Warner's riposte answered by Bulls
Queensland 5 for 256 (Lynn 78*, Khawaja 63, Peirson 52, Lyon 2-33) beat New South Wales 253 (Warner 139, Hopes 4-38) by 5 wickets
David Warner's fierce response to selection whispers that he is far from an assured starter in Australia's Ashes batting order was not enough to prevent Queensland from hurrying to a five-wicket victory in which a trio of discarded internationals all played their part.
Nathan Hauritz, James Hopes and Usman Khawaja all weathered Warner's 139 before responding with economy, penetration and elegance respectively, allowing the Bulls to win with six overs to spare at a wind and ash-swept North Sydney Oval. They were ably assisted by a fluent Chris Lynn, while Jason Floros shrugged off one Warner bludgeon onto the roof of the Bob Stand with a timely cameo after Nathan Lyon had nabbed Khawaja and Chris Moller with a pair of delectable off breaks.
On the morning of the match, Warner awoke to read that two places in Australia's Brisbane top six are considered up for debate by the selectors, the vacant No. 6 spot and also his own opening position. He was unhappy about this and batted with controlled fury, then declined to speak about his innings. The stand-in captain, Steve Smith, was left to wax lyrical about his Test team-mate.
"He was a bit slow early on but he struck the ball nicely today. He was disappointed with the way he got out - that was the start of a little collapse - but he as pretty happy with the way he it them," Smith said of Warner. "I hope he's back now and he can go off in the next couple of games as well. He's a quality player, obviously he has been for the last four or five years, so he's a pretty important member for our squad."
To begin with, Warner fought himself almost as much as some tidy new-ball offerings from Matthew Gale and Michael Neser, looking decidedly scratchy as he battled a period he had not survived in three previous matches that reaped scores of 4, 0 and 17. But after his first 20 balls the runs began to flow, through shots both orthodox and improvised, including one switch-hit to the third-man boundary. Though Warner did not quite middle it, the fact he tried it suggested comfort and confidence.
Watched closely by the selector Rod Marsh and the new Centre of Excellence batting coach Graeme Hick, Warner's assurance contrasted with what was seen at the other end. Peter Nevill struggled for timing until he punched to mid-off with the opening stand at 79, Steve Smith was run out after a mix-up with Warner, through a nifty piece of footwork by Hauritz to deflect the return onto the stumps, and Kurtis Patterson's promising innings ended when he was yorked by Neser. All struggled against Nathan Hauritz, who twirled through his 10 overs for a mere 31 runs.
Through it all, Warner kept his calm, choosing the right balls to despatch and doing so with conviction. He spent a brief nervous phase in the 90s, but reached three figures with a hurried single then an ebullient leap in the air to let out some of the tension that had clearly built up since his narrow escape from a NSW suspension for skipping a grade game with Randwick Petersham. He reached 139 before departing to a catch at long-on, but the rest were unable to carry it on.
Instead it was James Hopes who grasped the critical juncture of the match, scooping three of the last four wickets to round the Blues up for a total well short of the par at North Sydney, even accounting for a surface that offered helpful turn. Lyon would be by far the Blues' most threatening bowler, gaining significant deviation to end Khawaja's stay and even more expansive rip to bowl Moller as he shouldered arms, in what Smith laughingly termed "another ball of the century".
Knowing this, the Bulls went on to target other bowlers, notably Lyon's longtime friend and fellow 2011 Sri Lanka Test debutant Trent Copeland, who gave up 57 runs from six overs. Khawaja's dismissal by spin will not have been lost on Marsh, but his innings was decent evidence of his quiet resolve to regain his Test, which spot he spoke about later.
"Nath was bowling well there, it was one of those ones where he genuinely beat me, beat me for flight and got me out of my crease, he got the best of me there," Khawaja said. "He was the toughest bowler for them, luckily you can only bowl 10 overs in a one-day game so we worked out pretty quick that if we can fend him off we can score easily against the other bowlers.
"It's not rocket science they are picking blokes on form, that's why Chris Rogers is in the team. A few years ago with the old selectors he wouldn't have played. Obviously he has been an outstanding performer in Shield cricket and county cricket and done beautifully.
"I am quite confident in myself, I believe in myself and I believe in God and I am quite happy with where I am right now and I have faith I will play for Australia again, it is just a matter of when. It doesn't need to be rushed, good things come to those who wait. Hopefully I can keep scoring runs again and become a better player."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here