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Day the blond kid made everyone wait

Best of the West: Phillip Hughes on his way to another century for Western Suburbs against Blacktown in 2011. Photo: Anthony Johnson Best of the West: Phillip Hughes on his way to another century for Western Suburbs against Blacktown in 2011. Photo: Anthony Johnson
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Best of the West: Phillip Hughes on his way to another century for Western Suburbs against Blacktown in 2011. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Best of the West: Phillip Hughes on his way to another century for Western Suburbs against Blacktown in 2011. Photo: Anthony Johnson

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The words were not only being sung for him – but only because of him. Belted out with rarely seen vigour and joy, from faces of strangers he had never laid eyes on eight hours ago.

All the while, the little blond kid in the corner smiled innocently. Not sure what to make of it all. Almost embarrassed being the centre of attention. Not quite game enough to try to fumble over the lyrics on a sheet someone had shoved in front of him moments earlier.

Who could blame him? He had barely spoken a word all day, let alone feel the urge to break out in full voice now.

Moments before this raucous gathering in outdated sheds for the traditional team song, which rendered the end-of-season beers so much sweeter that night, the same little blond kid proved he had a flair for the dramatic, long before the diamond earrings surfaced.

Scenario: one run to win, six balls remaining, six wickets in hand. Easy enough, huh? Especially when a bush kid – small in stature but big on reputation – is pounding grizzly veterans to all parts.

Ask them and they will tell you it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Finals were on the line for them, a head start on the Silly Saturday celebrations the only thing that was supposed to matter for their opposition. But the little kid – 17, maybe 16 at the time, who knows? – didn’t care for that.

This was his welcoming party to the big smoke and runs – truckloads of them – were the only gift he knew how to bring. Some had heard he could play before he arrived for a small taste of what was next, but no one really knew. Seeing is believing and all that shebang.

Thrust into the opening role and chasing a formidable 261 to win in a limited-overs fixture, the kid’s talentless senior partner has edged off three balls in without scoring.

A few hours later the kid is still standing – on the brink of victory too – with a chanceless unbeaten 135. Cuts, flicks, lofted drives – the innings had it all. Except the winning run.

Back to that last over. Field is up. An air of resignation permeates for the bowling side. The kid has pasted them all over the park and there will surely be two teams – rather than the forecast one – on Silly Saturday watch tonight. What was another single to him?

Dot to start.

Followed by the same.

Then another. Aaah, don’t worry. Still three balls to score one run, with six wickets in the sheds no less.

Fourth ball? Dot again. What is going on here? Surely the kid can’t stumble at the final hurdle. He has run his own marathon and surely the red light isn’t flashing at the 41-kilometre mark?

Fifth ball? Dot again. Cue incredulous teammates on the boundary. Delicate late cuts, pure drives, deft glances. The kid has tried to use them all this over, ostensibly bloody-minded in not sacrificing his wicket in the whirl of trying to hit the winning runs.

But your team need one measly run off the last over and you haven’t tried to loft one single delivery over an infield so close they could be charged with trespass for encroaching on a pitch you have owned all afternoon!

OK, here it is. Last ball. The kid cannot possibly blow this now, leaving behind the greatest dot-to-dot puzzle in cricketing history. Right?

Whack!

This time there is an attempt to loft the ball.

This time it is out of the middle.

This time it does clear the field.

And this time it also clears the fence.

A six to win it off the last ball when all that it needed was a single off the first. But how boring would that have been?

The kid was Macksville’s Phil Hughes, playing his first Sydney grade game for Western Suburbs’ second XI in the last fixture of the 2005-06 season, and hitting a six off the last ball to endear himself to his new teammates.

Your columnist was his talentless opening partner who trudged off 49.3 overs earlier.

But how good was it to just once have the chance watch up-close the little blond kid, determined to be not out until the very last?

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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