SYDNEY (AFP) – David Warner kissed the ground in Phillip Hughes’s memory to lead an Australian run spree with an emotional century on the opening day of the final Test against India on Tuesday.
The dynamic opener posted his third ton of the series and 12th in Tests as he honoured the memory of his fallen friend Hughes, who was fatally struck by a bouncer at the same Sydney Cricket Ground in November.
Upon reaching the symbolic score of 63 that Hughes had made when he was hit, Warner kissed the ground and then looked skywards before clapping in tribute.
Warner scored 101 and shared in an opening stand of 200 on a benign SCG pitch with veteran Chris Rogers, who again fell short of a ton in his fifth consecutive half-century of the series.
Skipper Steve Smith and Shane Watson maintained Australia’s grip with an unbroken 144-run stand after winning the toss to put the home side at a formidable 348 for two at the close.
Smith, who glided to his half-century off 67 balls for his fifth innings beyond 50 in the series, was unbeaten on 82 with Watson on 61.
Watson was dropped by Ravichandran Ashwin at slip off the second-last ball of the day.
“We got lucky the coin fell our way. At the moment it was a fantastic toss to win, we’re two for 348, fantastic position to be in,” Warner said.
“There was no swing, there was no sideways movement at all, so it was quite challenging for the bowlers.
“It’s going to be challenging for us to take 10 wickets as well.”
India have already lost the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with Australia holding an unassailable 2-0 lead following wins in Adelaide and Brisbane.
The tourists have won only one of their last 22 Tests overseas and have been successful in only one of their 10 Tests at the Sydney Cricket Ground, that sole victory coming 37 years ago.
“It was a very tough day. It’s very important that we pick ourselves up tonight and try to be as fresh as possible tomorrow,” Ashwin said.
“It’s going to be a hard day. If we can keep them down to (a reasonable score) we can get back into it.”
Warner batted for 180 minutes with 16 fours, pulling Mohammed Shami to the boundary to bring up his ton off 108 balls with 16 fours.
He was out soon after for 101 off 114 balls, caught at slip off a leading edge from spinner Ashwin.
“It’s great to get milestones and I’ve done my job for the team as well as I can,” Warner said.
“The thing I’m most proud of is putting up a double-century partnership with Bucky (Rogers). It’s our first one and we bat very well together.”
Rogers, who gave chances on 19 and 90, followed Warner to the pavilion six balls later when he was bowled for 95 by Shami.
The Sydney Test was being played against the poignant backdrop of the tragic death of Hughes.
Warner posted his first Test century at the SCG and he, along with Smith, Watson, Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon, were all on the field when Hughes was felled by the short-pitched ball.