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Tons of praise

WITHIN minutes of Philip Joel Hughes posting a maiden Test century at Kingsmead Stadium on the weekend, his former team-mates at Sawtell Cricket Club were sharing the pride and first to sing his praises in cyberspace.

“Congratulations Phil, and brought up in style with a six,” secretary Wayne Smith posted on the Sawtell website at 10.39 last Friday night.

The proud son of Macksville farming parents scored his 115 runs after facing 151 deliveries, and while the innings included 19 boundaries, it's the manner in which he reached his triple figures that remains unforgettable.

Whereas most rookie batsmen - especially those in the pressure cooker atmosphere of being appointed to open the innings - would be expected to have their life flashing before their eyes once they entered the 'nervous nineties', Hughes reacted the way those who know him best expected him to.

Opposing South African bowler Paul Harris was put over the fence to bring Hughes to 99, and then he did it again with the following delivery to put himself into the history books.

The feat made the 20-year-old the fourth-youngest Australian Test centurion and as soon as reality dawned, Hughes danced on air before being hugged by batting partner, Simon Katich.

Just recently, Coffs Coast Advocate chief sportswriter Brad Greenshields wrote of his experiences as captain of West Coffs in the 2004-05 grand final, doing his utmost to unsettle Sawtell's precocious batting talent, barely into his teens, all to no avail.

If only Proteas attack-dog Morne Morkel had read that article and decided his merciless sledging of the young Aussie would come back to haunt him.

“To experience this moment in South Africa is very special, very humbling,” Hughes told the press gallery.

“Now I want to do it again back home in Australia ... that's the ultimate aim.”