Warner ton powers Thunder home
Shane Warne dominated the build-up, David Warner dominated the match. Sydney Thunder's captain courageous, Warner, spanked an unbeaten century after sparkling in the field to lead his team to a six-wicket victory over the Melbourne Stars in the Twenty20 Big Bash League encounter at the MCG.
Combative but also imaginative, Warner marshalled his team intelligently to restrict the Stars to 7 for 153 on a pacey surface. He then crashed no fewer than six sixes in an innings of belligerence, peaking at the moment Warne entered the attack in front of a 23,496-strong Melbourne crowd that has adored him for nearly 20 years.
Warner chose that over to launch into the most monstrous six over long-on, and heaved another in Warne's second. He would bowl only two overs for 19 runs, no doubt restricted by the burns a cooking accident had inflicted on his bowling hand.
The Thunder's bowlers had given Warner a decidedly manageable target to aim at with a stolid ensemble, highlighted by the bowling of the unheralded Scott Coyte and Luke Doran. Doug Bollinger grabbed two wickets though he struggled for rhythm and speed.
Chris Gayle accompanied Warner to the middle for the chase, an opening combination of awe-inspiring power. However Gayle's stay was brief and painful - he was struck a blow on the gloves by the sharper-than-you-think James Faulkner, before being yorked by the left-armer's slower ball before the first over was complete.
Warner was thus left a free stage on which to perform, which he did with all the confidence of a man who must surely now be an integral part of the Australian Test team against India. Of the Stars' bowlers only Faulkner escaped punishment, as Warner biffed them in a display that showed how far he had come as a batsman since his international Twenty20 debut against South Africa at the MCG in 2009. The England bowlers Luke Wright and Jade Dernbach went for a combined 71 from their eight overs.
The only other talking point was the sight of wicketkeeper Matthew Wade wringing his hand after a painful blow on the gloves - his is a set of digits the national selectors would prefer not to be harmed while Tim Paine convalesces.
A speedy, skiddy pitch had greeted the Stars batsmen after Warner sent them in upon winning the toss - a task performed by Elizabeth Hurley - and the pace offered value for strokes as well as possibilities for the bowlers. Bollinger struck first, causing Rob Quiney to miscue to mid-on, while Wade managed only 14 before top-edging a Doran delivery slanted across him to short fine leg.
David Hussey and George Bailey added 41 and seemed to be setting the hosts on the path to a substantial tally, but Bollinger found a way past the flailing bat of the Tasmanian captain. Hussey's striking was typically clean and powerful, including one Bollinger delivery swung many rows back into the Great Southern Stand.
Coyte was delivering a fine spell, and his wickets either side of Hussey's run-out kept the Stars in check. Hussey was clearly aggrieved at his own misjudgement, when he chanced a second run on the arm of Warner and lost conclusively.
Wright added some useful late runs with a bevy of skimming blows, but the final total felt middling at best. Thanks to Warner, it was ultimately made to look considerably less than that.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo