Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Melbourne

Hughes grabs his chance

After 802 matches and 199 players - not to mention his 20 Tests - Phillip Hughes became the first Australian to make an ODI ton on debut

Brydon Coverdale at the MCG

January 11, 2013

Comments: 26 | Text size: A | A

In 42 years of one-day international cricket, the Australia team has played 802 matches and used 199 players. Until this match, none had scored a century on debut. Enter Phillip Hughes, a man whose technique would seem to be suited to the short form, yet due to the presence of top-order strikers like David Warner and Shane Watson, had to wait until he had played 20 Tests before he was given an opportunity in the ODI side. He certainly took it.

The departures of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey from the limited-overs team, Ponting a year ago and Hussey more recently, have opened up spaces for new men to make their names in the ODI format. In this match, Hughes' fellow debutants Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja didn't manage to show their best, but Hughes did. His 112 set up Australia's push for a 300-plus total and he broke the record of another left-handed Phil - Jaques - for the highest score on debut by an Australian.

"The manager came up and told me when I got out," Hughes said of becoming the first Australian to score a hundred on debut. "It's flattering to hear that. There's been some great players before me and to get that is something that I'll never forget. There were a few [nerves], definitely. First game, I had a few nerves there. I wanted to get a couple away early and then ease back a bit."

Ease back he did - perhaps a little too much during the middle overs, when his innings threatened to stagnate, but the presence of a level-headed George Bailey, captaining Australia for the first time in an ODI, helped tremendously. Bailey showed why he has been one of his country's best one-day performers in the past year with an innings full of pierced gaps and quick singles, and it was just what Hughes needed as triple figures drew nearer.

"I was struggling in the middle overs there a little bit," Hughes said. "To have George down the other end rotating the strike beautifully and taking that pressure off me was good. It was outstanding. He scored a lot better than a run a ball. It was a very good innings."


Phillip Hughes was the first Australian to score a century on ODI debut, Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Melbourne, January 11, 2013
Phillip Hughes became the first Australian to hit a century on ODI debut © Getty Images
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Like Hughes, Bailey had the chance to go on and score a century, but he fell on 89 from 79 balls when he slammed a catch down the throat of deep midwicket. It was an unselfish shot as he aimed to lift Australia to a more imposing total, and Bailey said he had no regrets about missing out on a milestone in pursuit of team success.

"I was always taught in by Michael di Venuto, who I learnt a lot off, that you score your eighties and if you get lucky you get a hundred in one-day cricket, and that's how you build around the team," Bailey said. "Certainly when Dave Huss and I were going, I thought we needed to get that score up around 300.

"It was a very, very good batting wicket. Big open expanses and that new rule with only having four out, it was pretty important to keep ticking the team score over rather than three figures. Hopefully that opportunity will come up at another time."

It is that kind of attitude that made Bailey the logical choice to captain the side in the absence of the resting Michael Clarke, despite the fact that it was only his 14th ODI. In the lead-up to the match, Bailey's side was criticised for its lack of star power but judging by how the inexperienced outfit performed in their 107-run victory, such concerns were unfounded. Not that Bailey expects his new-look side to remain the same for long, with men like Clarke, Warner and Watson to return.

"There's some pretty good horses left out of it, so I think they'll be right," Bailey said. "But the challenge is to make it as difficult as you can for the selectors when they're picking the team, and to have that depth so that when an injury does occur, everyone knows that you can slot in, or perform different roles, or you can do whatever is required.

"I think it was a really great team effort to stand up on the back of some criticism from some outsiders and some people who weren't sure if we were up to it. Hopefully we've put those doubts to bed. The next challenge is to do it consistently and go 2-0 up."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Meety on (January 13, 2013, 0:32 GMT)

@dunger.bob on (January 12 2013, 01:13 AM GMT) - I agree. After the Khawaja dismissal, I thought Hughes was clamming up & we would have a bit of scoring pressure from SL. Bailey took the game away from SL with intelligent batting. I think a couple of days ago I doubted whether I would put him in my 1st choice team - I have changed my tune, he is Hussey's replacement IMO! @Peterincanada on (January 12 2013, 16:44 PM GMT) - well said. I don't have much to add (nothing), but enjoyed reading article where 90+% of the comments were thoughtful.

Posted by Peterincanada on (January 12, 2013, 16:44 GMT)

The postings are most insightful and informative. It is a great difference from some of the mindless bashing of players and the equally tiring jingoism that often appears on these pages.

Posted by hyclass on (January 12, 2013, 12:52 GMT)

@SBTang...thank you for gladdening my heart with a blog that underscores in very eloquent manner, a point I've made since the 'technique myth' first gained a vogue in '09. I have long maintained that to succeed a batsman needs only an attacking plan,a defensive plan and the physical ability,courage & endurance to enact it.Technique is the least relevant of all facets.The worst technique I ever saw was Paul Nobes who opened the batting & averaged 41 for Vic & SthAus, scoring 15 1st class 100s.I recommend to you, the YouTube videos,'115 Hughes v SA and 160 Hughes v SA.When he failed during the Ashes '09, it was clear to me that his footwork was different and that his hands & feet were far slower. Given his 1637 runs at 96 with 8 x 100s in the preceding 10 games,it was obvious his game was changed. I wondered why & also why he was dropped so quickly given his last dismissal bounced.Then DeCosta, his long time mentor stated he'd been forced to change his game on joining the Ashes squad.

