Pakistan v Australia 2012 August 24, 2012

Warner confronts his spin blind-spot


David Warner happily admits he struggled at times against the bevy of Australian spinners lined up on turning Darwin pitches in order to prepare him for the trip to the UAE. "The selectors have picked our best spinners over here to do the job," he said in Dubai. "And I know they can definitely do the job because when I face them in the nets I have a bit of trouble as well."

Though the admission was made primarily as a way of supporting the slow bowlers chosen for the tour, it said as much about the greatest blind-spot in Warner's batting as it did about the skills of Xavier Doherty, Glenn Maxwell and Steven Smith.

Ten months into Warner's time as an Australia opening batsman in all three formats, his development of a cogent plan of attack against quality spin bowlers remains a work in progress. Given a few of the challenges ahead of Warner and Australia, time is running short for him to settle on one.

The most immediate task is that of finding a way to confound Pakistan's considerable spin battery, featuring Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez. All have different approaches and weaponry, all have experience of defeating the best batsmen, and all will look upon Warner as a potential weak spot should the pace bowlers fail to pluck an early wicket.

Warner's notional weakness against spin is something that has emerged over time on the international scene. In Australia, Warner has enjoyed his encounters with local slow bowlers more often than not, using hard local pitches - and his own self-confidence in familiar surrounds - to strike them brazenly through the line, without too many considerations for the spin.

Even as a New South Wales Second XI batsman Warner's methods to spinners were clear, his early days as a middle order batsman as speckled with sixes off the slow bowlers as it was with impetuous, middling scores that played as much part in his delayed entry to first-class ranks as any preconceived ideas that he was more a Twenty20 slogger than a batsman.

However the longer he has played around the world, and against spin bowlers of greater guile and experience than may often be found in Australia, Warner has shown evidence of a struggle. He has appeared happiest to take a hyper-aggressive approach to spin in T20 matches, favouring the audacity of the switch-hit to upset a slow bowler's rhythm and line, but in the longer forms has been unable to consistently find the right gears.

Over the course of this year's West Indies tour, Warner did make some progress, advancing from the leaden-footed drive that had him snicking Shane Shillingford to slip in Trinidad to a more varied method in Dominica, where he essayed the sweep shot with some success on a surface that spun. However he stumbled badly when confronted at Old Trafford with the only turning surface of the ODI tour of England in July.

Warner was holding a faltering innings together until James Tredwell pitched full and straight, finding a way past the batsman's wretchedly half-hearted attempt to sweep. It was a sight to make any batsman wince, and any spin bowler grin. Expect Rehman in particular to try to whir his zippy left-arm orthodox in the direction of Warner's front pad.

Australia's assistant coach, Justin Langer, had his own torments against spin when batting in the Test top order of course, floundering through a tour of Sri Lanka of 1999 when Muttiah Muralitharan routinely made him look ponderous. Langer would improve his methods enough to make a century on the team's next visit to Sri Lanka in 2004, but the lessons were sure to have informed his suggestion that spinning pitches and slow bowlers be provided in ample quantities during the Darwin camp.

Strike rotation is one area that Langer has pushed, particularly to Warner, but it will also be critical that the opener shows commitment to his chosen methods, whether it be to play from the crease and off the pitch or to follow his captain Michael Clarke's example of dancing feet. The sweep remains a very useful option - Matthew Hayden's 2001 tour of India still stands as proof of what strong use of the shot can do to improve the spin defusing skills of a batsman seldom considered nimble - so long as Warner learns from Old Trafford and uses it decisively.

"Everyone says that some of us struggle against spin bowling, we know they're going to have a lot of spin bowlers as well," Warner said of Pakistan. "As we've said, we've practised very hard the last couple of weeks against spin bowling, so we know that over here we're going to have to be at our best and keep rotating the strike through the middle period or the tough periods."

Should Warner succeed against spin over the next two weeks he will have added a critical element to his batting, particularly given that the ICC World Twenty20 is to be held in Sri Lanka, and a tour of India will follow the home summer.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 26, 2012, 8:04 GMT


  • Christopher on August 26, 2012, 1:33 GMT

    @Meety..I dont like or dislike Warner. I do have an aversion to hype in advance of the facts. My sole regard is that the best 11 players take the field in their appropriate formats in their best batting positions with excellent plans and the physical ability and mental focus to execute those directives. Virtually none of the public statements made by CA or any of the players have proved correct for a number of years. In the end,the statements were so far removed from the facts that it was necessary for Argus to review the entire process. Only the capacity to observe everything exactly as it is,motivates the road to solution.Warners positives are that he has the capacity at times to score quickly and play long innings. Those seem to occur predominantly against weak opposition or on flat tracks or both. The comments on Perth were supported by the commentators at the time and I believe Dhoni's actions warranted investigation.If Warner produces quality,I will applaud,but not until then.

