PHIL HUGHES knows Dale Steyn is coming for him in the first Test in Cape Town, and the Australian opener says he’s ready.
Steyn admits he and partner-in-crime Morne Morkel got their plan badly wrong when bowling to debutant Hughes back in 2009.
But the Proteas spearhead has called Hughes out in the press and promised not to make the same mistake again.
The No.1 fast bowler in Test cricket gets his long-awaited second shot at the diminutive left-hander in the two-match series starting at Newlands on Wednesday.
“He’s got his opinion, he’s entitled to that and he can say whatever he wants,” said Hughes.
“I don’t know … I just worry about my game and go from there.
“Everyone’s got their opinions and you hear a lot of people come out and say a lot of things … and that’s fine.”
Last time around Steyn and Morkel bowled far too wide to Hughes in their attempts to test out his perceived weakness to the short ball.
Hughes answered with 415 runs in the three-match series, and in Durban, became the youngest player to score centuries in both innings of a Test.
England’s quicks figured out how to fluster Hughes in the Ashes that year to the point that he lost his place in the Australian side.
Now Steyn is aiming to take a leaf out of their book.
The 22-year-old has heard the media talk from his rival, and is bracing for his off-stump and body to be peppered.
“I’m sure they’ll come at me a little bit differently, but in saying that I’m sure there is going to be a lot of short pitched bowling,” said Hughes.
“It’s just about me worrying about my game and not looking too far ahead and just taking it ball by ball and enjoying the contest and that’s what I’ll be doing come the first Test match.
“It’s going to be a challenge and I know it’s not going to be easy. I’ve got my head around that.”
The Macksville product scored a third-Test century on the recent tour to Sri Lanka, which potentially saved his career.
Hughes said he was confident in his preparation for the Test series despite managing just 4 and 19 in his two innings in the lead-up match in Potchefstroom.
The rookie bowlers for South Africa A made the most of a lively pitch, Hughes looking uncomfortable at times in being dismissed edging behind the wicket in both digs.
However, his Shield form for NSW has been excellent, and on July’s Australia A tour to Zimbabwe he posted two hundreds.
Hughes believes he returns to the rainbow nation a better player than he was when he succeeded in 2009.
The challenge now is to back up his breakout performance with another show-stopping tour.
“I feel like I’m improving. I feel like I’m a better player than I was two and a half years ago,” he said.
“I had success here a couple of years ago … I’ll never forget that series … but it’s going to be a huge challenge in front of me opening against some of the quality fast bowlers in the world.
“But I feel my game is in a good space at the moment.”