David Warner said he felt the presence of the late Phil Hughes with him on the SCG as he created history by smashing a century in the opening session of the third and final Test against Pakistan on Tuesday.
The 30-year-old Warner became just the fifth batsman to achieve the feat before lunch on day one of a Test – and the first to do so in Australia – thanks to a 78-ball blitzkrieg that included 17 boundaries and immediately put Pakistan on the back foot.
He was eventually dismissed for 113 from 95 deliveries just after lunch on a day of Australian domination.
Warner has scored three Test centuries at the SCG since Hughes was tragically killed when he was struck by a ball at the ground in 2014.
A memorial plaque in his honour was installed outside Australia’s dressing room after the accident.
“I’ve said before, every time I walk out here we’ve got our little mate walking with us,” Warner, who held Hughes’ hand as he was carried from the field, said after his history-making ton.
With his first-day effort, Warner joined Don Bradman (1930), Victor Trumper (1902) and Charles Macartney (1926) as the only Australians to crack a Test ton before lunch. Pakistan’s Majid Khan (1976) was the other.
Warner’s opening partner, 20-year-old Matt Renshaw, also smashed triple figures, ending day one on 167 not out as Australia went to stumps at 3-365.
“It feels amazing [to get to a hundred before lunch],” Warner said of the feat.
This is the 410th Test hosted by Australia since 1877.
“I wasn’t aware about the stats [about so few players hitting a century before lunch] – team doctor Peter Brukner told me after I came off.
“I only began to think about it (a century) when I was on about 80 and there were 25 minutes to go before lunch.
“Basically I thought I’d just keep working hard to get us into a great position. But with the adrenaline pumping, you ride the wave and getting to the hundred was the result.”
Warner immediately set the tone, racing to 23 after just three overs, and 38 after six, in a batting display more suited to the ongoing Big Bash League.
He needed more than four overs to get from 48 to 50, achieved when he ran Pakistan spinner Yasir Shah down to third man for two, and edged Imran Khan through the slips just after the drinks break.
But it was Warner’s day – his edge fell safe and ran away for four.
He got going again from there and in the final over before lunch, took a two, and then a three, off left-armer Wahab Riaz to bring up his milestone before celebrating with his trademark jump in the air.
The Pakistan players obviously enjoyed the show, congratulating Warner and shaking hands with him as he made his way off the ground, before he was greeted with a standing ovation from his home crowd at the SCG.
Several of Warner’s former teammates were in awe of his stunning innings.
“There aren’t enough superlatives for this innings … Dave Warner, he is playing a different game out there,” Dirk Nannes told ABC Grandstand.
“It’s hard to imagine that we are already so far advanced in the game that someone has got a hundred. It just defies description that it can get this way.”
Ex-Australia captain Michael Clarke said the Pakistani bowlers faced an impossible task.
“It doesn’t matter what length it is … he will punish you,” Clarke said on Channel Nine.
Former Australia legend Neil Harvey added on the ABC: “Warner is a bloke you would pay money to come and watch anytime.”
Warner fell to Wahab when he edged to wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed and that brought Usman Khawaja to the crease. He was dropped on three and made just 13 before departing.
Steve Smith’s Test average remained above 60, even though he was caught behind for 24, before Renshaw survived a scare when, on 91, a Mohammad Amir bouncer cannoned into his helmet.
He got some brief treatment but carried on, passing 100 for the first time at Test level with a single off Yasir.
Renshaw hit 18 fours in his 275-ball innings which resulted in his maiden Test century.
He was the seventh-youngest Australian to make a Test century at 20 years and 281 days old.
He ended the day alongside Peter Handscomb, who was unbeaten on 40.