Hussey shapes up for Proteas

MIKE Hussey says his 2009-10 career renaissance against England will hold him in good stead against the team that is now his biggest nemesis, South Africa.

In Hussey’s debut Test season, in 2005-06, the then 30-year-old faced the Proteas in series in Australia and South Africa, and came away with a hefty batting average of 59.56.

But since then the left-hander has not passed 50 in 16 innings across three series against South Africa: the loss at home in 2008-09, the win away immediately afterwards, and last year’s 1-1 draw.

Over that period, Hussey’s average against South Africa is a meagre 18.47.

While he has fallen in single figures in half of those knocks, he has made at least 20 in seven others, indicating he has been able to get a start against the Proteas’ pace-dominated attack but never survived long enough to match his overall conversion rate of a 50-plus score every three innings.

”There’s no point in worrying or stressing about anything in the past because there’s enough things to worry and stress about when you’re out in the middle in a Test match anyway,” Hussey said on Wednesday as he prepared to lead Western Australia in its Sheffield Shield match against Victoria at the MCG.

In the 2009 Ashes loss, Hussey averaged a mediocre 34.50, although almost half of his runs for the five-match series came in the last Test.

Hussey started the next Ashes series 15 months later under severe pressure to hold his spot and responded by averaging 63.33 in a team that lost heavily. Based on that outcome, he said he would take the same approach at the start of this home season.

”I have tried doing that before. Against England I’d had a mediocre season and I was getting all worried about it and then ended up performing a lot better against them next time,” he said.

”The Test matches we’ve played against South Africa in South Africa have been extremely difficult for batting. I’m expecting the pitches in Australia to be very good, very true, and if you get in and get through that initial period there’s no reason why a few of the guys can’t go on and get big scores.”

While Australia has four specialist pacemen in its first Test squad, South Africa has brought the same number for the entire three-Test series: the big three of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, with Rory Kleinveldt in reserve.

Hussey knows little of the uncapped Kleinveldt. ”From the footage, he’s a big guy and looks like a very good bowler,” he said, but played down the importance of his selection, because the Proteas’ first-choice pace battery was undisputed.

”They’ve got a proven attack that’s done the business over quite a period of time. They’re seasoned, hardened Test-match cricketers,” he said.

”They know their recovery, they know their preparation very well. I’m sure they’ve got a lot of confidence in those guys staying fit for the whole series.”

The shield match starting on Thursday will be Hussey’s first red-ball match since the April Test tour of the West Indies. His only recent practice experience was net sessions with Test teammate Ben Hilfenhaus while they represented Chennai.

While his Champions League stint with the Super Kings seemed pointless, as he played only one match because of the depth of the squad, Hussey pointed out there would have been little alternative for him in Australia as Western Australia was on a shield sabbatical caused by Perth’s Champions League participation.

■Dale Steyn will extend his tour in Australia by one week to bolster the Brisbane Heat for its Big Bash League season-opener.

Steyn will renew acquaintances with Darren Lehmann by making a one-off Twenty20 appearance for the Heat in its December 9 clash against the Hobart Hurricanes at the Gabba.

With contracted West Indian firebrand Kemar Roach not available for the first match, the Proteas’ paceman will take one of Brisbane’s four international spots.

Brisbane coach Lehmann only this week asked if the top-ranked Test bowler was interested in an extra game after the three-Test series with Australia. ”I was pleasantly surprised when he said he was,” Lehmann said.

”In fact, I was over the moon.”

With aap

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