Australia’s David Warner dedicated his stirring century to fallen teammate Phillip Hughes yesterday as emotions over the batsman’s death dominated the delayed first Test against India.
Warner’s determined 145, studded with glances to the heavens, was the mainstay of Australia’s innings as they reached 354-6 at the end of the first day of play in Adelaide.
On a day of tributes to Hughes, killed in a freak batting accident, there was also concern when skipper Michael Clarke retired hurt.
Clarke, 33, who had to pass a fitness test on a hamstring problem before playing, left the ground for further assessment of his long-standing lower-back complaint.
Pregame tributes to Hughes included 63 seconds of applause that represented his score when he was fatally struck in the head by a short-pitched ball on Nov. 25 by paceman Sean Abbott.
When the Test — originally scheduled to be held in Brisbane on Thursday last week — finally got under way, a positive Warner hit a first-ball boundary and remained upbeat, reaching his 10th Test hundred off just 106 deliveries.
In a poignant moment, Warner, one of the first to rush to Hughes when he was struck down in Sydney, embraced batting partner Clarke in a long mid-pitch hug as the opener reached his fifth century this year.
Warner was irked after he holed out in the deep off debutant Test leg-spinner Karn Sharma for 145, with 19 boundaries, in the 57th over.
“There was a lot of adrenalin going through my head and I knew the little man [Hughes] up there was with me at the other end and, you know, it all fell into place,” Warner said. “That was definitely for him today. He was there when I scored my first hundred — he was at the other end — and I dedicate that 100 to him today.”
“Michael said to me he would be proud of us both and try to get on and win the game,” Warner said. “It was little moment [embrace] we shared out there and I hope Michael can come out and get his next 40.”
Australia, who won the toss, lost some late wickets and reached the close at 354-6, with Steve Smith leading the way on an unbeaten 72. Brad Haddin was out for a duck off the day’s final delivery.
Warner was at his pugnacious best, plundering 37 runs off his first 20 deliveries and giving his grieving teammates a heartening start.
There was an uplifting moment when Warner looked to the heavens on reaching 63 and the crowd responded with sustained applause, a scene repeated when Smith reached the same score late in the day.
Clarke was given a huge ovation as he came to the wicket, for his leading role in the days after Hughes’ death.
However, it did not end well for the captain, who called for the trainer after experiencing lower back problems and trudged off hurt with a fluent 60.
Elsewhere in Australia, Abbott also got back in the game, taking two for 53 for New South Wales as the sport returned to the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Abbott helped his state dismiss Queensland for 268 in their four-day Sheffield Shield match.
The 22-year-old was devastated by the death of his former teammate on Nov. 27 and received of a wave of support from fellow players.
Yesterday, the hosts lost the toss and fielded first, giving Abbott an early opportunity to get back into his stride. He was applauded warmly when he bowled his first over and with his fifth ball delivered a bouncer that flew over the head of Queensland batsman Joe Burns.
Abbott got his first wicket when he bowled Nathan Reardon with a yorker and had Ben Cutting caught behind in the following over for his second.
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