A Cricketing Life.

Phil Hughes’ first dismissal as a Test Cricketer for Australia came as a result of a full-bodied slash at a rising delivery. He was still in single figures and yet you felt, watching, this highly touted wunderkind was less than an inch away from something.

His last action as a cricketer was no less committed. Hughes’ performance on what would tragically be the last day of his cricketing life, no less promising than that first day in South Africa in 2009.

Australia’s residence at the acme of Test Match Cricket had been ended by South Africa … in Australia. After a consolation victory at the SCG New Year’s Test, in a series already lost, we were looking for someone to provide a spark. Someone to reignite a team which had squandered numerous opportunities, including giving up a world-record Fourth Innings run chase.

Did he ever!

Phil Hughes showed almost immediately how determined he was to seize the opportunity he was given; that his often scintillating form created; that he worked hard to earn again and again – as often as it took, to play the game he loved at the highest level.

He made a half-century in the second innings of his first Test. Australia won it and we were on our way to something. That something was back-to-back centuries in a series clinching win for Australia – enabling immediate revenge for what was lost back home – making Phil Hughes the youngest ever to have done so.

We weren’t to know then, such a glorious summit was going to elude him over the remainder of his career, until in the end, Phil Hughes was tragically denied the opportunity to reach out towards it once more.

People understandably wonder, Why? … How it could be? Others cruelly look to apportion blame; clinically postulating possible solutions to self-serving questions that are blindly or wilfully ignorant of how tragically accidental what happened to Phil Hughes was.

There are really only two more things to consider besides the unavoidable – that being the dark impact of grief Phil Hughes’ family and circle of loved ones must deal with – which I will not attempt to encompass because I don’t understand it, as it relates to them. As a result I very much fear any formulaic words of condolence I may have are tritely inadequate.

I can only mention those two things I saw … and do know something about, first being Sean Abbott. As short-pitched deliveries go, that was on a reasonable length. A standard rising delivery that for most batsmen would have been a chest high fend. There seemed no dark intentionality behind it. It certainly was not born of maliciousness.

But because of Hughes’ diminutive height and the pace of the delivery, it became a question all elite sportspeople tend to answer a certain way. That is certainly no fault of Sean Abbott’s.

Unlike the cavalier events of last summer, where threats were made amid claim and counter-claims of incitement, supported by the ‘chesty-bonded’ yahoos of the blogosphere and their incoherent and inappropriate evocations and comparisons … Abbott was just a lad with a job of work to do, matter-of-factly going about it.

Part of that, as a frontline bowler is asking questions of batsmen.

A confluence of events conspired, so that by the time the cricket ball reached Hughes, there was only the fundamental question an elite performer can encounter, being asked.

‘Do you surrender to your human instinct in your moment of peril and take flight?’


‘Do you remember and accept your elite status as an athlete and engage your skills to fight?’

I don’t doubt that Phil Hughes recognised the moment the way an elite athlete would. More than that, to his credit, Phil Hughes swung hard, uncompromisingly offering the moment everything he had.

For those who remain, it became heartbreakingly too much. For Phil Hughes it epitomised his honest, pure sporting nature. And it cost him his life … shatteringly, when he was less than an inch away from re-emerging into the acme of his lifelong pursuit of his dream.

It was a dream he realised as the 408th player to be capped for Australia. Now that he is gone from us before turning 26, it is a dream of regathering potential that remains unfulfilled.

Vale Phillip Hughes.

In the end you gave everything to a sport that asked for all you had to give. You did so with grace, bravery, determination and acceptance. And a humility the exemplar for all who witnessed it.


  1. Like most of us I wandered around in a daze for a couple of hours after I heard of Phil Hughes’ death. Sitting on the train to go home, I collected myself enough to move beyond the sadness and asked something I often do in troubled times “what is my best memory of the person?”
    It flooded back, but somewhat different to yours Gregor (I must have missed the South Africa series on pay TV). 1st Test 2013 at Trent Bridge. Australia 9/117 with Graeme Swann turning it square, and Phil Hughes like a deer in the spotlight. Prodding and poking with concrete feet.
    But NEVER, NEVER, NEVER giving up the fight.
    A willowy, tousle haired kid called Agar comes in at 11 in his first test and starts to flog the bowling all over the ground. I am transfixed. The Avenging Eagle (who hates cricket) is transfixed. Australia stops and holds its breath, lest the spell be broken.
    A little of the fairy dust settles on Phil’s shoulders, and his feet start to move too. His drives pierce the off side; his cheeky lofts clear mid wicket; and his dabs pass gully for singles.
    Without Robin there would be no Batman. Without the donkey work – no Simpson – fewer Anzacs.
    A duck in the second dig, and Australia loses by 14 miserable runs. Low scores in the Second Test, and he was gone.
    But not forgotten.
    The worst technique; the best eye; and the biggest heart of modern Test batsmen. That’s why we all thought he would be back in the Test arena, battling out the conflicts between his gifts and his curses for our engagement. His sometimes leaden feet and slashes made him seem much more like the cricketers we were at the crease; than the impossible grace and power of a Waugh, Ponting or Hayden. Like a wayward son we loved him more when he frustrated us – precisely because he reminded us of things in ourselves.
    “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” (ALincoln)
    Vale’ #408

  2. Grigor, sorry to be a pedant, especially on such a sad matter as this, but in Phil Hughes debut test innings he did not recotrd a single figure score. It was a duck.


  3. Callum O'Connor says

    For Phil Hughes it epitomised his honest, pure sporting nature. And it cost him his life

    Worthy of Flanagan or Roebuck. Perfect.

  4. Gregor

    well played mate, well played


  5. Skip of Skipton says

    I love your Agar innings reference Peter. I watched that. One of the best sessions of cricket I have seen. I remember a glint in Hughes eye at some point during Agar’s magnificent display of strokes. Encouraging and pumping him up. Phil was the right man for Agar to be partnered with at that point in time/history.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Thanks Gregor. Remember that first dismissal. And sat up for those two tons. Along with his debut ODI ton, that’s how I’ll remember him.

  7. Skip – Ashton Agar batted for University in Perth A Grade Cricket on Saturday. Out for 98 – the same score he made with Phillip Hughes at Trent Bridge in 2013.
    Some things are meant to be.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Peter B- wow.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Gregor , poignant and profound very we’ll put

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