Warner silences his Test doubters
David Warner's career is only two Tests old but already he has achieved something that eluded Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer: he has carried his bat through an innings. Australia emerged from the loss to New Zealand in Hobart with plenty of concerns, but the way Warner adapted from Twenty20 to the five-day game was not one of them.
Warner nearly lifted Australia to an unlikely victory with his unbeaten 123, an innings of responsible strokeplay and impressive resilience. He survived into the 64th over, removing any lingering doubts about his suitability for the longer format, and joined Bill Lawry, Ian Redpath, David Boon, Mark Taylor and Simon Katich as the only Australians to carry their bat through a Test innings since World War II.
It continued an outstanding 2011 for Warner. This year he has averaged 75.53 from his 15 first-class appearances. Only two of his innings have been scored at better than a run a ball. The average length of his innings is 132 minutes. His near three-hour effort in the second innings at Bellerive Oval was impressive, but when he scored a double-hundred for Australia A in Zimbabwe in July he batted more than twice that long.
"As a kid growing up you want to keep striving 100% to get that baggy green," Warner said. "Now I have got it I am going to try to hold onto it as long as I can and I am going to keep doing that. Everyone keeps talking about T20 cricket but I have always said I wanted to prove I could play the longer form and at the end of the day it is overwhelming to show people what I have done."
Not that Warner is resting on his laurels. He knows that Test cricket won't get any easier, although the pitches might, and working at the top of the order requires intense concentration against quality attacks. He had a few moments of luck in Hobart and he is well aware of the challenges that will arise if he retains his spot in the side.
"There were some patches where I played at balls that I don't really need to," he said. "I'm still learning. At the end of the day, the next game, whatever it is, I've got to be a bit more cautious and more tight in my defence and hopefully I can keep playing my natural game.
"My mood is always going to be the same when I go out there and to achieve a milestone like that is always fantastic. But at the end of the day we lost and it's disappointing to be out there with eight runs to go and not get across the line."
It was a remarkable achievement in itself for Warner to get Australia so close to victory. When he was joined by the No.11, Nathan Lyon, Australia still needed 42 runs for victory. Warner refused to hog the strike and backed Lyon, who played some good shots but also survived two perilously close lbw calls, and in the end Lyon survived for 43 minutes before he was bowled by Doug Bracewell.
"It was our decision and 100% on backing my team-mate," Warner said. "No matter who it is, still going to back him. Every run was crucial. I batted with Nathan in Zimbabwe this year and he hit the running runs over there and we had to get 30 runs there as well. He's a fantastic person in general and was laughing and carrying on a little bit out there today and at the end of the day it's what happens. Doug Bracewell bowled well and it shouldn't have come down to Nathan there at the end anyway."
Warner battled a back injury in the later stages of his innings, receiving attention from the physio Alex Kountouris several times. However he was confident the problem would not cause him any long-term trouble.
"After I dived back in for a run-out chance I then played a pull shot and the right side of my back sort of seized up a little bit and I couldn't bend down but I don't think they took much notice of what happened so they didn't bounce me too much," he said after the match. "Obviously some of the drugs the physio gave me settled in and it's okay at the moment. I should be fine."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo