Wednesday 4 January 2017

New World Record: David Warner Delivers His Century Before Lunch

David Warner

If anything could match the joy of watching David Warner rattle off his most historically significant century, it was the delight in Bill Lawry’s voice telling the story as it happened.

“Beautiful!” he roared when Warner lashed his first of a half-dozen boundaries to point. Then, “Oh, he is making this look easy, this is Test cricket!” when the next ball provoked the same treatment. Lawry’s elation was meshed with envy: he knows better than almost anyone on the planet that his old job is never meant to be easy.

“Bang! Oh wonderful! Absolutely wonderful!” was his exclamation when the Matraville Mauler unfurled a cover drive from one knee in a pose reminiscent of pictures mocked up of yesterday’s champions, a couple of whom he would shortly join in the record books.

Whimsically, Lawry observed how must it be for people coming to the SCG on Tuesday for their first Test. How they may never see anything like this again. As Warner became only the fifth man in 2245 fixtures over 140 years to reach a century before lunch on day one, Lawry concluded that it was “a great moment for Test cricket”.

It really was. In this line of work, the temptation is to add mayonnaise to the good in order to pass it off as great. Cricket lends itself to rubbish statistics that we’re all guilty of drawing upon. But this is not one. The mystique around centuries in a session is well established, but rarest of all if the first session of a Test.

Victor Trumper’s cricket life may be defined by the image of him driving so lavishly, but also for achieving the aforementioned feat against the English. Don Bradman’s 309 in a day at Leeds elevated him to superstar status at age 21, and began with a ton by lunch, too.

“No one could do this but him,” was the assessment of his former opening partner Chris Rogers. Maybe it was inevitable, despite the increased degree of difficulty as opening sessions have got shorter. Bradman faced 153 balls to lunch in 1930; there were 162 in total in the corresponding two hours today.

At Adelaide in 2014 Warner had 77 to lunch, but the interval was taken after 24 overs. He was on 67 at the same ground two years earlier when 24 overs were completed. Mohammad Amir limping from the SCG with five minutes on the clock ensured only 27 would be available here.

Rogers and Lawry both pointed to the array of strokes that Warner can execute when conditions are notionally at their toughest, bowlers at their fittest. It doesn’t help when Warner has an expectation management problem. Never has a man made 144 from fewer balls and left the field as derided as he did in Melbourne last week.

It stands to reason that on his home ground he was ready to make a statement. Warner had made a century in a session before, in Perth when he was a brash basher, rocketing balls at will between cow corner and, well, cow corner. Tuesday was defined by placement through the posh side.

The crisp clip, the drive and the precise pull – knee in the air, of course – were all part of the ensemble, bisecting sweepers deployed far earlier than any captain wants. An uppercut was the response to short-pitched bowling, defense masked as attack by the tourists.

But he returned time and again to the offside force from the balls of his feet. It’s hardly a shot kids will dream of playing, but it is where Warner makes his money. In a competitive field, there was no better than the version of the stroke he played on 89; leaning, crunching and caressing all at the same time.

At the other end, Matt Renshaw’s time would come later. Unflustered, instead of trying to mimic his senior partner, Renshaw gave him time to relax, free of drama. Where the urging from the crowd was for the 20-year-old to take a single in the penultimate over before the break, he defended and left. Job done.

Acutely aware of what Warner was on the cusp of achieving, the crowd roared “Twooooooooo!” as he whirred between the wickets to the first ball of the final over – sure enough, out towards point. Then “Staaaaaaay!” as they did precisely that rather than take on the arm, and potentially stall their mission two runs short.

Three to get, the shot was replicated behind point and Renshaw again held up his end of the bargain when calling Warner through on the back of a misfield from Yasir Shah. Mouth wide open as Warner passed the umpire at the bowler’s end, he ran an entire extra pitch before launching into his well-worn celebration. A kiss of the badge, a wave of the bat towards his fallen mate above, before acknowledging the adoring crowd.

Sure, Pakistan had been poor. CricViz identified that only 2% of Imran’s deliveries and 1.5% of Wahab Riaz’s were hitting the stumps while Warner was at the crease. But it’s probably fair to assume that England didn’t bowl the house down to Bradman or Trumper.

,p>The very idea of Warner as a Test opener required perseverance. He was a long time convincing the masses that he had the tools for the job. Now he’s the prototype for the modern man at the top of the list as much as Renshaw is for the conventional. Warner is living proof there is room for both, and on days like today inspiration for a host of others who may not quite fit.



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