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Phil Hughes


Hughes boosted by Worcester homecoming

Journeying through sleepy old Worcester has once again reinvigorated the Test prospects of Phil Hughes and made the unwanted man feel wanted.

Worcestershire coach Steve Rhodes is the mentor hailed for last year refining Hughes' scattered technique and rebuilding his shattered confidence, when the Australian left-hander spent four months at the English second division county.

Rhodes says he'd love to take that credit.

But the coach believes it was the serenity of Worcester and the spirit of the dressing room which was truly responsible for turning Hughes around.

Rhodes says Hughes is a soul who needs to feel wanted.

For the majority of his rocky 24-Test career he's felt anything but; a man under perennial pressure to hold his spot.

The first thing Hughes did upon arriving in Worcester last week for Australia's final tour match was to use a day off to break camp.

He jumped on the Worcestershire team bus and accompanied Rhodes and his former teammates on a domestic T20 trip to Bristol, and felt at home.

On Thursday, Hughes's enterprising 86 against Worcestershire made it clear he's central to Australia's Ashes hopes.

"He's a guy who likes to feel welcome, he likes to feel wanted," Rhodes told AAP.

"And as our overseas player he suddenly found a place that he could almost call home.

"Phil's a country boy and the atmosphere here is quite countrified. We're not a Manchester, or a Birmingham or a London.

"We're in many ways sleepy old Worcester who likes to punch above its weight."

That philosophy suited Hughes because, for all the issues he's faced in Test cricket to date, he's remained resilient.

As a kid growing up on the mid-north coast of NSW, Hughes would often play up to two years as a tough little halfback and hooker for Greg Inglis's Bowraville Tigers rugby league side.

The trait of putting his head down has kept him alive in Test cricket when the odds were so heavily stacked against him.

In his five Ashes Tests to date, Hughes has been a bunny for England's quicks, averaging 17.

However, with a move to the middle-order shaping as a distinct possibility, Rhodes says Hughes's biggest challenge will be putting his battles against spin in India behind him.

"I think it's important for Phil to play well against Graeme Swann," Rhodes says.

"If he bats four, five, six, he's going to come in at times facing Swann.

"I'm really comfortable he can play the quicker bowlers well, including James Anderson.

"But a lot will hinge on how well he plays Swann."

The Ashes precluded the 24-year-old from signing with Worcestershire this season.

But Hughes has already given Rhodes his word that if wanted, he'll be back.

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