England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, Durham, 4th day August 12, 2013

Warner can make a difference

For the duration of his innings it appeared David Warner would get the better of England, but it wasn't meant to be. However, it confirmed that Australia can't afford for his talent to be wasted

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.

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

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2013, 22:01 GMT

    He is a serious player. Pure talent and class. They don't have much batting wise, but Australia at least have him.

  • j on August 13, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    Hit out or get out Warner is a reasonably talented batsman but is lacks the temperament to make a long test innings and make them repeatedly. He should learn from Cook, who is a proven 'Daddy Hundred' maker. Good bowling has got Warner out in the series, but he deserves a lengthy stay at the top of the order whilst the selectors figure out who should fill the other ten places.

  • Tom on August 13, 2013, 16:34 GMT

    "The search for batsmen who like to mix it with their opponents is the one that matters most to Australian cricket at this time."

    I imagine Australia would settle for some runs, no matter who is scoring them, or how, or what their personality or attitude. Rogers is a good example of a pragmatic selection, and pretty much the opposite of Warner on every scale.

  • Roshan on August 13, 2013, 16:00 GMT

    You've got to take out Steve Smith. He's so poor. His batting is quite weak, his bowling is bad, he dropped a fairly standard catch in the last Test. He has no role in the side at all. At least Watson is a promising batsman and has something going for him, and his bowling is quite good too. If he sorts out the major flaws in his batting technique and avoids injury he will be a force for Oz. Warner should definitely be played, and I think he is the most talented Aussie opener by far, easily beats Hughes, Rogers and Cowan anyway.

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2013, 14:20 GMT

    The An Aussie tour to SA later this year will be an extremely interesting one. As a strong Protea supporter I feel we will cheat ourselves if we think the series will be a walkover. I think the Aussies have learned a lot about themselves during the past two months. Warner for one has made huge strides and Rodgers showed that in test cricket maturity counts for much. Harris is obviously a fighter and the only problem he may have on the harder SA fields is to stay healthy. I was so dissappointed in Siddle, especially at CLS, it seemed as if he bowled without any conviction or fight. His 16 or so wickets in 4 tests was below par for a player of his quality. I could really not understand why Clarke used him after Bird and Watson. Bird was out of his depth - why was Starc dropped? We can only hope that the Aussie selectors keep making the same mistakes in SA. Anyway - congrats to England. Bell was magnificant - the difference between the two sides really and Broad at last a factor.

  • Mahdy on August 13, 2013, 13:45 GMT

    Bring in Faulkner for Watson and, Starc for Bird. Give khawaja his LAST chance!!

  • Christopher on August 13, 2013, 13:20 GMT

    My sympathies remain with those players whose 1st Class careers commenced during a period in Australian cricket history,that I unhesitatingly deem to be purposed with undermining traditional cricket,to bring 20/20 to prominence. There can be little doubt that the nadir of 1st Class batting performance in the fully professional era,coincides exactly with the insinuation & deliberate weighting of the shorter format over the longer.It should hardly raise an eyebrow to see that players who were well entrenched at 1st Class level before the inception of 20/20,are those who continue to present answers at Test level.Despite numerous efforts of prestidigitation by CA to apportion blame elsewhere, including the delightfully specious,'Shield is weak', mantra, the entire farcical episode has been by design rather than accident,through interference in formerly successful & emulated processes.Note Arthur's elucidating,'Not concerned about India-4-0'.Really? Cause & effect.Keep your eye on the ball.

  • Christopher on August 13, 2013, 12:44 GMT

    I think there should be some perspective in this article. Warner is averaging 30 in this series. Before his 193 for Aus A on the world's flattest wicket, that saw three other personal high scores over 100, one exceeding 200, he was virtually un-selectable on form. There is some suggestion that his indiscretions counted against his selection but what about appalling form. Everyone loves a rags-to-riches story and the street fighter mentality and Warner appeals there. I had the temerity to suggest when Warner's average was well into the 60's, that I expected it to fall into the 30's. I based that on a number of holes in his game. These included the ball bouncing outside off from around the wicket. Short balls down the leg side from over the wicket. Challenges against finger spin from over the wicket. The Gilchrist cutting in the air on bouncing tracks, fallibility. Gilchrist himself suggested Warner at 6 and Watson to open. If he can help Aus, excellent, but he is hardly the panacea.

  • Nicholas on August 13, 2013, 12:29 GMT

    Ahhh yes, Switch-Hit-and-Out-Warner... you know the cupboard is not just bare, but falling apart from woodworm when players like him are considered to be the future...