x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Australia's Hussey gives England food for thought

The batsman makes a timely return to form in Australia's final match before the Ashes with a century against England Lions.

WORCESTER, ENGLAND // Michael Hussey made a timely return to form in Australia's final match before the Ashes series gets under way with a century against England Lions at New Road. Hussey reached three figures off 153 balls via a back-foot cover drive off the leg spinner Adil Rashid which brought him his 15th boundary. It was Hussey's first ton in any form of cricket since his 146 against India in a Test match in Bangalore last October. Since then the 34-year-old has failed to achieve a hundred in 21 Test knocks and his average in the five-day format of the game has plummeted from 80 at the beginning of 2008 down to 55. Hussey survived one chance against the Lions when on 75 as the paceman Sajid Mahmood spilt a relatively straightforward caught and bowled opportunity. His efforts enabled the tourists to overcome a mid-innings wobble, in which they lost four wickets for 32 runs in 10 overs, to reach 337 for eight from 90 overs by the close. Hussey remained unbeaten on 143 from 221 deliveries with 18 fours. Overall the Lions stuck gamely to their task on a wicket which offered early assistance after Australia's captain Ricky Ponting had elected to bat but gradually flattened out. Steve Harmison (3-67) and Graham Onions (2-62) were the pick of the bowlers and the Australians were given a searching examination by the Durham duo on a muggy morning. Ponting had admitted his side needed to improve on their performance in the drawn 12-a-side game with Sussex in their only first class game before the first Test. Harmison made the first breakthrough when Phillip Hughes, on seven, fended a short ball off the handle of his bat to Joe Denly at gully. Ponting struggled before his dismissal to Onions for only a single. He tried a forcing shot off the back foot and fell to a head high catch by the Worcestershire skipper Vikram Solanki at first slip. The opener Simon Katich and Hussey led a recovery via a third-wicket stand of 141 in 29 overs and the runs flowed at a fast rate in the early part of the afternoon session. But the dismissal of Katich for 95 off 122 balls with 15 fours, pulling a leg stump delivery from Harmison to Onions at fine leg, sparked an upturn in the Lions' fortunes. The ball was changed after going out of shape and immediately Bresnan accounted for Michael Clarke (four) who drove to Rashid at backward point. Onions collected his second wicket of the innings when Marcus North chopped onto his stumps after making only a single and he has scored only 13 runs in his last three knocks. Then Bresnan struck again as wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (seven) was trapped lbw although replays suggested the ball may have missed his leg stump. Australia were precariously placed at 197 for six but there is depth to their batting and this was emphasised by Mitchell Johnson who provided good support for Hussey. He lofted Rashid over midwicket for a massive six in making 47 during a stand of 109 in 29 overs before gloving a leg-side delivery from Bresnan through to wicketkeeper Steven Davies. The England skipper Ian Bell immediately took the second new ball and Harmison showed his quality in yorking Brett Lee (six).

* PA Sport