Phil Hughes top-scored on his return to Australia’s Test team, hitting 86 as the hosts finished Friday’s opening day of the first Test against Sri Lanka on 299-4.
Brought back after a year’s absence to replace the retired Ricky Ponting at No. 3, Hughes was even on course for his first Test century on home soil until Chanaka Welegedara bowled him for 86 in the second over after tea.
Captain Michael Clarke then continued his stellar form for 2012 with 70 not out in an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 101 with Mike Hussey (37).
Welegedara was the most expensive bowler at Bellerive Oval but also the most dangerous, finishing with 3-99 after removing Ed Cowan in the morning session and Shane Watson after lunch.
“There were a few nerves but really I was quite calm… Overall, it was more excitement. To get a few runs behind me, the confidence is quite high now”
Australia batsman Phil Hughes
Cowan failed to convince and fellow opener David Warner was needlessly run out, but Clarke and Hussey maintained Australia’s hopes of a commanding total.
Clarke was limping at the close after a blow to the knee but still moved to 1,428 runs for 2012 with his 22nd career half century.
“He does have a big limp but he’ll get a bit of treatment and I’m sure he’ll continue on tomorrow,” Hughes said.
Clarke dominated more than Hughes but the latter did enough against a largely disciplined but unthreatening Sri Lanka seam attack to suggest his third stint in the side could be longer than the previous two.
“There were a few nerves but really I was quite calm,” Hughes said.
“Overall, it was more excitement. To get a few runs behind me, the confidence is quite high now.”
Hughes has three Test centuries but had never previously scored heavily at home.
Hitting right pitch
England took control of the final Test against India in Nagpur on Friday.
India need a win to save the series but that is looking increasingly unlikely as they stand on 87-4 after day two chasing England’s 330.
England’s first innings total looks ever more impressive on a pitch that is failing to deliver runs. Commentators and players seem to be in agreement at how hard it is to bat on.
England fast bowler James Anderson was the star on day two with three wickets including that of Sachin Tendulkar, who is still struggling for form and expected by many to retire after the Test.
Swing bowler Graeme Swann also got a wicket dismissing Cheteshwar Pujara for 26 runs. Gautam Gambhir top scored for India with 37 runs before being caught by Matt Prior off Anderson.
India closed 243 runs behind England who lead the series 2-1.