The best Australian Test centuries on debut

John Coomer Roar Guru

By John Coomer, John Coomer is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger


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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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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • October 7th 2017 @ 6:59am
      JohnB said | October 7th 2017 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      Marsh and Voges should make the list ahead of Chappell and Walters in my view. Both innings won the game and the series, at least arguably in Voges’ case, definitely in Marsh’s. Voges’ ton not only won the game but won it from a very shaky position. The only things the Chappell and Walters tons have over them were that they were in Australia and against England.

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2017 @ 9:08am
        John Coomer said | October 7th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        I can understand what you’re saying but here’s my rationale for rating those innings.

        Marsh’s innings was actually in a drawn match in the 2nd Test of that three-Test Sri Lanka series, with Australia already leading 1-0 and having bowled Sri Lanka out for 174 in their first innings. A great knock no doubt, but in those circumstances I don’t think our backs were up against the wall like they were with Chappell’s first Test century. Marsh did play another important knock in the 3rd Test of that series, his second Test.

        I didn’t rate Voges’ century as highly for similar reasons. He did come in with Australia at 3-61, but we were only chasing the Windies first innings total of 148, against a fairly modest attack. His innings was crucial, but we did end up winning the game comfortably by 9 wickets.

        Voges also served a very long apprenticeship before making his Test debut (so he was more than ready for Test cricket), whereas with Doug Walters, the fact that he was only 19 made his knock historically significant in my opinion.

    • October 7th 2017 @ 10:43am
      JohnB said | October 7th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      John, you’re 100% right re Marsh’s innings. I knew he’d played 2 good knocks in a row in his first 2 games – but the memory couldn’t stop itself from embellishing things further.

    • October 7th 2017 @ 11:28am
      Paul said | October 7th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

      morning John

      There are three other innings that I thought would rate a mention on your list.

      Harry Graham scored his runs at Lords, so outside Australia, on an uncovered pitch that had a massive slope on it against a high quality bowling attack when Australia was in trouble at 5 for 75. Wouldn’t he be handy to bat at number 6 for us today!

      Reggie Duff scored his hundred batting at number 10 on a pitch described at the time as “difficult”. He normally opened the batting but was held back by Armstrong because the pitch was so bad. Still, he got runs against a high quality attack in tough conditions.

      Mark Waugh scored his runs in Australia but I seem to recall we were in trouble and yet he looked so comfortable at the crease, and scored so well, he completely took the game away from the Poms.

      In fairness, all of these innings could be called “great”, even Cosiers when he was dropped 6 times, because it is obviously incredibly hard to get a hundred in your first Test innings. Ask Bradman!

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2017 @ 12:10pm
        John Coomer said | October 7th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

        Hi Paul,

        Yes you could certainly mount a strong case for all three of those knocks to be included among the best. And as you say, all Test centuries on debut could be considered great because history has shown that few players have done it.

        The stories of Graham and Duff are very interesting, and I remember watching Mark Waugh’s innings. He certainly played brilliantly that day, but I left it out of my “best” for two reasons:

        1) I think he was well and truly ready for Test cricket by the time he made his debut, having served a pretty long apprenticeship in Shield and County cricket. The story goes that he said in the dressing room after this knock that he should have been in the side two years ago. But you still have to score the runs, no matter how well prepared you are. In my list though, I tended to rate the debut centuries of younger guys without that pedigree more highly.

        2) The England attack that he faced wasn’t as strong overall as England have fielded in other eras.

        But I can certainly also understand why many people rate that knock (and those of Graham and Duff) very highly.

    • Roar Guru

      October 7th 2017 @ 12:54pm
      Rellum said | October 7th 2017 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

      The ones that stick in my mind are Keppler and M.Waugh. Waugh’s innings was sublime and matching winning if I remember.

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2017 @ 1:18pm
        John Coomer said | October 7th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

        Waugh’s was a great knock but the Test he got it in actually ended in a draw Rellum. Gooch and Atherton put on a 200 run opening stand in England’s second innings and Australia ran out of time to bowl them out.

    • October 7th 2017 @ 4:05pm
      DavSA said | October 7th 2017 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

      A ton on debut is a rare feat and certainly confirmed by you John . I guess the debutant only gets one bite at the cherry.( excuse the pun).

      Spare a thought for the new Proteas opener Aiden Markgraaf . He was run out by Elgar on 97 on debut last week against Bangladesh .

      By the way is debut in this context 1st innings only or does it include the second as well. In my mind coming out to bat in the second technically is no longer a debut.

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2017 @ 5:49pm
        John Coomer said | October 7th 2017 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

        They officially count it as a century on debut if you score it in either innings of your first Test Dav, but I agree with you that it’s more special if it is in the first innings of your first Test.

        Five of the 20 Australians who have scored Test debut centuries did it in the second innings – Duff, Hartigan, Collins, Burke and Wellham.

        What a shame for Markram, I wonder what Elgar would have said to him when he got back to the dressing room. But I see that he got his first ton in his second Test this week, what a great start to his Test career.

        • October 7th 2017 @ 6:21pm
          DavSA said | October 7th 2017 @ 6:21pm | ! Report

          Thanks for the response John .Yes every now and again I have seen a player for the first time I just knew I am looking at future cricketing star .I believe Markram is one such player . I recall being at the test match SA vs Eng 2004 at St Georges park when a youngster called Dale Steyn who most of us had not even heard of made his test debut . He had only played 2 first class games in SA .In his second over he clean bowled Marcus Trescothic (hope I spelled that right ) , with an unplayable delivery . I got that same feeling .

    • October 7th 2017 @ 5:06pm
      Mike Dugg said | October 7th 2017 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

      Wessels definitely is an underrated player of the past

      • October 7th 2017 @ 5:25pm
        DavSA said | October 7th 2017 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

        We didn’t see it the same way here in SA Mike. Got his due recognition. Very strong mentally .

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