Phillip Hughes will have good reason to look to the heavens as he fights to hold his place in the Australian Test team - and not just because of his recent run of outs.
PHILLIP Hughes will have good reason to look to the heavens as he fights to hold his place in the Australian Test team - and not just because of his recent run of outs.
The beleaguered opener has not been granted any favours by Bellerive curator Marcus Pamplin, who has produced a startlingly green pitch that is likely to offer plenty of assistance to the quicks early in the second Test, starting today.
It could get even more difficult for Hughes should Australia bat first and the forecast cloudy conditions prevail in Hobart.
''If it's a bit cloudy, you've got not just a little bit of seam to contend with, you'll get the swing,'' Pamplin said yesterday. ''That's where it gets overblown a bit about the seam, it's just all the swing.
''There'll be a bit of seam early on, naturally, because it's a new wicket and the grass is new on it the first day. As the game wears on, less seam, but if it's going to be overhead conditions most of the game, the swing will still be king.''
Pamplin disagreed the pitch was a ''green monster'', but admitted the wicket was greener than usual due to Hobart's recent cool weather.
''We had snow on the mountain on Sunday and there hasn't really been much sun about until today,'' he said.
''You'll keep the shine on the ball, it's quite lush everywhere, so the shine will stay on the ball for most of the game. If it's overcast, they'll [the batsmen] have to ride it out, a lot of leave balls and just tough it out a little bit.''
The problem for Hughes, however, has been his inability to resist dangling his bat outside off stump. In 29 Test innings, the left-handed opener has been caught between the keeper and gully 19 times, and the Black Caps will again fancy their chances of making it 20 out of 30 in Hobart.
'''Hughesy has been working hard for the past couple of years ? on his technique and on the areas of his game that need to improve, like all of us,'' captain Michael Clarke said yesterday.
''I've made it very clear to him that I think I've been caught in slips as many times as any player. It's an area of a lot of people's game that you need to continue to work on, especially when the ball is moving.
''I've always loved his work ethic. You guys [media] continue to see him in the nets he trains as hard as anyone and he wants to get better.''
Hughes is averaging just 15 runs in five home Test innings, but boasts an impressive first-class record at Bellerive, where he has struck 821 runs at 74.64, including scores of 138 and 93 in last summer's shield final.
Clarke hinted yesterday he would be prepared to bowl first if the weather was overcast, ''but I've said that a few times and then got out there and batted''.
On the 19 occasions he has won the toss as national captain - in all forms of the game - he has decided to bowl first on just two occasions. ''The two things I find hard: bowling first when I win the toss, and not picking a spinner,'' Clarke said.
Hughes was yesterday given one more match to prove his worth as a Test opener, but he might not get another chance on Boxing Day, with injured vice-captain Shane Watson's calf strain unlikely to affect his chances of playing.
The Australians remain confident Watson will play in the series-opener against India, even if he cannot bowl.
''I think that needs to be discussed with the selectors,'' Clarke said.
''I think his batting is still a very big part of our team, especially if he's opening the batting - up the top of the order he's been pretty consistent for us.
''If he's just batting I can certainly still see him in our team but, best case scenario, I would love him to be able to bowl as well.''
All-rounder Dan Christian will carry the drinks after selectors decided against using his medium-pacers to help lessen the burden on Australia's dwindling bowling stocks. ''He's had a really good year in first-class cricket, especially with the bat, but we know what he can do with the ball as well,'' Clarke said.
''We had a long debate. We feel the team played really well in Brisbane [and] I'm very keen to stay consistent with a winning team.
''I'm confident that our three fast-bowlers, and [spinner Nathan] Lyon, can do a really good job for us, and hopefully the part-timers can pick up a couple of wickets throughout the Test as well.''