Love him or loathe him, it’s time to appreciate David Warner

December 17, 2023

Warner’s 26th century was yet another statement even as he plays his final Test series

Love him or loathe him, it’s time to appreciate David Warner

David Warner celebrated his century with his trademark leap. And then put his glove to his mouth and gestured in the direction of the radio boxes perched high in the stands at Perth Stadium. The same radio boxes where Mitchell Johnson has been sitting and commentating from throughout the day.

“You saw what it was,” Warner said in the post-play press conference. “It was a nice little quiet shush.”

It only took 125 balls and less than two sessions of Test cricket at the start of the summer for Warner to silence his critics. He made the thousands of words written about his Test form and his Test place redundant, and confirmed he will get the Test farewell he desires and deserves in Sydney.

Any doubts about whether Australian crowds - and specifically the Western Australian crowd - would warm up to him in his last Test in Perth were dispelled too. The modest crowd of 16,259 were cheering every run. There was a great reception when he reached 50 off just 41 balls and an even bigger ovation when he reached his century with a brilliant ramp to the deep third fence.

Love him or loathe him, and some Australians, like Johnson for example, do still genuinely loathe him, it is time to truly appreciate Warner’s Test career.

Queries about his form and his place over recent years have been absolutely fair. But the reality is, he still in Australia’s best six Test batters and without doubt one of the best two opening batters, even with significantly diminished recent output compared to his prime.

His career has now reached rare air. In this innings alone he passed two of Test cricket’s most aggressive players in Sir Vivian Richards and Virender Sehwag on the all-time Test runs list. He now has the most Test runs of any player with a strike-rate higher than 70.

He moved to fifth all-time among Australian Test runscorers, past Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden, and is only 13 runs short of becoming Australia’s highest-scoring Test opener.

There will be the usual caveats from his critics. Zero Test hundreds in England or India. A spectacular record at home, especially against Pakistan. This was his sixth Test hundred against Pakistan and fifth at home, averaging a staggering 88.56 against them overall.

There is a case that this too might have been against one of the weakest Test attacks he has ever faced. But while there were times when the bowling looked generous as he and Usman Khawaja rollicked along at more than five-an-over during a century stand inside the first 20 overs of the day, the individual returns of Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith and Travis Head on a surface that had bounce and sideways movement suggested it may not have been as easy as he made it appear.

Warner profited by carrying on the intent he showed in the ODI World Cup. There have been few players in the history of the game that have transitioned so easily between the three formats and been so prolific too.

There has been an element of uncharacteristic timidness in Warner’s Test batting over the last few years. The dynamism and fearless ball-striking he had once shown had disappeared as he struggled to find the balance between defence and attack. But much like his drought-breaking double century against South Africa last year, which appeared in isolation, Warner’s trademark intent was a feature of his play in Perth.

He survived an early scare, squared up by a beauty from Shaheen Shah Afridi only for the edge to fly safely over the cordon.

He then took guard outside his crease and began shuffling towards the pedestrian medium-pace offerings from the other end and scored at will. If it wasn’t a half-volley crunched for four through cover, it was a push to a gap for one, just as he would in an ODI. Anything short was latched onto. His worries against the short ball on the Test tour of India earlier this year were nowhere to be seen.

He lashed two pull shots off Afridi with authority forward of square. Then he produced the shot of the day, a replica of his shot of the year.

Just like he had against Haris Rauf in Bengaluru, he made a mockery of an excellent 140.5kph delivery from Afridi. Angled into the top of off on a good length, Warner collapsed his back leg and moved low to the offside to get underneath it and flick it 88 metres over fine leg for six as he rolled onto his back after making contact. The bravery, the skill, and the execution were astonishing. It’s one thing to do it in an ODI on a batting paradise in Bengaluru. It’s quite another in the first session of a Test match on one of the fastest pitches in the world.

That he was able to switch gears after lunch when Pakistan improved their lengths speaks to his match awareness. His second 50 took 84 balls, twice as long as his first. But he was patient and diligent, adapting to what was in front of him as he has done so often in the second half of his career.

His first 104 were chanceless. He did offer two lives thereafter. A miscued chip to wide long-on went through the meek hands of Khurram Shahzad. Sarfaraz Ahmed later missed a relatively simple stumping off Agha Salman, to rub salt into the wound of the offspinner who had already been thumped for six twice.

Warner flicked another bouncer for six before falling by the sword trying to go again, toeing one to a catcher at deep backward square.

After Warner had silenced his critics, he received a standing ovation as he left the field. No one can begrudge him his Test farewell in Sydney now. –Cricinfo

Love him or loathe him, it’s time to appreciate David Warner