FROM the flowers that lined the Southern Plaza of Adelaide Oval to the “408” painted on the grass, Phillip Hughes was remembered and revered at the first Australia-India Test yesterday.
Hughes was in line to play in the Test, but died 12 days earlier in hospital aged 25 after being hit in a Sheffield Shield match by a bouncer from Sean Abbott, who also returned to cricket yesterday with two wickets against Queensland.
The Test was delayed for four days to allow the Australia team to mourn, and memories of Hughes were everywhere on a sunny day in Adelaide.
He was the honorary 13th man in Australia’s line-up, and featured in a short video tribute by former Australia captain Richie Benaud. Australia players wore No 408 – Hughes’ Test cap number – with black armbands on their shirts, and there were 63 seconds of applause in his honour. Hughes, aged 25, was not out on 63 runs when he was fatally injured at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
India also wore black armbands, hundreds in the crowd also sported the number 63 on their shirts or hats, and others held up “63 not out” signs provided by a local daily newspaper.
David Warner, who was playing at the SCG the day Hughes sustained his fatal injury, scored 145 to lead Australia to 354-6, and dedicated his tenth Test century to Hughes. Warner also stopped and looked up to the sky when he was on 63 runs, and the crowd applauded.
“It was quite tough there early on with the 63-second applause, and getting through that national anthem,” Warner said. “That’s where it probably set me off a little bit inside. But I knew the little man up there was with me at the other end and it all fell into place.”
Warner said Hughes would have been “laughing at me about all the support and all the people that sent their messages”.
“I don’t think he would have himself believed the amount of support that he has had from not just around Australia but around the world. He would probably be quite embarrassed, actually.”
Warner dedicated his brilliant knock to his close friend.
Australia won the toss and chose to bat first and skipper Michael Clarke sounded in bright spirits. Asked about the decision to name Hughes as the 13th man, he said: “We do have a 13th man and I think we will have one for the rest of our careers. Phillip Hughes is our 13th man today and he will be with us the whole way. I think it’s going to take a long time to get over it but what I know my little buddy would like us doing is getting out here and playing some good cricket.”
Virat Kohli, captaining India for the first time in Tests, added: “It’s been a sad time but this is the only thing that can heal it.”
Recalling his own memories of Hughes, he added: “He was one of the guys I spoke to more than anyone. Surprisingly, or coincidentally, he asked me for my bat in Jaipur in the last home series we played, the one-day series, and I wish I’d given it to him. He was a lovely chap, very cheerful. I knew him well.”
Warner seemed to channel his emotions into his batting as he piled on the runs early on, making 35 off the first 17 balls he faced. The first short ball of the game came in the fourth over, bowled by Mohammed Shami at Warner and applauded by the crowd.
Once Australia reached 50 they lost their first wicket as Chris Rogers was tempted by a teasing delivery from Ishant Sharma and was caught by Shikhar Dhawan for nine.
Shane Watson came in and immediately faced a big bouncer from Ishant Sharma but the fireworks continued to come at the other end, where Warner soon reached 50 and marked it by raising his bat to the heavens in tribute to Hughes.
Watson, however, was soon out, becoming Dhawan’s second victim at second slip when he nicked a Varun Aaron delivery. That brought Clarke out to the middle to a huge ovation. The crowd were on their feet again when a sweep shot took Warner to 63 and he again stopped to acknowledge Hughes. In the 37th over, Warner eased the ball through the covers for a single which brought up his century, marked with a further skyward salute and a lengthy embrace with Clarke.
The captain had been making solid progress himself, but the mood suddenly changed when he appeared to suffer a back spasm when adjusting to a delivery from Ishant Sharma.
He received treatment on the pitch but retired hurt for 60 without facing another ball and went to hospital for scans.
Warner kept the scoreboard ticking over and survived a review when India thought they had him stumped while on 133, but the tourists did not need to wait much longer.
Having hit 19 fours, Warner went looking for a first six but succeeded only in finding Ishant Sharma on the boundary, giving Karn Sharma his first Test wicket. Steve Smith had quietly established himself and he struck the boundary which took Australia past 300.
Smith – who batted in a cap rather than a helmet when spinners Karn Sharma and Murali Vijay bowled in tandem – reached 50 with a single off Karn Sharma and then 63 with a boundary off Ishant Sharma, saluting Hughes on both occasions. Marsh fell for 41, Kohli with the catch at slip off Aaron, and Mohammed Shami picked up the wickets of nightwatchman Nathan Lyon for three and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin for a duck as India finished the day strongly with the new ball. That left Australia 354 for six at stumps, with Smith unbeaten on 72.