Focus on David Warner

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Warner

David Warner made a century before lunch the other day. Written down like that, it either sounds like a fairly prosaic achievement, or the sort of brag that a cocky stockbroker would make. “I make more money before breakfast than you earn in a year, pal,” they’d say, before snapping their red braces.

But only four men have done that before, on the first morning of a Test. One of them is called Bradman. Another, Trumper. The last bloke to manage it did so 40 years ago. Nobody had managed it before in Australia. Not bad at all. But if anyone playing international cricket right now was going to do it, it would be Warner. He isn’t the best batsman in the world – he probably isn’t the best batsman in the Australia team – but he might well be the most entertaining. And in this uncertain world, what more can we ask for than a bit of entertainment?

Cricket is currently short of genuine, no-doubt all-time greats. Your Roots, your Kohlis, your Steyns might be regarded as that in time, but there’s no absolute locks for a cricket hall of fame. Tendulkar has retired, Warne is long-gone, Kallis is a coach now. But if we can’t have greats, we can at least have fun. And while it might be a little reductive to describe a man of his clear and outrageous talents as merely fun, that’s what he is, if not only that.

Warner

Warner didn’t so much start his innings against Pakistan running, more sprinting: it was like he’d been playing shots in his sleep the night before, so had already got his eye in before he’d even showered. He flicked at his first ball, missed down the leg side, then got four from his second. From that point, he found the boundary 16 more times in the following 32 overs, reaching his century from 78 deliveries. Before the end of his innings, ball failed to meet bat on just six occasions: three of those were short balls he either evaded or were too far away to hit. He left the thing alone only three times.

And why would you leave the ball alone when you can hit it like him? In the same way that, in his pomp, Ricky Ponting seemed able to pick up the length of a delivery before it had left the bowler’s hand, so Warner looked like he knew exactly what was coming, where he would hit it and how hard. Withdrawing his bat would feel like he was denying the watching world something. He had set up permanent residence in The Zone. “No one can do this but him,” said his erstwhile opening partner Chris Rogers. Damn right, and somehow such an innings would feel devalued if many more people could.

Of course he was helped by a fair bit of luck and some generous bowling from a collection of Pakistani seamers glancing yearningly towards the airport. Wahab Riaz said they looked “foolish.” But one imagines even Bradman occasionally hit one that might have been caught. Anyway, who remembers or cares about drops in a knock this thrilling?

This was the sort of innings that will transcend a result: it will be the Test Warner scored a hundred runs before lunch, not the one that Australia won. Can you recall who won when Kevin Pietersen scored 186 in Mumbai? Maybe if you were there, or really concentrate, but it doesn’t really matter. That it probably set up an Australian win is almost secondary. It was batting for batting’s sake.

Warner isn’t often a classically elegant player, not an arch stylist, but he’s still brilliant to observe. Like a brutalist building, he achieves beauty in other ways. It arguably adds something that, according to the Australian physio, Warner wasn’t even aware he was achieving any records while he was doing it: he wasn’t doing this because he wanted a place in the annals of cricket history, he was doing this because this is what Warner does.

Afterwards, he dedicated the innings to Philip Hughes. “Every time I walk out here we’ve got our little mate walking with us,” he said. “Always in the back of my mind when I walk out here, he’s with me.” You get the feeling Hughes would have approved.

By Nick Miller

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