David Warner’s stunning start to the Australian summer has still left some sections of the cricket world cold. (AAP: Scott Barbour)
Record kings, passing Bradman and going beserk: The Test triple tons that live long in the memory
When David Warner cruised to a century in Brisbane to start the Australian Test summer, the response was curious. While some of the people watching were complimentary, others were closer to resentful.
After Warner’s horror Ashes tour earlier this year, Australian punters on pub balconies and online platforms talked about flat tracks and weak bowlers and home soil.
- Australia declare on 3-589 before reducing Pakistan to 6-96 before the close
- David Warner’s unbeaten 335 is the second highest Test score by an Australian
- Pakistan needs 320 to avoid the follow on, with four wickets in hand
The tone at times was censorious, as though his lack of runs in England was a moral failing more than a technical one, and his celebrations in Brisbane were disapproved of as the showboating of a pretender.
Those closer to the analysis business pointed to his 95 runs across five Tests in England, and the fact he had bettered that total in his first innings back home. Even the official ICC account tweeted literal side-eye about these numbers.
The implication was clear: that Warner wasn’t quite an authentic Test batsman because he wasn’t sufficiently versatile. He was diminished without the comforts of home conditions.
In Adelaide the following week it became harder to talk down a batsman who was on his way past 300. Yet some of that school of thought doubled down, even as the Australian opener tripled down.
Cricket.com.au tweet: Here’s the view from the stands as David Warner made history in Adelaide! Epic. #AUSvPAK
It wasn’t exactly surprising: if you’re arguing that success in one context proves inability elsewhere, then greater success means greater correlation. The better they do, the more you can hammer them.
The disclaimers were many and present: that the pitch was flat, the ball didn’t swing, the no-balls gave chances, Pakistan rarely threatened.
But without wanting to disappoint anyone, vanishingly few of the world’s triple centuries have been made on raging greentops against bowling attacks stacked with menace and variety.
Huge scores tend to come along in bad matches. They just fall behind in history until the context is leached away, with only the figures remaining starkly in the stats columns.
In the end, Warner had the 10th-biggest individual score in 146 years of Test cricket. As of the end of that evening, there had been 94,951 individual innings in the men’s game. There are reasons why 94,941 of them never topped 335, but chief among them is that it’s bloody difficult.
The pressure was building on David Warner after his tough Ashes tour in England, where he averaged just 9.5. (AP: Rui Vieira)
No matter the bowlers or the conditions, it’s overwhelmingly likely that a player will get out before that point. Even peak Brian Lara against a pub cricket team would miscue one after a month or two. The level of concentration, the physical fitness and mental focus, to face Test bowlers for the best part of two days without making the mistake that ends your innings is astonishing.
As for the Ashes just gone, of course Warner had a miserable time. No one averaging 9.5 has had a good one. But he wasn’t alone. England’s Jason Roy as an opener also averaged 9.5. Warner’s partner Marcus Harris bumped that up to 9.66, having replaced Cameron Bancroft who went at 11.
The new ball swung, the conditions were conducive, and two excellent bowling attacks got on a roll. Opening the batting was the hardest job around. Of the 40 opening innings across both teams, more than half ended in single figures. Three quarters of them were under 20.
If Warner got a longer rope than his partners in this environment, it’s because Harris and Bancroft still have zero Test hundreds between them. Warner had 21. Even in England he had six fifties from eight Tests.
Warner has had notably divergent results: much was made of 17 centuries at home out of 23 total. Most players are more prolific at home, though. He hasn’t skewed his record much more than Greg Chappell (16 out of 24), Matthew Hayden (21 out of 30), Mike Hussey (14 out of 19), Doug Walters (10 out of 15), or Michael Slater (9 out of 14).
The other aspect that isn’t necessarily recognised is how he has mastered home conditions. Warner tended to make his hundred and then use it as licence to launch shots. He could only score as big as his patience or fitness allowed.
David Warner’s concentration levels are not in doubt after he batted through a full Test day twice in a week. (AP: James Elsby)
In eight years Warner batted through a full Test day once. This season he has done it twice in a week, and backed up the second of those with another four hours the following day.
“I think early days, I didn’t really have changing the gears in the right sort of context in the game,” was his explanation in Adelaide. “The only way I knew was to sometimes throw the kitchen sink at it.”
“But over time, the last two Tests, it’s the best I think I’ve ever batted. The most disciplined I’ve ever batted and the most patient I’ve ever batted. I just felt at ease, especially batting with Marnus [Labuschagne], we were really talking about the game.
“I think sometimes I get carried away with talking about where I’m looking to score instead of what the bowler’s actually doing and how he’s trying to get me out. So I think that will stay in the back of my mind going forward.”
ABC Grandstand tweet: A day of records, and a day of dominance for @CricketAus. Listen to Grandstand’s voice of cricket @jimmaxcricket wrap up day 2 at the Adelaide Oval. #AUSvPAK #cricket
Warner has made hard work crucial to his scoring. The sharp single is his release shot, patted to point or cover or dropped to midwicket. He used this time and again during his triple century. His hustle often sets up a second run, swelling totals for himself and his partner.
Around these sprints he punishes errors in width, expertly threads boundaries through cover and point, and takes on the short ball when it doesn’t get up. He plays a very consistent game in all formats, only shifting speed and urgency. His Twenty20s and Tests for Australia this summer have so far produced a mass of 776 runs across eight hits for two dismissals.
The mental application of this alone is extraordinary, as is the repeatability of his style to produce this consistency. In Adelaide he had the same control in his shot-making and his running at the beginning as he did after spending a Lord of the Rings movie marathon at the crease.
In the process, he quietly moved up another list: second behind Ricky Ponting for international centuries for Australia across all formats. Warner’s 18 limited-overs hundreds can be easily overlooked, but he now has 41 tons in all and will be key to a home T20 World Cup.
On his results so far, Warner can’t be classed in that rarest breed of batsman who travels the world defining Test matches in all conditions. Few can, so it’s also true that this doesn’t have to matter.
What someone might not be needn’t detract from the appreciation of what they are. In Warner’s batting alone, Australian cricket also has something rare to be appreciated.