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When Phillip Hughes went into triple-figures with a pair of consecutive sixes he became Australia's most youthful Test centurion in 43 years
March 6, 2009
Don Bradman is the statistical benchmark for batting and when he made his first Test century he was aged 20 years and 124 days. Only four younger men have scored Test hundreds for Australia and it's a list full of class. Doug Walters went on to become a cult icon in the 1970s, Neil Harvey is regarded as one of the best batsmen in the country's history and Archie Jackson would be a household name had he not died of tuberculosis at 23.
The fourth is Phillip Hughes. When Hughes went into triple-figures with a pair of consecutive sixes he became Australia's most youthful Test centurion in 43 years. He managed the feat 28 days younger than Bradman. Even if Hughes' entire career from here is downhill - and that's as likely as Zimbabwe winning the next World Cup - he will always occupy a special place in Australia's Test history.
Unlike at the Wanderers, where his 75 was filled with risky drives and flashy cuts, Hughes showed his full range of skills at Kingsmead. Aided by some insipid bowling in the first session particularly, Hughes clipped confidently through leg, drove with impeccable timing and cut viciously when given width. When he reached 50, he had scored 40 in boundaries.
Even so, nobody could quite believe it when he went from 89 to 105 in the space of four balls. A six over long-on off Paul Harris took him to 99 and the next ball he slammed over midwicket before briefly letting go of his cool and calm demeanour with a big grin, a kiss of the helmet and a longer than usual acknowledgment of the applause.
"I was on 99 after the first one and they brought the guy up from the fence and there were gaps there if I wanted to go," Hughes said. "He threw it up so I thought I'll go again and it just happened, it happened to be my day and it went like that.
"Usually from the 90s to the hundreds is the opposite, I chip around a few singles here and there, but to bring it up with Simon [Katich] in the middle, obviously Simon and I have spent a bit of time together over the last 12 months, in the middle and off the field as well, and it was just a great feeling and one I will never forget."
That Katich also posted a century should not be forgotten. But it was his fifth in nine months. After Australia reached 303 for 4 at stumps Katich was full of praise for his partner Hughes, who is 13 years his junior, and who made his first-class debut under captain Katich for New South Wales 15 months ago.
"Today was special to put on [nearly] 200 and for me it was special to be there to witness him makes his first Test hundred," Katich said. "I said last year that I thought he was going to be a very special player and he's already proved that and I think he's got a long continue in front of him and he'll continued to prove that right.
"Nothing surprised me. I must admit when he was on 99 I had the burners on ready to go for a quick single but then when I saw him launch it I thought, what am I worried about? I should have realised the young bloke is going to belt it out of the ground with gay abandon."
Prior to the series Katich said Hughes, 20, had the sort of maturity that he had seen in only two other Australian batsmen at such a young age in the modern era: Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke. Ponting was 22 when he scored his first Test hundred and Clarke was 23.
Hughes has joined an even more elite club. If he turns out to be anywhere near as good as Harvey or Walters, Australia will be very happy for a very long time.