Debutant Warner destroys South Africa
David Warner made one of the most memorable international debuts imaginable as he lit up the MCG with 89 from 43 balls to set up Australia's 52-run win over South Africa. Not even a superb 78 from JP Duminy could rescue South Africa's chase and he watched his partners fall around him as they fizzled out for 130 in the 18th over.
The crowd appreciated Duminy's brilliance, particularly when he scooped a Shaun Tait half-volley over the wicketkeeper's head for six, but it was Warner who was undeniably the star of the show. It was an incredible situation for a man previously so unknown that the scoreboard operators didn't have a photo of him when the teams were displayed.
Warner, 22, had already created history by simply playing the match; he was the first man to debut for Australia in any format without first-class experience since 1877. It's a fair bet he might get a game for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield after this performance.
His innings featured six sixes, including a paddle over fine-leg off Dale Steyn and Warner's personal favourite, a baseball-style slog over midwicket off the same bowler. What made the strikes even more impressive was that they were the first two deliveries Warner faced from Steyn, the man who caused Australia so much trouble in the Test series.
Warner raced to his half-century from 19 deliveries and it was the second-fastest in Twenty20 internationals, behind the brutal 12-ball effort of Yuvraj Singh when he put Stuart Broad away for six sixes in an over. The previous quickest for Australia was a comparatively unhurried 25-ball display from Andrew Symonds two years ago.
South Africa's bowlers simply didn't know where to bowl to Warner. A tiny man at 170 centimetres, he was so strong on the leg-side that one six off Jacques Kallis more resembled a home run as it threatened to reach the second tier of the Ponsford Stand before falling just short. It was a sight that must have pleased the IPL Delhi Daredevils, who signed Warner last month on the strength of a couple of blitzes at state level.
When the fast men tried to force him to play through the off side he demonstrated equal proficiency there. One cut for four off Kallis was so finely placed that Warner, who could hardly see daylight between the men at point and backward point, managed to split them. He also demonstrated his cricket brain by driving twos regularly when the field was back.
His breathtaking effort finally came to a close when he holed out to long-on off Makhaya Ntini, who had been on the wrong end of two consecutive sixes from Warner in the third over of the match. In the end South Africa did well to keep Australia relatively quiet following Warner's departure.
David Hussey (19) and Luke Ronchi, who made 11, were caught before they could reach full flight, and Ntini and Albie Morkel chipped in for two wickets each before Steyn finished things off with 3 for 38. Fortunately for Australia, South Africa's effort was just as uneven.
Apart from Duminy's effort, their chase never quite got back on track following the second over of the innings, a particularly nasty one from Tait in his first international match in nearly a year. No delivery in his first over was slower than 150kph. His first ball was a vicious 152kph bouncer that whacked Kallis on the shoulder but worse was to come for AB de Villiers.
Tait dug in a 155.4kph delivery short of a length, de Villiers looked to pull and bottom-edged the ball onto his hip. As he folded in pain, he lowered his bat in the follow-through and crashed it into his stumps. Hit wicket is an unfortunate dismissal at any time but it was a particularly embarrassing exit for de Villiers as he hobbled off clearly in pain with a bruised hip, although South Africa were hopeful of him making a quick recovery.
Nathan Bracken, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Hopes and David Hussey all chipped in for wickets and the scorecard was so lopsided that besides Duminy, no batsman passed 12. Duminy was outstanding and, apart from his six off Tait, he played much more typical cricket strokes than Warner.
A cover-driven four off Tait proved to Duminy's team-mates that the fastest man in the match was playable, and a straight-drive to the boundary off Hilfenhaus would on most days have been the shot of the match. His half-century took 35 deliveries but as the required run-rate ballooned, so did his risk-taking increase, until he was lbw to Hussey trying a lavish reverse-sweep.
The finish came when Tait rattled the stumps of Lonwabo Tsotsobe with 12 balls remaining. Tait's fiery 2 for 36 was just as impressive a sign for Australia as Warner's display. Australia retained their unbeaten record in Twenty20 internationals at home, and will look to continue their dominance when the teams meet again at the Gabba on Tuesday.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo