Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Melbourne January 11, 2013

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

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."

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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