Credit to the Australian Test selectors. Brad
Hodge’s determined double hundred for Australia yesterday was a significant
moment for all sorts of people in and around the Test team.

Hodge’s old-fashioned ability to face
a lot of balls on Sunday, wear down the bowlers and grind Australia back from a
potentially precarious position was exactly the sort of batting the team has
needed since before the Ashes campaign.

With so many of the Australians fancying
themselves as dazzling stroke players, unable to see past their often amazing
Test run rate of four or more an over, at any cost, Hodge’s two innings in
Perth have shown the role he needs to play in the side. Forget the fancy stuff,
don’t worry about spinning the scoreboard; just let the bowlers sag against a
brick wall and then counter-punch.

A carefully-crafted 41 in the first innings has
been followed by a 203 not out that will probably win a match that was
hitherto in the balance.

One of the best parts of the Australian second
innings was that Hodge’s steel flowed through the team. Langer grafted, Ponting
was determined, Hussey dug in. Everyone was cautious on Sunday and when was the
last time Australia scored fewer than 300 runs in a full day? But it was exactly
what was needed and it makes you wonder what would have happened had the same
application been applied in England. Even Gilchrist hung around for a double figure
score.

It will be interesting to see whether Australia
can hang on to this new “back to the future” approach to Test batting.

The remaining question is where it leaves a
dasher like Michael Clarke. The fact is that the kid can bat and he
hasn’t done
much wrong since being dropped to rediscover his form. If the Symonds
experiment is finally let go by selectors, a middle order of Hodge,
Hussey and
Clarke suddenly sounds pretty solid.

Peter Fray

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