Posted by hyclass on (January 12, 2013, 11:54 GMT)

@PFEL...good to see others finally questioning the 'public version' of events re Hughes. His 1st class game is in fact, statistically, far worse than it was when he played his own natural game. He averaged in the 60's in Test and 1st class cricket. Unfortunately, once he was forced to change his game and it failed, those responsible were able to push the 'technique myth' and Hughes had no choice but to go with it if he wished ever to be selected again. He was then set a further challenge to be proficient in all formats if he wished to make Test selection. He has four scores in the 190's in 1st class cricket, but hasnt shown anywhere near the endurance required to threaten those scores since being burdened with this new technique. Its as though, the effort required is sapping his energy. He has shown enough in the short forms now to be an automatic inclusion but I wonder if his 1st class game will ever again approach the pre Ashes 09 heights when he wrote his name into cricket history.

Posted by hyclass on (January 12, 2013, 11:47 GMT)

@Mourinho7...well said. I have similar views and wish him every success.The Phil bashing that certain uninformed sections of the Australian public have taken up is far more hostile than anything an opposition bowler could throw at him. If his character has withstood that, it can only bode well for his and Australia's future.@Moppa...those people who only know Hughes from the Ashes '09 onwards are misled about his game. If you wish to see Hughes game before it was meddled with on joining the Ashes '09 squad,look for Hughes 115 v SA and Hughes 160 v SA on Youtube. You will see leg side boundaries and scoring aplenty, bouncers at 145+ km/h angled in from around the wicket with leg slips and of course, off side mastery. It should be evident that his hands and feet are far slower vs Eng and from then on. The SA attack was far superior. According to DeCosta, his long time coach/mentor, he was forced to change his approach and game on joining the squad,'in a way that didn't gel or suit him'.

Posted by SBTang on (January 12, 2013, 11:41 GMT)

Thanks for another top piece Brydon.

Yup, I agree with Mourinho7, dunger.bob and moppa.

A batsman's job is to score runs. And Australian cricket history -- modern and ancient -- is littered with prominent examples of country batsmen with distinctly unorthodox techniques who, like Hughes, have scored heavily at domestic level, but had their technique ridiculed as they tried to make the step up to international cricket, only to go on and thrive in the face of snide put downs from technical fetishists: see, eg, Bradman and Hayden.

I watched Hughes in England last summer. Two things were clear. First, that he'd rediscovered the virtues which brought him all those mountains of runs when he was but a teenager -- blinding bat speed, fearless driving and an unwavering belief in his simple but effective technique. Second, that he'd successfully worked on what has always been an obvious weakness in his game -- his on-side play. Full post here: http://astraightbat.wordpress.com/tag/phil-hughes/

Posted by hyclass on (January 12, 2013, 11:34 GMT)

@popcorn...if you wish to be taken seriously, I suggest you watch the video of the runout attached to this article.Khawaja ran himself out as emphatically as anyone could.He called for a run that was never there,made it a third of the way & then failed to ground his bat effectively on return which would have seen him easily get home I understand that he was nervous but it was a poor piece of judgement & an even poorer piece of execution.You've been running the Hughes hate train since '09 & have regularly blamed him for us losing those Ashes.He scored 36 caught at slip,4 gloved down the leg side & 17 given out caught when the ball clearly bounced in front of Strauss at slip.I've long admired the courage of Hughes in the face of hyper criticism about his technique-criticism which I consider ill informed & unresearched.The difference between his style v an 1100 Test wicket SA '09 & the far weaker Ashes'09 attack was significant.The reasons are far different from the absurd public version

Posted by Moppa on (January 12, 2013, 7:27 GMT)

@Pras_Punter, try Cricket Australia's website. Has a nice highlights package of Hughes' innings, but unfortunately left out my favourite shot from the dig, his 'lasso' cover drive to go from 108 to 112. Would have made Rafael Nadal, proud that one!

Posted by Moppa on (January 12, 2013, 7:12 GMT)

@Peterincanada, I will try to make an intelligent comment. His technique has changed subtly, but mostly in terms of how he plays on the *leg-side*, not the off-side. His improved leg-side play makes him better able to work singles off his body, where previously bowlers had 'tied him up'. In the past, bowlers could bowl very straight at him, aiming almost at middle and off, and deny him the width he loves for cutting and cover driving. Guys like Martin would move the ball across him and, having been denied his scoring shots, he'd poke at it and nick it. As far as I can tell, he's just as liable to nick a ball just outside off and his cutting is still, let's say, 'homespun' (but effective!). But he can now work singles off his body, allowing him to wait for width with more patience, and then cash in. Very disciplined bowling in Tests or ODIs will still test his technique outside off - but that is true of most batmen. But I think the 'new' Hughes can succeed in Tests equally as ODIs.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (January 12, 2013, 7:01 GMT)

@Ashley Stewart the thing that stood out for Khawaja for me is that he has scored his runs in testing conditions. Khawaja is known for scoring all his big scores on difficult pitches, 140 against Tasmania when they got 90, 2 half centuries against NSW when they only got 150 and a 90 odd against South Australia on a green gabba deck. He is also bowling off spin and got Sangakara out in the chairman's X1 game so that works in his favor as well.@Popcorni think the selectors will bring Khawaja in for the Indian series, he is much more deserving then Maxwell who is not yet ready for test cricket, the Indians will absolutely smash his off spinners. I am going to the game tomorrow so can't wait to see Khawjaa and Hughes get centuries. As for the run out, he was unlucky, lets move on look forward to the game tomororow.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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