There’s little more Phillip Hughes could have done to show he’s ready for a fourth recall to Australia’s Test side.
Hughes, who only received a ticket to South Africa when Shaun Marsh was a last-minute scratching due to a calf injury, was a clear standout in an intra-squad game in Johannesburg on Friday.
He scored 83 on what was essentially a day-four Wanderers pitch, having been used earlier in the week for the Proteas’ three-day warm-up match.
Shane Watson was relegated to No.6, with Alex Doolan at first drop in the side’s most meaningful training session since landing in the rain-hit republic last week.
Doolan and Hughes are vying for the spot in the Test side vacated by George Bailey, with the would-be debutant viewed by most as the front runner given he was part of the original 15-man squad.
“He was obviously selected before me. I know where I stand, I’m just happy to be in the squad,” Hughes said.
“I’m not sure what they’ll do. All you can do is just be ready.”
Hughes batted at No.7 but was in before lunch, shortly after Doolan departed for 25 when he left a fantastic James Pattinson delivery that deviated off the pitch and kissed the top of off stump.
Playing with new-found restraint and similar confidence to which he showed on Test debut at the same venue almost five years ago, Hughes rebuilt brilliantly after the collapse.
The 25-year-old resisted the squad’s five pacemen until late in the final session when Mitchell Johnson trapped him lbw.
No other Australian passed 34 in what was a testing hit-out before the three-Test series starts in Centurion on Wednesday.
“They kept rotating, it was quality attack,” Hughes said.
“All the boys went hard. It was different to a couple of hours in the nets.”
The game was played competitively, but in a jovial spirit.
Chuckles abounded as team masseur Grant Baldwin bowled the final over.
Likewise when American fielding coach Mike Young used a baseball glove to keep wicket for an over, while Brad Haddin padded up to bat.
Steve Smith would have been one of few that didn’t enjoy the occasion, out for a duck when adjudged caught behind off the bowling of Pattinson by umpire Craig McDermott.
Smith stood his ground for some time after bowling coach McDermott’s verdict, and would have risked a fine for dissent had this been an actual fixture.
Spinner Nathan Lyon was the leading wicket-taker with figures of 3-60 from 15 overs.