Warner can make a difference
David Warner has made three Test hundreds. Each of them has been different, each of them brilliant, each of them worthy in circumstances that required something special. He is a cricketer who waits for no man. The electricity he brings to any field of play comes from a rare talent and a feisty manner. To use a modern phrase, Warner is "in yer face." Today, a fourth hundred seemed certain until Tim Bresnan, England's man for all moments, found a wicked ball. The little fella was good enough to nick it and his show was over, job only half done.
He would not have known then, but Australia's show was over too. Too few had the stomach for the fight. Warner was one, others were hard to find. Michael Clarke, of course, but if Bresnan's ball was wicked, the one Stuart Broad conjured up for the captain was top of the unplayable chart. In the immediate period after Warner went; five wickets fell for 13 runs in the blink of an eye. England had hovered, like vultures on the plains, and when the moment came they swooped to feed from the carcass of Australian cricket. It was almost cruel.
Afterwards, Alastair Cook admitted to being overwhelmed and Broad said he had never played cricket in white clothes so late at night. England's celebrations were deserved, as much for the rethink at the tea-break as anything else. When you are on a roll, just about anything can happen and it did. Just a couple of hours after looking gone for all money, Cook and his men stood on the podium of victory after a triumph borne of unwavering self-belief.
And that is what Australia now lack: truthful, deep-rooted belief in themselves. Clarke was pale, shocked, forlorn. He said he thinks the batsmen are better than the series suggests. Consistency is hard to come by, he said, and with it he knows that the winning habit is but a memory. It was not the moment to ask what must be done but, clearly, many more runs are needed if Clarke himself is not to suffer from the ongoing burden of expectancy and drag the thing down still further. Strong characters have never been more necessary and the search for batsmen who like to mix it with their opponents is the one that matters most to Australian cricket at this time.
Warner is one of those and, watching him at work, you wondered why on earth he was not a shoo-in for an Australian shirt every week of the year. Then you see a few of his tweets, read of a brawl, hear of his tussles with authority and wonder some more. He is one of two brothers who play for the Eastern Suburbs Club where their parents, Howard and Lorraine, make the tea.
It is a no-nonsense working class family that get immense pleasure, and occasional pain, from the younger of the two lads. How they must despair when they read of their David throwing a punch at the English cherub, Joe Root. How they must rejoice when they sit up through the night and see an innings so rich in its strokeplay and so powerful in its impact that a whole nation feels its effect. For a time in those early Australian hours, a famous victory was in sight. Had it come from the boy's flashing blade much, if not all, would have been forgiven.
Warner was the first Australian cricketer since 1877 to represent his country before he played a first-class game for his state. Selected out of close to nowhere for a T20 match against South Africa - Dale Steyn and all - in Melbourne just over four years ago, he clubbed 89 from 43 balls of mayhem. This fearless brilliance was a product of the system and the times. The sudden promotion proved that the age old system of Australian cricket still worked but were it not for T20 cricket, it may have been a brilliance still hidden from the mainstream of the state and national game.
It was not until late in the summer of 2008-09 that red-faced New South Wales selectors called him to arms in a Sheffield Shield match. T20, and the IPL behemoth, had been the single biggest game changer since the advent of limited-overs cricket back in 1962. Mindsets had altered, along with attitudes and techniques. Warner took the game on in a way hitherto unexplored, with a liberated brain and a series of breathtakingly unorthodox strokes that confounded the best laid plans. Save Chris Gayle, there was no-one like him.
Runs came so fast in T20 cricket that records were slain. As the legend developed so did the pressure on the Australian selectors and by early December 2012, this uncomplicated young man became the first of his kind - the first to make the journey to Test match cricket via the shortest form of the game there had ever been.
In only his second Test, he made a brave, calculated and ultimately magnificent hundred against New Zealand in what proved to be a losing cause, by just seven runs. Warner was left stranded, unbeaten on 124 out of 233 when Nathan Lyon had his stumps ripped out of the ground by Doug Bracewell. That hurt.
A month later, he slaughtered the India attack at the WACA, taking just 69 balls to score the fourth fastest Test hundred of all time and going on to 180 at better than a run-a-ball. Not only was this box office, it was a new ball bowler's nightmare. The third of those three innings came last November at the Adelaide Oval against South Africa, the number one team in the world. This was a classy affair with more strokes than hits and a lovely measure against blokes who could really bowl.
The point of all this, is that the talent and the ability to put it to good use is there. For Warner to end up in the sin bin, banished to Southern Africa to play for Australia A instead of representing his country at Trent Bridge and Lord's is criminal. There is no excuse, none. For a limited time in his life, a man has the chance to make an impression. Rather than fire off texts and punches, Warner should take it upon himself to help the captain, the huge-hearted bowlers and the new coach get this show back on the road.
Perhaps he started in County Durham today and destiny was against him. Perhaps there was one more piece of punishment to take. Whatever, it is in David Warner's gift to start making a real difference.
Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK