The best Australian Test centuries on debut

John Coomer Roar Guru

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    Out of the 450 players who have worn the baggy green in Australian cricket history, only 20 have scored centuries in their Test debut.

    Even when you assume that only just over half of those 450 debutantes were probably specialist batsmen, it’s still an exclusive club.

    Today I’ll highlight the best among those 20 debut centuries, considering factors like the historical significance of the innings, the quality of the bowling attack faced, the impact of the knock on the result of the Test and the background of the player.

    Charles Bannerman (165 retired hurt), 1877 v England
    This is still the highest score by an Australian Test batsman on debut, and it was in the very first Test match ever played! Bannerman opened the batting and scored 165 out of Australia’s first innings total of 245 at the MCG to help set up an eventual 45 run victory. He retired hurt with Australia at 7 for 240 after wearing a ball on his index finger. The next best score by an Australian batsman in that innings was 18.

    Michael Clarke (151), 2004 v India
    Clarke was 23 when he made his debut in the first Test of the famous 2004 series in India. He came in at number six and shared a crucial partnership with fellow century-maker Adam Gilchrist, taming Indian spinners Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble along the way. That set up a crucial win for Australia, with the team breaking a 35-year drought in India by going on to win the series 2-1.

    Archie Jackson (164), 1929 v England
    Jackson was only 19 when he opened the batting against an England attack that featured Harold Larwood, best remembered for his role in the infamous bodyline series four years later.

    He scored 164 out of Australia’s first innings total of 369 at the Adelaide Oval. England went on to win the match by just 12 runs. The sad post-script to the Archie Jackson story is he only played seven more Tests before tuberculosis claimed his life just four years later.

    Kepler Wessels (162), 1982 v England
    South African-born Kepler Wessels had been seasoned by both World Series Cricket and a period of Shield cricket before he became eligible to play Test cricket for Australia.

    He made the most of his opportunity when it finally came, scoring 162 of Australia’s first innings total of 341 at the Gabba against an English attack that included Bob Willis and Ian Botham. Australia ended up winning the match by seven wickets.

    Marcus North (117), 2009 v South Africa
    Coming in at 4-151 in South Africa on debut against an attack featuring Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis would be a challenging experience. But Marcus North proved he was up to it, hitting a century to set up an Australian win in the first Test of a series that they would go on to win 2-1.

    Greg Chappell (108), 1970 v England
    Greg Chappell was 22 and batted at No.7 when he made his Test debut at the WACA. He strode to the wicket with Australia in trouble at 5 for 107 in reply to England’s first innings total of 397, with fiery paceman John Snow having snared three wickets.

    But, he showed his class in sharing a big partnership with Ian Redpath, who hit a career-best 171. Between them, they rescued the Australian innings and paved the way for a draw against a tough England team that eventually won the series and regained the Ashes.

    Doug Walters (155), 1965 v England
    Doug Walters was 19 and batting at No.6 when he made his debut against England at the Gabba. He shared a big partnership with Bill Lawry, who scored 166 in Australia’s first innings of 6/443. The match ended in a draw, as did the series eventually, with Australia retaining the Ashes.

    For the record, the other Australians who have scored Test centuries on debut (in chronological order) are
    Harry Graham (107), 1893 v England
    Reggie Duff (104), 1902 v England
    Roger Hartigan (116), 1908 v England
    Herbie Collins (104), 1920 v England
    Bill Ponsford (110), 1924 v England
    Jim Burke (101), 1951 v England
    Gary Cosier (109), 1975 v West Indies
    Dirk Wellham (103), 1981 v England
    Wayne Phillips (159), 1983 v Pakistan
    Mark Waugh (138), 1991 v England
    Greg Blewett (102), 1995 v England
    Shaun Marsh (141), 2011 v Sri Lanka
    Adam Voges (130), 2015 v West Indies

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