Nerves turn Mr Cricket into proper fidget

Mr Cricket has turned into Mr Anxious and, after another day when Australian batsmen made plenty of hay, England can at least be thankful for small mercies. There was a time when Mike Hussey was the last person bowlers wanted to see; now they put out the welcome mat.

Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Marcus North – all have filled their boots at Sophia Gardens and it will be no great surprise if young opener Phillip Hughes follows suit before he is much older. But Hussey, so calm and collected at the crease when England last came across him, has turned into a proper fidget who is fretting about where his next big Test match score might come from. Statistics are at the root of the problem, needless to say. Last week, playing against the fired up England Lions at Worcester, Hussey scored 150 and 62 not out, looking as good as he did during the Ashes series of 2006-7 when those of us on this side of the world last gave him our full attention.

But, although the bowlers running in hard at New Road included internationals Steve Harmison, Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan, it was not a Test match. And therein lies the problem, it seems. Having cracked it at the highest level by making eight centuries in his first 20 games wearing the Baggy Green, Hussey has managed only one more in another 17.5 appearances. And people are starting to talk.

In many ways, the 34-year-old from Morley, Western Australia, is a victim of his own early success. He waited a long time to reach the highest level – 11 years of playing first-class cricket for not only his state but also in England while doing sterling service for Durham, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire – but then sprang from the blocks like a sprinter in 2005 making his debut against West Indies in Australia's first series after their Ashes humiliation. The runs stacked up so rapidly that Mr Cricket (so named because of his devotion to the game) had banked 1,000 of them in his first 166 days as a Test batsman, beating a record set in 2004 by Andrew Strauss. And, even more impressive to those who keep an eagle eye on these sort of things, his average hovered around 80 right through to the start of 2008.

In a game where an average of 40 is considered good, 80 inevitably invites comparisons with Don Bradman. But there is only one way to go from there, really, and Hussey has now been on a downer for 18 months with the fag end of last year and the early part of this one proving tough. When Australia were beaten at home by South Africa, Hussey supplied only 10 runs during the defeats in Perth and Melbourne. And even though Ricky Ponting's team gained revenge in the return series during February and March, the team's No 4 managed a decidedly modest total of 132 runs from six knocks. That unproductive sequence lowered Mr Cricket's Test average to 55.29. Now, following yesterday's decision to drive without much conviction against a ball from Jimmy Anderson that could have been left alone, it is down to 54.35. And one senses that, until Hussey relaxes a little the current trend could continue.

It was all so different in the 2006-7 Ashes series, of course. England supporters feared the worst when they saw Hussey safely established in Australia's middle order, and their concern was well founded. The man who made run-scoring in county cricket look as easy as shelling peas passed 50 in his first five Test innings against Andrew Flintoff's touring side, remaining unbeaten on two occasions and converting one of those knocks into a century.

Hussey has far too much talent to keep falling away. But the trouble about getting stuck in a rut is that, often, the harder you struggle the deeper you sink.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Written protest: Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, has sent an open letter to the Culture Secretary
books
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Sport
footballDoes Hodgson's England team have an identity yet?
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
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

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss