A REJUVENATED Phil Hughes believes he is on the way back to reclaiming his Australian Test spot after a productive summer for Worcestershire.
The 23-year-old, dropped following a poor series against New Zealand on home soil last year, was one of the few bright lights in a dismal season at New Road.
Hughes is keen to return to the County if he fails to make next year’s Ashes tour but the left-handed opener’s successful spell in England has given him renewed hope of winning a recall.
In the opening four-day Sheffield Shield match of the season, he cracked an assured 95 and 83 for new club South Australia in a 161-run defeat to Queensland in Brisbane.
The state’s vice-captain looked calmer and more comfortable at the crease and attributed the season in Worcester for his upturn in fortunes despite the County’s relegation from LV= County Championship Division One.
“I enjoyed my time at Worcestershire when my main focus was to score as many runs and play as much cricket as possible,” Hughes said.
“They gave me the opportunity to relax and enjoy my cricket again. I tinkered with my technique and was challenged to score runs against good bowling attacks on challenging wickets.
“There was so much cricket in England that I was able to get on a bit of a roll and keep that momentum.
“I knew I could make runs in one-day and t20 matches but I needed to prove it to some people. Scoring runs for Worcester and now for South Australia has been good for my confidence.
“I also feel that in county cricket I was able to refine my technique against late swing because the pitches are slower than they are in Australia.
“The key is playing the ball as late as possible. Against New Zealand I came unstuck outside the off-stump but I improved my leg-side play at Worcestershire.
“In England, with the swing, I worked on leaving the ball a lot and became more disciplined.”
The former Hampshire and Middlesex batsman, who had lost form and confidence in a state season to forget for his native New South Wales, has opened the door to a possible New Road return.
“I would like to go back to Worcestershire but there’s an Ashes tour next year and a lot of time between now and then,” he added.
“Worcestershire are a talented group of younger and older guys and, as a club, they’ve got to continue backing Steve Rhodes (director of cricket).
“We played well in patches in one-day and t20 cricket but the younger guys have to step up in championship matches. The senior players, such as Alan Richardson, Daryl Mitchell and Moeen Ali, can’t do it all.”