Hughes enjoys dream debut
Phil Hughes marked his return to county cricket after a two-year break by blasting a century on his Clydesdale Bank 40 debut for Worcestershire against former club Middlesex at New Road.
Three days after flying into England, the Australian batsman led the Royals’ late dash to 235 for five and left-arm paceman Jack Shantry sealed a 56-run victory with three wickets in an over as Middlesex folded for 179.
Hughes first played in England with Middlesex prior to a disappointing Ashes series in 2009 and re-appeared in the following season for a short spell with Hampshire.
However, his international career - which took off spectacularly courtesy of two centuries in a Test against South Africa - progressed fitfully up to his last appearance in December against New Zealand.
Originally signed by Worcestershire for the full season, he had to delay his arrival when called into a Cricket Australia training camp in Brisbane, where he benefited from working in the nets against international bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Pat Cummins.
There were understandable timing problems as he adjusted to English conditions and he also developed a noticeable limp in his running between the wickets. But, once he had found his range, seven of his 11 fours came in a second fifty from 35 balls.
This was in line with Worcestershire’s overall tempo. They hit seven fours in the first 30 overs but then added 14 boundaries - including two sixes in Gareth Andrew’s 26 from 12 balls - while taking 104 runs from the last 10.
Having kept wickets in hand, they were ready to accelerate as Hughes followed a stand of 52 with Vikram Solanki by putting on 116 in 18 overs with Daryl Mitchell.
While Mitchell lost his leg stump attempting to sweep Ollie Rayner, bringing an end to a run-a-ball 48, Hughes went on to 111 before he was caught at deep midwicket off Steven Crook.
Joe Denly and Paul Stirling kept Middlesex up with the rate until spinners Moeen Ali, who returned 3-34, and Shaaiq Choudhry reduced the visitors to 93 for five.
Off-spinner Moeen’s clutch of three wickets in his first four overs included Eoin Morgan for two when the England batsman was well caught by Andrew, running round the long-leg boundary in front of the pavilion.
Chris Rogers, with 44, and Gareth Berg, who struck 28, launched a revival but, with 84 wanted from the last 10 overs, Middlesex’s challenge evaporated with Shantry’s dramatic intervention for a return of 4-32, his best in one-day cricket.