Sydney: Sean Abbott, the man who delivered the ball that fatally struck Phillip Hughes on the head, returned to competitive cricket today, bowling a bouncer in his very first over and claiming two wickets in a Sheffield Shield match here.
New South Wales Blues paceman Abbott (2-53) along with Mitchell Starc (3-52) helped the team wrest back control of the four-day match from Queensland Bulls.
Sean Abbott. Pic/ PTI
NSW players crowded around to congratulate and encourage 22-year-old Abbott after he bowled Nathan Reardon for six during his 10th over. In his next over, he had Ben Cutting (three) caught behind by Peter Nevill.
The wickets came two weeks after the accidental blow suffered by Hughes at the same ground in NSW's Shield match against South Australia. Abbott was warmly applauded by the crowd when he bowled his first over today. He delivered a bouncer with just his fifth ball. The match was Abbott's and his team's first since the death of Hughes.
Abbott (2-53) reinforced to selectors that he should still be in their plans for next year's ICC Cricket World Cup after dealing with a tremendously difficult period, having delivered the bouncer that felled Hughes. Starc also delivered a timely reminder to Australian selectors as he claimed three wickets.
Queensland were bowled out for 268 on the first day of the match and NSW were 17/1 at stumps. In a poignant tribute to Hughes, who once played for NSW, the players of that state wore black armbands and "PJH 707" on their shirts, a reference to the batsman being their 707th representative.
Abbott's return to competitive cricket coincided with Australia facing India in the delayed first Test at Adelaide, where a number of tributes were paid to Hughes. Abbott had rolled his arm over in the SCG nets at a New South Wales optional training session last week but opted out of weekend fixtures of Sydney grade competition. Abbott made his Australian one-day and T20 debuts just two months ago.
There has been an outpouring of concern for Abbott from around the cricketing world for the unthinkable position he found himself in. Abbott attended Hughes's funeral last week and many people around the cricket world have expressed solidarity with the paceman following the freak accident.
"Brilliant News...The whole #cricketfamily are right behind you Sean...," said former England captain Michael Vaughan on Twitter in reaction to Abbott being selected for today's game. NSW captain Moises Henriques had said yesterday that the bowler was holding up well.
"He's coping pretty well. I guess from our point of view as fellow players, we're trying to expel his name from the tragedy a little bit, because in my opinion I don't think he's any more at fault than any other fast bowler who's ever bowled a bouncer in his career," Henriques said.