Fifteen overs into Australia’s second innings in the 2nd Test at Kingston, David Warner was on ten, scored off 39 balls, with a single boundary – and that from a false shot, edged through the slips. Warner was struggling with his timing, scratchy and jumpy. Three low scores in the series behind him, the opener’s high-paced start to an innings was in check.
Warner should not have become a very successful Test cricketer. He probably shouldn’t have even become a Test cricketer, picked as a selectors’ hunch. So much of a limited overs specialist, that Warner made his T20 and ODI debut for Australia two months before playing in the Sheffield Shield for New South Wales in 2011.
Yet Warner is compelling viewing on a Test field. He’s nimbler at point, or elsewhere in the in-field, than his stocky frame would suggest, making full length diving stops and whipping off-balance throws over the stumps. Batting, there’s no more exciting prospect than Warner taking strike on a pristine wicket against fresh fast bowlers on the first morning of a Test. Four times he has lit up the opening phase of a match with a run-a-ball (or thereabouts) hundred.
- Australia v South Africa, Adelaide, 22 November 2012. Warner 50 off 47 balls; dismissed mid-afternoon for 119 with 16 fours and 4 6s.
- Australia v South Africa, Cape Town, 1 March 2014. Warner 50 off 50 balls and 100 off 104 balls.
- Australia v India, Adelaide, 9 December 2014, Warner 50 off 45 balls (nine 4s) and 100 off 106 balls
- Australia v India, Sydney, 6 January 2015, Warner 50 off 45 balls and 100 off 108 balls.
Since Warner’s debut, I have found myself staying up for the result of the toss in a Test in Australia and delaying bed further if the home team are to bat first.
This short-form specialist now has a better Test than ODI record. He has been converted into a Test cricketer and I’m a convert, too. Partly it’s his evident embrace of Test cricket. More though, it’s how Warner puts to use his simple, orthodox batting technique. His record – average 47, strike rate 75 – compares well to that of Virender Sehwag, the top right dot on the graph below (taken from my post, What is an opening batsman?). But where Sehwag stood and waved his bat like a heavy duty wand at the ball, Warner plays forward and back, near enough in line with the ball – unless he’s giving himself a bit of extra space to flex his forearms. His footwork is sharp and his bat swing uninhibited by the situation or opponents’ reputation. He shouldn’t have played Test cricket and shouldn’t be playing it like that. But it’s wonderful that he does.
Three years ago, Toby of Reverse Swept Radio interviewed me. He asked what I thought would be remembered in ten years time of the Ashes summer that was soon due to start. I said I thought David Warner would, in a single session, take control of a game for Australia. Within days, Warner had been sent away from the touring team as punishment for the incident involving Joe Root. Although he was back in England for the 3rd Test, he didn’t fulfil my prediction. This year, I think he will.
At Sabina Park, Warner has battled into the 16th over. Permaul flights a ball outside Warner’s off-stump. With a confident chassé, Warner is within reach of the pitch of the ball and drives it along the ground between cover and mid-off and out to the boundary. His timing returns and he bats smoothly until misjudging a pull on 62. It’s not a crushing hundred today, but there’s one on its way.