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Hildreth taps into Thorpe's experience

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James Hildreth

James Hildreth gets on the back foot at the National Cricket Performance Centre a few days before leaving for Australia

James Hildreth hopes the time he is spending with Graham Thorpe in Australia during the England Performance Programme will propel him further up the international ladder.

Somerset batsman Hildreth, who scored seven championship hundreds last summer, is currently in Brisbane with 14 other England hopefuls.

Joining them Down Under is Thorpe, newly-appointed national lead batting coach, and Hildreth is relishing the opportunity to tap into his experience.

"It's been good working with him from a batting point of view," Hildreth told ecb.co.uk.

"He was a legend. I remember watching him play on TV. He's just the sort of person I want to be working with. He was a middle-order batsman, like me, and roughly the same stature, so it's interesting to hear how he went about his batting."

After such a fine season with his county when he scored more than 2,500 runs in all competitions, it might have been hard for Hildreth to find any faults in his game ahead of the trip to Australia.

But the 26-year-old, realising he would be batting on rock hard wickets, decided to focus on his back-foot shots - an area which Thorpe excelled during his 100 Tests, scoring 6,744 runs at 44.66.

"I was really pleased with how I batted last season so I did not want to change too much," said Hildreth, who is on his second EPP trip.

"It was more a case of tweaking some individual skills rather than a radical overhaul, so I have been doing work on the short ball.

"Being in Australia the pitches are quick and bouncy, so we have been working specifically on the pull shot and square-cut. I wanted to focus on those shots while I was here.

"I like playing the cut shot but I have been a bit giddy with it at times. I'm trying to get better at which balls to hit and which ones to leave alone.

James Hildreth

Hildreth is hoping to showcase his batting talents once again when the EPP play a four-day game against Queensland, starting tomorrow

"He (Thorpe) was a brilliant player of the short ball. He's given me a few tips about what he used to do. I'm starting to see some improvements already."

Hildreth and the rest of the EPP group have been in Brisbane for 10 days and tomorrow will face Queensland in a four-day match - the first of three games the squad will play on tour.

The EPP batsmen should feel confident ahead of that match having spent a few days last week facing James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Graeme Swann, who left Hobart early to acclimatise to conditions in Brisbane.

"That was good, batting against England's best bowlers," said Hildreth.

"I have faced them before in county cricket. They are tall, pacy bowlers so it was a good challenge to face them.

"It's gone really well so far and I'm really looking forward to the match tomorrow. We all enjoy playing games so it will be good to get on the pitch against some Australians who play their cricket hard."

Brushing shoulders with the England bowlers and being in Brisbane where the Ashes will begin has given Hildreth a taste of life as an international cricketer.

While a place in the Test team might be a little way off, the England Lions' tour of West Indies next spring is a realistic prospect and, as Craig Kieswetter showed recently, some good showings for the second string could go a long way to fulfilling Hildreth's international ambitions.

"I also want to improve as a cricketer while I am in Australia but I want to get on the Lions tour after Christmas, so I need to impress the management and score some runs," he said.