  • Christopher on August 26, 2012, 1:21 GMT

    @Marcio...if my observations are imbalanced,then explain his last 10 games please...6x ODI's, 2 x Aus A games and 2 x IPL games. His runs total from those games is 234 at an average of 26. That includes his highest score of 74 for Aus A against a virtual Leicester 2nd XI with 1st and 2nd gamers populating the attack. Remove that from his numbers and you have 160 runs at 20. His ODI average is a modest 32 and T20I average is 26. His Test average has already fallen to 42 and his 1st class average is now down to 51. I made these same observations when his Test and 1st class averages were far higher. If his results are the consequence of playing against quality opposition on full sized grounds then he will garner due credit. If,as took place in Perth against India,in Zimbabwe against opposition that the likes of Finch and Ferguson dined out on or on a postage stamp sized ground renowned for huge scores,then I deem them to be far less worthy of respect.His game has the failings I ascribed.

  • Marcio on August 25, 2012, 14:15 GMT

    @ hyclass, your references to Warner are anything but "well-considered" - they are extremely imbalanced. Your argument is basically that all his good scores can be ignored - including the 4 centuries he scored in internationals last season - his first year for Australia in tests and ODIs. Meanwhile all his low scores are "real". He also scored two centuries in his last two Champions League T20 games, and one in his short IPL stint last season. Warner is doing well, and he has the results to show for it after just one season in the big time. It is logical to think he will improve and continue to work on his weaknesses - and irrational to think he will somehow get worse to match your lowly opinion of him.

  • Andrew on August 25, 2012, 14:15 GMT

    @hyclass - I respect your knowledge of the game & how you come to a conclusion. There are times when I think you get the conclusion wrong, but can respect the methodology - however, I really don't get why you have to be negative about current players. "...Warner's numbers are bloated by the 211 in Zimbabwe,the 180 in Perth and the 165* on Nth Sydney oval among others." - Mate, you take peak performances out of any batsmen in any format, if they haven't played 100 FC matches or ODIs - their stats will be skewed. The fact is, 2 yrs ago - Warner had FC stats that were poor. He doubled them. Warner's ODI record was poor a year ago, he has nearly doubled it in just over a year. I believe he is trending upwards.

  • Dummy4 on August 25, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    When Warner doesn't have dancing feet, how can he "follow his captain Micahel Clarke's example of dancing feet"? Michel possess nimble feet. Clarke could even have become a ballet dancer! Also using his slim body and 'pretty' face; of course on both counts, age is gradually showing up! But for Warner, there are 3 options. 1) Hit out or get out. But OK only for T-20. 2) Build up more confidence while playing spinners, in playing any shot. Half heated aggressiveness is worse than timidity. Even while attempting the sweep shot. 3) Perfect the switch hit and deploy it, to disrupt the opposition, till ICC declares it illegal. Of course, there is a 4th one: Don't play tests!

  • david on August 25, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    some time randy you can be as articulate as meety very similar perhaps 2 minds or 1

  • david on August 25, 2012, 11:13 GMT

    we will see how good the aussies are if they can defeat the affies, then move on to pakistan. as the captain is the only one able to play spin with any semblance of skill.

  • Christopher on August 25, 2012, 10:21 GMT

    @RandyOz...If you have an interest in cricket,then talk about cricket please.If you want to make a point about Warner,then do so and if you wish to provide well researched statistics that you believe support your hypothesis,the opportunity exists on this site.If you believe there is merit to your opinion,provide the evidence.It wont be hard to find if its true.If you want to make valid comparisons between the previous selectors and I,formulate a well considered position and provide the one missing essential ingredient from all your blogs-well researched EVIDENCE.Otherwise,stop wasting the time of people who do make the effort.

  • Christopher on August 25, 2012, 8:19 GMT

    With respect to Hughes@Meety,I remain unconvinced that he is applying his intelligence enough.His season with Worcs is reasonable with 2 List A 100s & 2 1st class 100s & numerous 50s in all formats.Also the weather has had a big influence on the wickets. My concern with Hughes is that he is no longer making those big conversions of 50s to 100s. In each game that he made a 100,he also failed. I'm convinced that his change of grip and associated front shoulder position are behind it. On each occasion that he passes a milestone and puts the foot down,he is caught.His original and unusual grip changed the geometry of his shot giving him greater and later control. The more orthodox version has removed that. His 1st class average reached 62. Its now down below 47,despite 19 centuries. I dont want to see him near the Test side until his 1st class average is closer to 60 again. Someone suggested the ODI side could be an option.I dont want him lost to Tests but do want him smarter & better.

  • No featured comments at the moment.