Australia’s Hughes can stand the heat

Melbourne: Former Australia opener Justin Langer has backed Phillip Hughes to make England captain Andrew Strauss eat his words and stand up to the English attack if selected for the third Test.

Hughes is likely to replace Simon Katich in Perth next week after the veteran opener was ruled out with an Achilles injury.

A recall would present a major psychological Test for Hughes, who was found wanting against short-pitched bowling in England last year and roughed up by the hosts’ seamers in the lost Ashes series.

Strauss acknowledged that Hughes had worked on his technique but said the 22-year-old had “weaknesses” England could exploit as they look to take a 2-0 lead in the series on the usually fast and bouncy track at Perth’s WACA ground.

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“I will back him over any other player in Australian cricket,” Langer told local media on Friday.

“I hope England keep taunting him ... When the pressure is on and he absolutely has to score runs, he does. He is a little fighter.

“It’s fine for them to say they have these plans (for Hughes) but they’ve still got to execute them.”

Hughes holds an impressive 51.25 average from his seven Tests but has struggled for consistency in recent first-class digs, book-ending big scores with single-digit innings.

Langer said he had worked with Hughes after he sought him out to work on his batting and felt his problems had been more mental than technical.

“Maybe he is just trying too hard to get back into the Australian team,” said Langer, whose partnership with fellow retiree Matthew Hayden regularly plundered England attacks.

Hughes could be one of up to four changes in the Australian side, with spinner Xavier Doherty expected to be cut after being flayed during the second Test at Adelaide.

A big cloud hangs over out-of-form batsman Marcus North, while either Doug Bollinger or Peter Siddle are expected to make way for paceman Mitchell Johnson, who Australian coaches have been frantically working on in the nets this week.

Australia are expected to name their side later on Friday.

Bureau Report

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