SYDNEY, December 9- Sean Abbott, who delivered the ball that killed Australian batsman Phillip Hughes, bowled a bouncer in his opening over Tuesday on his return to the ground where the freak accident happened.
Showing little emotion, he sent down four dot balls before a short-pitched delivery that sailed well over ducking Queensland batsman Joe Burns.
NSW paid tribute to Hughes, who once played for that state, by wearing black armbands and “PJH 707” on their shirts, a reference to the well-liked batsman being their 707th representative.
Abbott’s return coincided with Australia facing India in the delayed first Test at Adelaide, where a number of tributes for Hughes were held before play got under way.
Hughes, 25, died on November 27 from bleeding on the brain, two days after being knocked unconscious by the Abbott bouncer, plunging the cricket world into mourning.
Players and fans paid moving tribute to the life of Australia’s Phillip Hughes on Tuesday by doing what they said he would have wanted: going out and playing cricket.
On the first day of their four-Test series, the Australian and Indian teams, both sporting black arm bands, lined up in respect for the batsman who died after being struck by a short-pitched ball late last month.
The day began with players and fans, some wiping tears from their eyes, standing and applauding in unison at the Adelaide Oval for a symbolic 63 seconds — representing Hughes’s final unbeaten score — in an emotional tribute to the popular 25-year-old.
Hughes’ smiling face, wearing his baggy green cap, appeared everywhere, including on a moving video tribute watched intently by both sides before the game got under way.
Prominent broadcaster and former Australia captain Richie Benaud narrated the emotional clip shown on the ground’s big screen, finishing with a poignant “forever, rest in peace, son.”
Hughes’ close friend David Warner offered a fitting tribute, unleashing a signature century in a blistering knock with frequent glances skyward as he clubbed 145 off 163 balls.
The only sour note of the day saw skipper Michael Clarke forced to retire hurt on 60 due to continuing back trouble with Australia reaching stumps at 354 for six.
– Makeshift memorial –
Clarke, who was traumatised by the death of his close friend, said after winning the toss: “What I know my little buddy (Hughes) would want is going out and playing cricket.”
The Adelaide Oval crowd warmly applauded Clarke’s sentiments in recognition of the leading role he has played in the grieving process, during which he comforted Hughes’ family, delivered a tribute at his funeral and acted as a pallbearer.
Many of the 25,619 fans stopped at a makeshift memorial outside the ground, adorned with flowers and loving cards, numerous cricket bats lined up in a row.
Fans around the world have also placed bats outside their front doors as a mark of respect.
The Australian players wore Hughes’s Test cap number 408 on their shirts for the match and both teams stood in reflection before a large 408 painted on the oval’s playing surface.
The rescheduled Adelaide Test comes just days after the players gathered for his heart-wrenching funeral at his home town of Macksville in northern New South Wales.
The popular batsman died on November 27 from bleeding on the brain, two days after being knocked unconscious by a bouncer and collapsing while batting for South Australia against New South Wales in Sydney.
His freakish death stunned Australia, where cricket is considered the national game, and prompted a rescheduling of the India series with Adelaide becoming the first Test ahead of the traditional series opener in Brisbane.
Virat Kohli, captaining India in Adelaide with regular skipper MS Dhoni out with a wrist injury, offered his own personal tribute to Hughes.
“I knew Phillip, he was one of the guys I spoke to more than most. He asked for my bat in a home game in Jaipur and I wish I’d given it to him.”