Daniel Hughes admits he was "extremely surprised" to be selected in the NSW Blues squad ahead of Ed Cowan, and even more so to be thrown into the mix for the vacancy in Australia's Test middle order by Steve Smith.
But now the door has been nudged ajar, the 28-year-old has declared himself "never more ready" to claim a Baggy Green.
Cowan, last season's leading run scorer, was axed for the opening round of the JLT Sheffield Shield for Hughes in a captain's call by Smith. The left-hander who averages 37.6 in 18 first-class matches was moved from opener to the middle order and Australia's Test captain said he was a player he viewed as a potential Test batsman.
"I was a bit surprised when I heard him say that," Hughes conceded today. "The whole Ed Cowan thing was a surprise to me as well. He played extremely well last year, has played well for a number of years now.
"I was extremely surprised, but I wasn't too nervous (playing the opening match). Opening the batting or batting at six it was all the same to me, especially down there in Adelaide where the ball was swinging and nipping around the whole game.
"Ed has scored lots of runs, I'm in good form … it was nice getting the nod from the captain. But there's a long list of guys for that No.6 spot in the first Test.
"These next two games going to be crucial."
Hughes responded with 57 in the first innings against a potent West End Redbacks bowling attack using the pink ball in the opening Shield round at the Adelaide Oval. Only Test vice-captain David Warner outscored him.
Runs in those bowler-friendly conditions at the venue for the second Test could well be looked upon favourably by Australia's National Selection Panel. Hughes built partnerships with Warner (37 runs), Peter Nevill (51 runs) and Mitchell Starc (23 runs).
"I'm ready, yeah," Hughes said of the prospect of an Ashes call-up.
"I'm 28 now, I've been playing professional cricket for six years, I'm more mature now … I'm ready to go, I'll never be more ready for an opportunity if I get it. "
Hughes will have further cause to push his case in a blockbuster Sheffield Shield match up with Western Australia at Hurstville Oval from Saturday.
Six of the NSW Blues line-up are guaranteed a starting berth at the Gabba for the opening Ashes Test on November 23 if fit, while at least another six players across both teams are in the running for the wide open race for the two Test vacancies.
Hughes and the Warriors' Shaun Marsh, Hilton Cartwright, Marcus Stoinis and Mitch Marsh are all contenders for the vacancy at No.6, while Peter Nevill is in a three-way battle for the wicketkeeping role.
Rival glovemen Matthew Wade's Tasmania side will face Queensland at Blundstone Arena while South Australia's Alex Carey will face Victoria at the MCG.
"We saw what WA did in round one, they smacked Tasmania," Hughes said. "They're a great side, playing great cricket and they won the JLT Cup.
"It's a massive game for us, we've got the big three quicks playing (Josh Hazlewood's return to action has been confirmed) and we both have a stacked batting list.
"We're full of confidence and so are they. It's going to be great."
Every match of the JLT Sheffield Shield will be streamed live on cricket.com.au and the CA Live app