The Australia opener Phil Hughes believes he is better prepared for the Ashes following his short spell in English county cricket. The prolific left-hander had never been to England before starting the 2009 season with the London-based county Middlesex. It was a wise decision, according to the 20-year-old, as he claims English pitches now hold no mystery. Before flying to England, Hughes said: "The ball does swing late and the wickets are a lot slower (in England), so there were a couple of things I picked up and a couple of things I've been working on the last couple of weeks just to keep my game intact for the series ahead.
"I won't change my technique and I won't come out and say what I've been working on but there have been a couple of things. "I'd never been to England before and I thought if I get over there for a little stint (it would be beneficial). "The preparation's been great. I feel comfortable going into this series. "I took 10 days completely off and spent time with my family and close friends and I've been back in training the last couple of weeks. "There were a couple of things I wanted to work on and I feel very comfortable." Hughes was at school the last time Australia played and lost an Ashes series in England four years ago.
The New South Wales star, who averages just under 70 after three Tests, still finds it hard to believe he will be out in the middle and not watching the Ashes from his family's banana farm. "I used to watch your Michael Clarkes and your Ricky Pontings on TV and to get to play alongside them in an Ashes series I never thought that would happen," he said. "It's a massive series. I can't wait." Hughes has even volunteered to face the first ball in each inning, such is his appetite for the challenge. His opening partner Simon Katich will field at short leg as his part of the deal. "I'm happy with that. You're going to have to face a ball anyway," Hughes said. "I'll face the ball first time every time. I'm a positive guy; that's how I like to be. "I don't want to doubt myself because that's when things can slip away."