warwick Armstrong, Donald Bradman twice and Bobby Simpson. All excellent Test players, something that Hussey still aspires to, but the scale of his achievement is better demonstrated by listing those not mentioned.

Whether Hussey will represent his country is a moot point. Awarded one of the most coveted of prizes in Australian cricket, an ACB contract in 2000, he discovered in May this year that after a disappointing domestic season, he would not retain it. No wonder the Aussies are ruthless. One bad season and that's it, from ninth or 10th in line for a batting spot to nowhere. But like his compatriots, he will not cease trying and a fruitful season in England is a tried-and-tested method into the national side. It worked for Matthew Hayden, currently opening for Australia, and Hussey's predecessor at Northampton.

So far he has 1,240 first-class runs and he needs to continue this form back home in Perth if he is to have any realistic chance of honours. The competition really is that tough. Consider the fact that he is probably the fourth best player for his state behind Damien Martyn, Justin Langer and Simon Katich, all of whom are in the tour party.

He is also a good influence in the dressing room. His desire is for the team to win and his work ethic is exemplary. I witnessed a one-on-one net session between him and his coach during a holiday to Perth in February. Their focus was on the basic disciplines that underlie his game and although he was short of runs, he then performed well in the last two matches. Hard work had arrested his slump and this summer he has continued to work and reap the benefits.

Quite what work Essex need to do is hard to guess, but at least they batted well to the close. Today they need more of the same and a big score from their own Australian Stuart Law, who has been outspoken about his team-mates recently. It may be a little strong to suggest he has been sent to Coventry, but where he ends up next season is interesting. It is unlikely to be Chelmsford or Brisbane. Big runs, as Hussey has proved, are just too valuable.