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Justin Langer column

Justin Langer
By Justin Langer
Former Australia batsman and Somerset captain

Before a ball has been bowled in this 2009 Ashes series, prediction number one has already come true.

Phil Hughes and Simon Katich
Hughes and Simon Katich have the chance to realise childhood dreams by walking out to open the innings against England

You didn't need a crystal ball to see the critics coming out as soon as Phillip Hughes missed out a couple of times.

And now, after two cracking deliveries from a hungry and determined Steve Harmison, the unorthodox, but incredibly effective technique of Australia's young opening batsman is already under the microscope.

The word is everywhere. Phil Hughes can't play the short ball. Everyone is saying it - but England would be foolish to believe it.

The last time Australia played Test cricket was in South Africa against, arguably, the best fast bowling attack in the world. Back then, the word was out - Phil Hughes can't play the short ball.

But on faster, bouncier pitches than we will see this summer, Hughes took every ounce of punishment on and off the park and came out of the series as the premier batsman with a brilliant half century in his debut match and hundreds in each innings of the second Test.

One of the inspiring aspects of Australia's youngest tourist is that he has been questioned technically and mentally many times before, and yet he has come out trumps each and every time.

There is absolutely no doubt this series will be his biggest test yet, but nothing has changed in the last four days to suggest to me that he won't be able to handle the hype and expectation of Ashes cricket.

Come Wednesday morning Hughes and Simon Katich have the chance to realise childhood dreams by walking out to open the innings against England.

Having faced the first ball of the last three Ashes series I know how hard their hearts will be pumping as they cross the white line to face England's pace attack.

Nervous as they will be, both players will be up and ready for the challenge.

606: DEBATE

Simon Katich has been one of the standout players in international cricket since he switched to opening. He, like his younger partner, is quite unorthodox in his approach, but has been nothing short of a run-making machine, domestically and internationally.

Before the ball is released he shimmies around the crease like a praying mantis but he watches the ball like it's his worst enemy and he is tough, tough, tough.

He has steel running through his veins and England can be sure that no matter what they try he will remain unfazed and focussed on the job at hand.

In a sense, his personality is the perfect foil for Hughes, who tends to grin a lot, while looking to belt the ball to every part of the field. The synergy between the two is potentially a fantastic opening combination for Australia.

The opening combination is pivotal to the success of the team and Hughes and Katich versus Cook and Strauss looks to be a close contest.

There is a similarity between the two sets of openers - two young left-handers walking out to fight with two more seasoned left-handers who have been around long enough to relish the pressure of the moment.

On Wednesday morning, I will be content, extremely relaxed and sitting back in the most comfortable chair I can find, waiting to see if the first ball of this series will prove to be as significant as the first ball of the last two series.

I wonder if Steve Harmison will feel the same.

From Taunton,
JL



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see also
Australia draw with England Lions
04 Jul 09 |  Australia
Australia's smiling assassin
03 Jul 09 |  Australia
England gear up for the Ashes
04 Nov 10 |  Cricket
Hopkinson ton frustrates Aussies
27 Jun 09 |  Australia
Justin Langer column
21 May 09 |  Cricket
Symonds misses out on Ashes squad
20 May 09 |  Australia
Justin Langer column
05 May 09 |  Cricket
Australia in England 2009
20 Sep 09 |  England


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