MIKE HUSSEY has lived in the shadow of his captain this year but his latest Test century has underlined why he remains a key plank in Australia's bid to regain the Ashes.
The West Australian southpaw gave another reminder why he is still a force in world cricket, compiling his fourth century of the year - and 19th of his career, on a pitch offering variable bounce. With 833 runs this calendar year, the 37-year-old remains a blue-chip stock in Australia's top six, which is no mean feat considering the recent struggles of fellow greybeards Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar.
''At this stage it looks like he's got a good few years ahead of him,'' an impressed Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford said. But Hussey, a late bloomer who is keen to squeeze out the last drop of his career, is aware his time at the top could end swiftly.
''I'm under no illusions that it'll happen to me as well,'' said Hussey, whose days in the baggy green appeared numbered two years ago. ''It just takes a couple of good balls or a couple of bad shots or things not to go your way, and you can feel under pressure as well. At the moment it seems to have gone my way but understanding how the game goes, it can turn very quickly, so I just want to try and enjoy it while it lasts.''
Hussey's unbeaten 115 continued his love affair against Sri Lanka, from whom he has plundered five centuries from six games. Only Ponting, with 975 from 14 matches, has scored more runs in the Australia-Sri Lanka rivalry than Hussey's 877 at 125.28. Ford had a simple explanation of why Hussey had such a strong record against his team: ''Because he's a bloody good player''.
''Over the years he's been able to neutralise our main strength [spin] and we haven't been able to get into him with our seam bowling,'' Ford said. ''That's possibly a reason why he's done well but [he] is a good player and has a good record full stop.''
While 2012 will be remembered as the year Michael Clarke came of age as a batsman, Hussey's feats should not be forgotten. The evergreen veteran has averaged above 50 in two of his past three series - the exception being the tour of the Caribbean where he was Australia's leading run scorer and most consistent contributor with the bat.
Having outstayed fellow thirty-somethings Ponting and Brad Haddin, Hussey's experience in England will be vital in the first of Australia's two Ashes quests in the next 12 months. While each of Hussey's four tons this year have been dwarfed by a masterclass from Clarke, and in Sydney also by Ponting's drought-breaking ton, his effort in Hobart commanded top billing. He arrived at the crease with his team far from comfortably placed at 4-198 and, by the time he finished, had given Australia enough runs for Clarke to make another astute declaration.
One of four men who plays all three forms of the game for Australia, Hussey demonstrated his versatility with an innings which showed consideration for the state of the game.
He was watchful late on Friday night, and again on the second morning as Sri Lanka gave their opponents little to hit, but accelerated following lunch as Australia released the handbrake searching for quick runs. He brought up his century in comical fashion when Angelo Mathews, usually a safe fielder, tipped a straightforward catch into the rope.
''When you get into the 90s, your mind starts playing tricks on you and my heart rate was raised and you do some silly things when you're under pressure,'' Hussey said.