Phillip Hughes’s family received the warmest of welcomes as they returned to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) – on the first day of the fourth Test against India – for the first time since the Australian cricketer was fatally struck while batting at the ground six weeks ago.
In another moving tribute to Hughes in what has been an emotional summer, the SCG crowd stood to applaud when it was announced during the pre-match ceremony that Hughes’s parents Greg and Virginia and siblings Jason and Megan were in attendance, according to Cricket Australia (CA) website.
Warner made his own personal tribute when he reached 63 – the score Hughes had reached before tragedy stuck – by bending down to kiss the brown patch of grass at the Randwick End that marks the spot where the man from Macksville was felled.
Players of both teams, standing shoulder to shoulder in front of the Members Pavilion ahead of the national anthems, also joined in the round of applause as an image of Hughes was displayed on the big screen on the eastern side of the ground.
It would have been another heart-wrenching moment for the Australian players, particularly David Warner, Brad Haddin, Shane Watson, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc, who were in the middle of the SCG Nov 25 when Hughes received the fatal blow to his neck.
Speaking Sunday, Warner said the emotion of the occasion – the first Test at the ground since Hughes’s passing – would only hit home during the anthems.
And so it proved, with the opener receiving several comforting pats on the head from teammates when the pre-match ceremony was over, before he moved hastily towards the dressing rooms with opening partner Chris Rogers.
When Warner and Rogers walked out onto the ground minutes later for the first ball, the younger partner stopped to put his hand on the bronze tribute to Hughes that was installed just outside the players’ rooms.