New South Wales coach Phil Jaques believes prolific Blues opener Daniel Hughes is “100 per cent” ready for the challenges of international cricket, citing the 33-year-old’s decade of experience and “unbelievable” record in the 50-over format.
On Saturday afternoon, Hughes top-scored for the Blues in a nailbiting eight-run loss to South Australia at North Sydney Oval, plundering a classy 139 off 127 balls that featured 14 boundaries and four sixes.
The left-hander repeatedly pierced the Redbacks infield with his textbook cover drive before accelerating in the middle overs, taking advantage of the picturesque venue’s short square boundaries.
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Hughes’ onslaught came to an abrupt halt in the 48th over of the chase, run out at the non-striker’s end after Ben Dwarshuis’ powerful straight drive ricocheted off the bowler’s hands back onto the stumps.
It was Hughes’ eighth one-day century for the Blues in 35 matches, comfortably a record for NSW.
“I shouldn’t be backing up as much as I was … I should have just stayed in my crease,” he said after the defeat.
“If I’m there at the end, we get the runs.
“We always had it pretty much in the bag, guys coming out scoring at a nice rate and never got above eight an over.
“No one was stressed out; they needed to bowl us out to win the game, and they did that, so hats off to them.”
Most one-day centuries for the New South Wales Blues
8 — Daniel Hughes (34 innings)
5 — David Warner (39 innings)
5 — Steve Waugh (54 innings)
5 — Nic Maddinson (55 innings)
5 — Phil Jaques (64 innings)
5 — Brad Haddin (86 innings)
Since making his List A debut for New South Wales in 2013, Hughes has accumulated 1795 runs at 57.90 in 34 knocks with a career-best of 152 (143) against Western Australia in 2019.
He boasts the third-highest batting average in Australian one-day domestic history, bettered only by the legendary Michael Bevan and former Test captain Steve Smith.
“(Hughes) knows his game really, really well in one-day cricket and knows the tempo that he wants to play at,” Jaques told news.com.au.
“He plays a role that he really enjoys, where he can bat through the innings and set the tempo.
“He’s quite aggressive up in the powerplay, and then when he gets out of the powerplay he’s just really ruthless, takes it really deep and gets big scores.
“In one-day cricket his record is unbelievable. He just keeps doing it for us time and time again.
“He’s a real key player for us, and I think he shows a lot of our batters how to go about batting in one-day cricket.”
For years, there hasn’t been room for openers in the national ODI team due to the formidable pairing of Aaron Finch and David Warner, but the former hung up the boots earlier this summer while the latter is expected to follow suit after next year’s World Cup in India.
On Tuesday, Australia unveiled its 14-player squad for next week’s bilateral ODI series against England, with South Australian captain Travis Head deservedly named as Finch’s successor at the top of the order.
But another vacancy may emerge in the coming 12 months.
National selectors have traditionally looked to blood young talent in the white-ball team, but Jaques believes Hughes’ nine years of experience at domestic level makes him a leading candidate.
“I think his numbers suggest that he is (ready for international cricket), 100 per cent, in one-day cricket especially,” Jaques said.
”It just depends on what the national selectors are after.”
Highest batting average in Australian one-day domestic cricket
61.18 — Michael Bevan
59.03 — Steve Smith
57.90 — Daniel Hughes
53.20 — Geoff Marsh
51.56 — Steve Waugh
* Minimum 25 innings
There are several examples of Australian cricketers who flourished at international level despite debuting after their 30th birthday.
Michael Hussey, Adam Voges and Chris Rogers — none which played Test cricket in their twenties — collectively averaged over 50 with the bat in Australian whites.
Last summer, 32-year-old seamer Scott Boland became a household name after taking 6/7 in the Boxing Day Ashes Test at the MCG.
“I think batters get better as they get older. I think if (Hughes) was given an opportunity he’d do a great job, if the role was right for him,” Jacques said.
“I wouldn’t be scared of picking someone just over 30, I don’t think that’s too old to be playing international cricket. They’re actually more equipped, more mature and know their games a little bit better.”
NSW next travels to Tasmania to face the Tigers in a Sheffield Shield match at Hobart’s Blundstone Arena, which gets underway on Saturday morning, before a Marsh Cup contest at the same venue a few days later.
The Blues, yet to register a victory after six matches across formats this summer, are currently reeling at the bottom of both the Sheffield Shield and Marsh Cup ladders.
“A little bit of a slow start to the year, but I feel like we’re starting to play some decent cricket,” Jacques said.
“We just need to start turning some of this decent cricket into some wins and play those complete games
“We’ve had some good performances across the board individually, but we haven’t quite put it together as a team.”