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Hughes savours second chance

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Phil Hughes & Steven Smith

Phil Hughes, left, said: "I'm pumped, over the moon and can't wait to get out there on Thursday. Mentally, I feel really good"

Recalled Australia opener Phil Hughes is raring to go this week against opponents who finished his Ashes hopes after just two Tests in 2009.

He was dropped for the third match in England last year, having made 57 runs in three innings and twice lost his wicket to Andrew Flintoff.

Hughes is back at the same stage of the current rubber, in Perth, because of the series-ending ankle injury Simon Katich suffered in England's innings victory in Adelaide two weeks ago.

He said: "I'm pumped, over the moon and can't wait to get out there on Thursday. Mentally, I feel really good."

The left-hander has hardly been in prolific form for New South Wales this winter but did make a second-innings 81 against England's second-string attack for Australia A in Hobart.

He is relishing the chance to restate his claims to open for his country.

"I've always enjoyed opening the batting," he said. "I've always done it, and it's exciting - it gets the blood flowing.

"They are going to come out firing against me. But I'm ready for it; I'm ready for anything they throw at me, and I can't wait for it.

"I lost my spot in the Australian side in England in the last Ashes series, and that was disappointing at the time.

Steven Smith & Mike Hussey

Steven Smith, left, said: "Beery's come in and he's fitting in beautifully, he's bowled quite well the last couple of weeks"

"But I've come back in and I'm all smiles at the moment."

Meanwhile, Steven Smith, who also faced the media today, has backed Michael Beer to make an impact if he is called upon to make his debut in the third Ashes Test on Thursday.

With just five first-class games and 16 wickets to his name, 26-year-old Beer is one of Australia's biggest selection gambles since fellow spinner Peter Taylor was plucked from obscurity to play in the fifth Ashes Test during the 1986-87 series.

Beer himself admitted yesterday he may not be ready for Test cricket but Smith, who was also included in the squad for the clash in Perth, believes he could be Australia's secret weapon.

"I faced him (Beer) out here in the Shield game a couple of weeks ago and he did a good job," said fellow spinner Smith.

"Beery's come in and he's fitting in beautifully, he's bowled quite well the last couple of weeks.

"He's very excited, everyone's excited for him and yeah, I think he'll make a good impact in this side."

Smith's thoughts were echoed by WACA groundsman Cameron Sutherland, who felt spinners could have a big impact despite the wicket being known for assisting the quicks.

"Purely because of the bit of grass on the surface, they've (spinners) been able to grip it and it's given good bounce," said Sutherland.

Cameron Sutherland

WACA groundsman Cameron Sutherland said "a spinner can play a role... because of the bit of grass on the surface"

"I think a spinner can play a role, absolutely. Throughout the WACA history there's always been spinners that have bowled really well here, especially into the breeze with that bit of bounce."

Although Australia could still take four fast bowlers into the clash with England on what is expected to be a bouncy wicket, it looks more likely by the day that one paceman will be sacrificed to accommodate a specialist spinner, as Smith has been primarily selected as a number six batsman to replace the dropped Marcus North.

But while Smith is intent on taking his opportunity with the bat, he believes maintaining team morale, something which appeared particularly low at times during the first two Tests, is also part of his brief.

"For me, it's about having the energy in the field and make sure I'm having fun," said Smith.

"And (it's about) making sure everyone else around is having fun, whether it be telling a joke or something like that out on the field.

"It's to make sure that we're all upbeat and we're ready to go, I think that's something that I can bring to this side."

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