Warner's chance to show Test credentials
David Warner will be out to prove he can become a Test opener when he faces the new ball during Australia A's upcoming four-day series in Zimbabwe. Warner is generally regarded as the quintessential Twenty20 basher, but an encouraging finish to the Sheffield Shield season has him determined to show that he can thrive in the longer format.
He has timed his run well, and although he won't be the first choice as a Test opener to replace Simon Katich, Warner is clearly in the selectors' wider field of vision as they look to the future. He is expected to open with Phillip Hughes during the Australia A four-day fixtures against a Zimbabwe XI next month, a vote of confidence in itself given that the squad also includes Usman Khawaja and Nic Maddinson, who could potentially partner Hughes.
Warner collected his maiden first-class century against Western Australia in March, and it was an important achievement for a man who made his Twenty20 international debut before he had played a first-class game. Now, he has found the patience for the longer format, according to the Australia A captain Tim Paine, who has been impressed by Warner's work ethic during the team camp in Brisbane this month.
"I would say at this stage it would probably be David Warner [to open] in the four-dayers," Paine told ESPNcricinfo. "He'll probably get the chance to push on from the impressive finish he had to his domestic season. Hopefully if he can transform what we know he can do in the shorter formats into the longer formats then he's going to be a pretty devastating opening batsman in the longer form, similar to something like what Sehwag does for India. That's something he's looking to bring into his game.
"The last six months he's started to find some hunger to actually play in the longer forms of cricket for Australia. Even today I reckon he batted for two and a half hours, which is something that in all the time I've been coming to the Academy with him as young guys, it's not something he has done. He's been a bloke who goes in and hits them really well for 20 minutes and he's happy with that. But at the moment there's a different drive to Dave Warner and he's looked good the last two weeks."
At a time when Cricket Australia wants to attract more young fans by expanding the Big Bash, it is encouraging that a short-form specialist like Warner still harbours Test aspirations. However, despite the belief of Greg Chappell - who will be the selector on duty in Zimbabwe - that Warner can be an effective batsman in the longer format, it's unlikely he'll win a baggy green in the immediate future.
When Katich was cut from Australia's contract list this month, there was still no room for Warner in the 25-man group, a sign that for the time being, the selectors consider his place to be in Twenty20 and 50-over cricket. The likely partner for Shane Watson on Australia's Test tour of Sri Lanka in August is Hughes, who Paine said was handling the pressure well ahead of the Australia A trip.
"He's been fine," Paine said. "He's been no different to when I've ever seen him. Hughesy is just Hughesy, he goes about it as he does. He's a fine player, so I'm sure if he gets the opportunity he can score a lot of Test runs - he already has, for a guy so young. I'm sure he'll be very, very keen to do well in Zimbabwe. He has a knack of scoring runs and I'm sure he'll do that in Zimbabwe and in Test matches he may get to play in in the future."
Hughes is one of several members of the Australia A squad who has a strong chance of making the Sri Lanka tour, along with Khawaja, Paine, Jason Krejza, Michael Beer, Ben Hilfenhaus and Callum Ferguson. But Paine said despite the axing of Katich suggesting that younger men might win Test opportunities, there had been no loss of focus within his side.
"Not so much around this group," he said. "It's been more in the media. I haven't heard anyone in the last two weeks that I've been here in our team talk about the contract list and who's out, and what the opportunities are going to be coming up. It's just everyone is pretty focused on getting over there and performing and giving themselves the best chance of being picked to replace those players if it does happen."
The Australia A players fly to Zimbabwe on Saturday for a triangular one-day series featuring the hosts and South Africa A, before they take on Zimbabwe in a pair of four-day games.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo