Australia’s David Warner dedicated his stirring century to tragic team-mate Phillip Hughes Tuesday as emotions over the batsman’s death dominated the delayed first Test against India.
Warner’s determined 145 off 163 balls, studded with glances to the heavens, was the mainstay of Australia’s innings as they reached 354 for six at the end of day one at Adelaide.
But on a day of tributes to Hughes, killed in a freak batting accident, there was also concern when skipper Michael Clarke retired hurt with a back problem.
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.
Pre-game tributes to Hughes included 63 seconds of applause, representing his score when he was fatally struck in the head by a short-pitched ball on November 25.
When the first Test, moved from its December 4 start in Brisbane as Australia mourned, finally got underway, the positive Warner hit a first-ball boundary and remained upbeat, reaching his 10th Test hundred off just 106 balls.
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 looked annoyed after he holed out in the deep off debutant Test leg-spinner Karn Sharma for his 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 (Clarke) said to me he would be proud of us both and try to get on and win the game.
“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 for six with Steve Smith leading the way on an unbeaten 72. Brad Haddin was out for a duck in the day`s final over.
Warner was at his pugnacious best, plundering 37 runs off his first 20 balls and giving his grieving team-mates 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 that was repeated when Smith reached the same score late in the day.
Clarke was also given a huge ovation as he came to the wicket, an acknowledgement of his leading role in the days after Hughes`s death, in which he read a tearful tribute at the funeral and was one of the pallbearers.
But it didn’t end well for the captain, who called for the trainer after experiencing lower back problems and trudged off hurt with a fluent 60 off 84 balls.
Mitchell Marsh put on 87 runs for the fourth wicket with Smith but he speared a rearing Varun Aaron delivery to Virat Kohli at fourth slip for 41 in the final overs of the day.
Nathan Lyon, sent in as a nightwatchman, was bowled by Mohammed Shami for three with 12 balls left and Haddin was caught behind off Shami.
Chris Rogers was dismissed in the day`s eighth over for nine off 22 balls when Ishant Sharma coaxed an edge to Shikhar Dhawan at second slip.
Watson followed in the 19th over, giving Dhawan his second catch in the slips off Aaron and making way for Clarke to come to the wicket.
There were tributes to Hughes before the game got underway with players and fans standing and applauding in unison for a symbolic 63 seconds.
The Australian and Indian teams, both sporting black arm bands, lined up in respect for the well-liked batsman. The home side wore Hughes`s 408 Test cap number on their shirts.
Prominent broadcaster and former Australia captain Richie Benaud also narrated an eye-moistening video shown on the ground`s big screen, finishing with the words: “Forever, rest in peace, son.”