Warner lets his bat do the talking

Date: March 3, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

David Warner’s comments in the lead-in to the final Test got under the South African’s skins but when the match got underway it was his blade that caused the Proteas angst.

After winning the toss and batting Australia’s innings was highlighted by a gem of a knock by Warner.

He stroked his way to 50 off as many balls; went to lunch on 75; posted his century off 104 balls; and finally departed for 135 with the score at 3/217.

The pugnacious left-hander has had a stand-out series albeit aided in the opening two Tests by some calamitous fielding.

He has strode to the crease five times in the series and come away with two tons and two half-centuries – his only failure being a knock of 12 in the first innings of the opening Test.

Since then he has reeled off scores of 117, 70, 66 and 135 to give him 398 runs at 79.6.

Equally importantly as his average has been his strike rate, a rollicking 84.7 runs per 100 balls faced.

His attacking mindset has often had Proteas’ skipper Graeme Smith and his bowlers on the back foot with unusually defence fields being deployed early in the Australian innings.

His century in this final Test at Cape Town was certainly the most polished off his knocks in the series.

Whilst he raced to a virtual run-a-ball century he did so, in the main, with classical cricket shots.

On occasions his timing was exquisite with gentle nudges racing to the boundary across the verdant outfield.

As Warner’s career continues to lengthen so too does his patience.

In recent times he has seemed less of a thrasher and more of a selective shot-maker.

In a Test that will decide the outcome of the series Warner’s innings was telling as it set the foundation of what should be a substantial Australian total, going to stumps at 3-331 – a fine turnaround after the batting hiccups last start at Port Elizabeth.

It was Warner’s seventh Test century, in what is his 30th match.

Tellingly, it was scored in the first innings.

His previous three-figure scores were compiled in his side’s second trip to the crease.

As an opener, his primary role is to set the platform in the first innings, often when the pitch is fresh on the opening day.

Whilst the deck at the picturesque Newlands for this Test lacked any real demons for the batsmen Warner made the bowlers pay for anything that was not on the requisite length.

A few days before the teams met for the last time in this series Warner was in the headlines – again – for comments off the field.

He publicly raised allegations against opposition wicket-keeper A B de Villiers’ use of his gloves to try and scuff up the ball to aid his bowlers’ search for reverse swing.

Immediately, the Proteas refuted the claims, casting the comments in effect as sour grapes given the humiliation the tourists’ batting-line up suffered at St George’s Park.

The ICC’s match referee for the series, Sri Lankan Roshan Mahanama was another who did not take kindly to the Australian opener’s allegations, fining him 15 per cent of his match fee ($2880).

Earlier in the series Warner raised South African eyebrows when he questioned the effectiveness of pace bowler Vernon Philander on less than favourable pitches.

At the time he passed those observations Philander was ranked number one in the world.

Some believe Warner was encouraged by team management to raise his concerns with respect to de Villiers.

If that is the case, it was a misguided philosophy as it again turned the spotlight on Warner’s off-field antics.

He was suspended by Cricket Australia during last year’s Ashes tour on the back of a Twitter tirade against long-standing cricket journalists Robert Craddock and Malcolm Conn and a late-night, physical altercation with England batsman Joe Root.

Warner’s off-field performances have at times outshone those out on the ground.

No doubt the Proteas would have been full of chirpiness when he walked out to open the batting in this Test but Warner would quickly quelled that with his vibrant stroke play.

He is, in outlook and results, akin to former Indian opener Verender Sehwag.

Both have the philosophy that the best form of defence at the top of the order is attack.

Warner’s career-strike rate now stands at 72.4, and while it pales in comparison to Sehwag’s 82.2, it is on the rise.

Warner’s current strike rate can be put into context when you consider that fellow Australian opener Matthew Hayden, who was considered a powerful and aggressive batsman, scored his runs at a rate of 60.1.

There is every prospect that Warner will at times fall as a result of an overly ambitious shot but on days like yesterday his potency can go a long way to putting his side well ahead in the game.

He has lifted his career average to 44.6, a fine number for a man who has to take on the new ball.

If he continues to allow his bat to the bulk of the talking he will cause even greater frustration for his opponents, and potentially, garner a far larger bevy of fans.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 2 March 2014