SA v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 4th day March 4, 2014

Warner thrives on sledges

'I love it when there's banter in the middle'

Throughout their long and legendary careers, it was a common dictate of bowlers and fielders not to sledge Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. In the case of Tendulkar, the verbals seemed to have no effect. In the case of Lara, they often served to rouse him to feats of batsmanship that may not have been seen had the opposition kept their mouths shut.

David Warner is still a long way from emulating either man in terms of run-making, but he too can be added to the 'do not sledge' ledger. Following the ball-tampering allegation he raised on Australian radio, Warner was not only fined by the ICC but warned by South Africa's captain Graeme Smith to expect a hot reception at Newlands. His response has been definitive, twin centuries in a dominant Australian display to cap the finest series of his career thus far.

While tempering some of his earlier excesses of quote-ability, Warner was frank in expressing his delight in making himself a target, then backing his ability to fight off his assailants, no matter how riled they may be. So much does Warner thrive on confrontation that he admitted to looking to start one if it was not already there.

"You don't always want to play like that but when there is a little bit of pressure on I do find another gear," he said. "It does help me sometimes but I think the other thing is that when I get out there and they start giving me a little bit of banter I love that I am in the contest then.

"If they are not going to talk to me when I am out there I will try to niggle them, I will try and say something when I bat. I've ventured away from that because now I have given ammo out in the media or in previous games. I love it when they come at me it is a challenge.

"Sometimes I think when I do deliver something in the media I probably do say it in a way where it does get misunderstood. But I've been brought up to be honest, I'm always going to continue to be honest and not cross that line. I've got to keep working on my ability to do that, and not give you guys ammo to write things."

It will never be forgotten that Warner made his start via Twenty20, having been held out of the New South Wales Sheffield Shield team long after his talent was apparent. On the advice of Virender Sehwag and the initiative of Greg Chappell, Warner was pushed towards longer form priorities in 2011, and after periods of adaptation and indiscipline is now taking up the lofty perch Sehwag had imagined for him.

"It goes back to that conversation I had with Virender Sehwag. He said to me I'd be a better Test cricketer than shorter format because all the fielders were in close," Warner recalled. "If you're going to take on fast bowling and the best bowling in the world you have to try and score runs and with my game I look to attack first before I'm defending and that's the way I've always played my cricket and that's how I will always play my cricket."

"I do feel respected, and the other thing is they know if they miss their mark that I'm going to start going after them as well. I've still got to be careful and respect the bowler in the conditions that we face. With the conditions that we've had here, the wickets have probably been batter friendly, but I've known my game and trusted my game [so] I can go after the bowlers."

Asked whether he could now consider himself the world's best opening batsman, Warner smiled, but for now allowed modesty to rule his ego. "I'll let you answer that question," he said. "I'm just elated that I'm in good form, I'm probably playing the best cricket I have in my career so far. It's fantastic to feel like you know when you go out there you can take on the world's best as I have so far. It's an amazing feeling but it'll be even better if we win this game."

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

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