It’s hard to change a winning Test team, but Phil Hughes is hoping to make noise at the selection table following another Sheffield Shield century.
Hughes’ 118 during a six-hour stay at the crease on Monday rescued South Australia from the dire position of 3-82 to be 5-288 at stumps on day two in reply to NSW’s first innings of 373.
It is the 25-year-old’s third ton of the summer, and the 24th of his first class career, cementing his place as the next in line for Darren Lehmann’s Test team.
Hughes will find it hard to force his way into the Ashes series, with Australia leading 2-0 and taking an unchanged squad to Perth for Friday’s third Test.
But he could find himself on a plane to South Africa in the new year for the three-Test tour in February.
“All I want to do is continue to score runs. That’s what they’ve (selectors) told me to do,” he said.
“I just love to be talked about.
“That’s something that I want to keep doing, keep making noise and scoring as many behind me as possible.
“If something comes up around the selection table that I’m one of the few they’re talking about, that’s something that I’d really love.
“I want to just continue to make big statements with big runs.”
Hughes has had three lives in Test cricket already – having been dropped in England in 2009, after a disastrous home series against New Zealand in 2011-12 and again in England this year.
But he’s returned with a point to prove in the Shield, where he has smashed 547 runs at an average of 68 – second only to 34-year-old Marcus North (593 at 98.8).
All of his trademarks were on display at the SCG as he cut and drove with distinction during a 144-run partnership with Callum Ferguson – who also batted superbly to hit an impressive 80 as the pair rescued the Redbacks.
Hughes was subjected to a short-pitched barrage from young Blues allrounder Sean Abbott (0-28 off 18 overs), but resisted the temptation to hook with two men back on the boundary.
Trent Copeland, the pick of the Blues’ bowlers, eventually had Hughes caught at slip after he extracted some extra bounce from a mostly gentle pitch.
Copeland finished with figures of 3-83 after also taking two wickets in the morning session.
Trailing by just 85, the Redbacks are well positioned to take first innings points in the top-of-the-table clash.
At Bellerive, Western Australia led Tasmania by 177 runs after wickets tumbled on day two.
At stumps on Monday, the Warriors were 5-115 in their second innings and with the upper hand after 15 wickets fell on a dramatic day’s play.
Mitchell Marsh will resume on Tuesday on 40 not out with Sam Whiteman unbeaten on 15.
Two wickets in the first over of the day proved a precursor of things to come and WA held a huge advantage when they had the home side 7-41 in their first innings on a seaming deck.
But Tigers pair Evan Gulbis (80) and Luke Butterworth (72) put on 145 from just 142 balls to get their side back in it.
Tasmania were eventually dismissed for 196, 62 behind the Warriors’ first-innings total of 258.
Western Australia fared little better early in their second dig and were 4-32 before Marsh and Ashton Turner (30) steadied.
Tigers left-armer Sam Rainbird had 3-32 but a brilliant piece of glovework from skipper Tim Paine ended the dangerous Marsh-Turner partnership at 51.
Paine collected a Mark Cosgrove (1-5) delivery wide outside leg stump and whipped the bails off to add to the seven catches he already had in the match.
Tasmania had resumed at 0-7 with expectations of running down WA’s 258 but their top-order’s effort resembled a slips catching drill, nine of their wickets catches behind the wicket.
At 7-41 their worst-ever Shield total of 76 looked a chance to fall before Gulbis and Butterworth added some respectability.
Gulbis’s highest first-class score came off just 73 balls and included 14 boundaries before he was last man out.
WA seamer Mitch Marsh finished with 4-19 and Ryan Duffield, who’d been on a hat-trick in the first over of the day, 3-55.
At the Gabba, the stage is set for David Hussey to emerge as Victoria’s unlikely hero against Queensland.
At stumps on day two, the Bushrangers are 5-230 with Hussey not out 41 in reply to the Bulls’ first innings of 8(dec)-382.
Queensland struck a telling blow before stumps when captain Matthew Wade (35) was caught behind off Ben Cutting (1-56), ending a 75-run fifth wicket stand with Hussey as Victoria again stumbled in their first innings run chase.
Hussey was initially overlooked for the game but now all eyes are on the veteran as second last Victoria try to kick-start their Shield campaign.
The 36-year-old former international limited-overs batsman appeared to be fighting for his first class career when named 12th man for Victoria’s last Shield clash – the second time in three games it had happened.
He had only played in the match before that against Western Australia – in which he struck a fine 85 – because Wade was suspended for one game for pitch tampering.
However, Rob Quiney’s calf injury again opened the door for Hussey ahead of this week’s clash against Queensland – and it seems the veteran is keen to provide selectors a not so subtle reminder of his talents.
Hussey will hope to pick up where the likes of Cameron White (76) and opener Peter Handscomb (52) left off.
The pair put on a 103 third wicket stand after Alister McDermott (3-52) trapped Aaron Finch (four) in front and bowled Glenn Maxwell (14) to reduce the visitors to 2-33.
Earlier, the Bulls declared their first innings on the stroke of lunch in the hunt for a much needed result.
The Bulls put on 4-119 in the morning session, highlighted by an 88-run fifth wicket stand between Bulls captain James Hopes (57) and Peter Forrest (36).
Queensland’s first innings marked only the 15th time in Shield history all 10 batsmen in a team reached double figures without scoring a century.
Both teams are desperate to kick-start their Shield campaigns in the last round of four-day matches before the competition takes a break for the Big Bash League Twenty20 tournament.
Bottom team Queensland have approached the clash as a must win game after amassing just four points in five matches – 14 behind leaders NSW – while the Bushrangers (8pts) are reeling from two outright losses.