Phillip HUGHES, the opening batsman who has played 26 Tests for Australia, was last night in a critical condition in a Sydney hospital after undergoing emergency surgery for a severe head injury sustained when he was struck on the helmet by a ball during a Sheffield Shield match.
Hughes, playing for South Australia against New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground, was hit by a bouncer from fast bowler Sean Abbott. It appeared to strike him on the side of his head, just under his helmet.
Hughes remained on his feet for some time, leaning forward with his head down. But the batsman then collapsed face-first on to the field as distressed players gesticulated for medical assistance.
He was initially treated at the side of the ground by the NSW doctor John Orchard before being placed in an induced coma and taken to St Vincent's hospital, around 40 minutes after the incident. Upon arrival at hospital, Hughes underwent surgery.
The match was abandoned.
David Faktor, a spokesman for the hospital, said: "He arrived in a critical condition and remains in a critical condition. He is undergoing surgery as we speak. When he arrived he underwent a set of scans to establish the extent of his injuries and then a decision was made to perform surgery. I understand he was ventilated at the scene and arrived at St Vincent's already ventilated and on life support and he underwent scans and then he went to surgery."
James Sutherland, the senior cricket official in Australia, said: "All we know is that it's serious and he's fortunate to be in the best possible place right now with experts all around him."
Hughes had scored 63 when he was struck by Abbott's delivery, which he appeared initially to try to meet with a pull shot.
The last Test appearance by Hughes was at Lord's against England last summer. He was dropped after struggling during that Ashes series but had been tipped for a potential Test recall ahead of the forthcoming series against India, especially once Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, was ruled out through injury.
Clarke was at Hughes' hospital bedside in Sydney yesterday.
Alastair Cook, the England captain in Sri Lanka for the one-day series, said that he and his team were in shock at Hughes' ordeal.
"It's taken us - when we woke up this morning," Cook began, but the shock was such that he could not complete his first sentence.
"The whole dressing room, the whole team have been in a bit of shock all day really, to be honest with you. All our thoughts and prayers are with Phillip. Guys from Worcester, guys from Middlesex, quite a lot of us have played against him.
"So it's a really saddening incident and, fingers crossed, he can show the same fight as he's showed through his whole career and pull through."
Cook said that he did not want to discuss in detail the risks that all batsmen faced.
"This is probably not the place to be talking about this," the England captain said. "The whole dressing room is just massively concerned for Phillip and hoping he can fight as much as he can.
"Player safety is kind of irrelevant to be honest with you, it's all about him and his family and friends and sending him our best from here.
"It's something very unexpected, and for that storyline and that tragedy to happen on a cricket field - as I say, I've never heard of it in my career, and for it to be all over the papers now, it's just taken us all by shock.
"Come tomorrow we've got to concentrate on what we can do now. Obviously we're all thinking about him [today] but we've got to concentrate on our cricket [tomorrow]."
Hughes's team-mates and NSW players who were traumatised by -witnessing the incident at the SCG will be offered counselling.
Alastair Nicholson, chief executive of the Australian Cricketers' Association, said: "While we have faith that Phil is receiving the best available treatment, the situation will impact his family, friends, and those directly involved on the field.
"The ACA is therefore working closely with CA to arrange the appropriate counselling for those affected. Naturally our thoughts are with him and we wish him well from all the ACA members."
Hughes was sent wishes of goodwill from across the cricketing world yesterday.
Dean Jones also sent a message of support to Abbott, with the former Australia batsman telling the bowler to "stay strong - it's not your fault".
Kevin Pietersen urged his Twitter followers to "pray for Phil Hughes", while the England bowler James Anderson wrote: "Sickening to hear. Praying for him and his family."
The touring Indian team said in a statement: "We join with the rest of the cricket community around the world to offer our support and prayers to Phil and his family as well as our friends within Australian Cricket."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)