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Phil Hughes has capped off an Australia A tour to remember with another double-century against South Africa A, his second in the past month, in a drawn four-day match in Townsville.
It means the left-handed opener finishes the six-week tour of Australia’s north with the Bradman-like aggregate of 756 runs at an average of 108 across the four-day and 50-over formats.
His performance at Tony Ireland Stadium was a far cry from the fireworks he displayed against the South Africans in a one-day match last month, but it was another reminder to the National Selection Panel that Hughes is hungry for more.
After initially missing out on a spot in the national one-day squad for the tri-series against Zimbabwe and South Africa, Hughes was told by National Selector Rod Marsh during the lunch break on day three that he would be called upon to replace the injured Shane Watson.
“Today was all about Phil Hughes. The way he manipulated the field beautifully and went through the gears to make 250 was fantastic to see,” Callum Ferguson told media at the close of play.
“He just keeps doing what he does, and that's making big runs.
"Sometimes a call-up can breed expectation and sometimes it can free a guy up.
“I think he would have taken a bit of confidence out of the last month of cricket.
“He's a guy that's in great form and I've got no doubt if he gets a chance in Zimbabwe he'll do some damage."
Hughes became the first Australian male to record a double-century in a list-A match with his 151-ball bash, a knock he dedicated to his grandfather who passed away just a week earlier.
While observers at Marrara Cricket Ground were left with a sore neck from shaking their heads in disbelief from some of his shots that day, Hughes’s effort in Townsville was a more subdued affair.
The 25-year-old brought up his double-century off 387 balls and went past his previous best first-class score of 204 shortly after the tea break.
“He's a bit unorthodox at times old Hughesy,” Ferguson told reporters with a laugh after the match.
“He does play some shots that hit the ball to strange areas and I think that's quite off-putting to the opposition.
“Some of the enjoyment you take out of it is when you watch the bemused bowler walk back past you with a really strange look on his face not really knowing what's happened.
“I've been fortunate to bat with him a lot at South Australia as well over the last few years and the left-hand, right-hand combination works quite well.
“He's a guy that does score freely once he gets going and puts pressure on the opposition. It's nice to be at the other end when a guy is doing that.”
It was also the second time Hughes reached a hundred in the four-day format on the tour, following his final day 100no against India A at Allan Border Field in mid-July.
Similarly, today’s knock also came with a result out of the question as Hughes and his fellow batsmen sought a day of batting practice in the Queensland sunshine.
Ferguson also made the most of the conditions with a knock of 82, before a mix-up with his skipper ended in a run out.
"It was nice to get an extended stay,” Ferguson said.
“I felt like I'd been batting quite well over the last month and made a lot of 30s to 40s.
“To go on and get close to a hundred, unfortunately there was a run out but that happens in cricket, I feel like I'm batting OK.”
Matthew Wade, playing as a specialist batsman in Townsville, joined Hughes out in the middle and the pair set about batting through the afternoon as the draw edged ever closer.
Australia A declared on 3-454 to finish the match with Hughes unbeaten on 243 before he joins the Australia ODI camp ahead of the tour of Zimbabwe starting Monday week.
"It was obviously disappointing (to end in a draw),” Ferguson continued.
“You set out at the start of every four-day game for a result.
“Unfortunately due to the inclement weather we weren't able to get the result in this game, however, we feel like we can take a lot out of it.
"I think what we have been able to do is get some really high quality cricket in at a time of year that most of the people in Australia are twiddling their thumbs watching the rain fall in cancelled sessions.”
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