Until tonight, David Warner's ODI career was an anomaly. He had scored two superlative Test centuries despite limited first-class experience (only 17 games, including six Tests), he had set the Twenty20 world alight, but the one-day international game remained unconquered. He had played 18 games before today for just 405 runs.
Warner nearly did not play the first final. On statistics alone, he would have been the choice to make way for the returning captain Michael Clarke. Cricket does not work on statistics alone, though. Australia stuck with Warner. They knew he could win a match off his bat alone. They knew he could play above the game around him. They were right. Warner responded with the eighth-highest maiden century in the history of ODIs. Six of the seven above him came against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe or Associates, with the other against New Zealand.
Warner has always challenged logic. He was a Twenty20 showman who watched balls sail into the stands with his hand on his helmet, and hardly played first-class cricket. Then came the Tests, and all you wanted to ask was: where the bloody hell were ya? It remained confounding, though - a bit like it was with Virender Sehwag a few years ago - that this man had the two extremes figured out and was struggling with the middle path.
"It is cricket, isn't it? The way I play I am going to come off sometimes, and sometimes not," Warner said of the phenomenon. Perhaps his reputation hurt him. Perhaps he wanted to dominate a bit too early. Like with Sehwag, you knew it would not be too long before Warner would say hello to this format too.
After he scored that whirlwind Test hundred at the WACA, Warner said that he had been worried because the runs had not been coming for him in recent times. He did not feel any such nerves today, despite a slow start to his ODI career. "At the end of the day, I didn't feel any pressure at all," Warner said after Australia's victory at the Gabba. "I backed myself, my instincts and how I play. I went out there with the same attitude, to get the team off to a good start, and I did. Me and Matt [Matthew Wade] put on a 100-run partnership, which was fantastic. At the end of the day it is cricket, and I am thoroughly enjoying it still."
Australian conditions, which offer movement for longer than has become the norm in ODI cricket, perhaps require a more circumspect approach at the top, especially with two new balls. Warner built a solid foundation today, not going out of his way to hit boundaries. It was also the time when the pitch was at its freshest. The ball jagged around, but it helped that Matthew Wade ran away at the top.
"Obviously the first 50 runs were a bit scratchy," Warner said. "I felt that I didn't really hit one ball off the middle, but by then I knew I had to keep going, with Matthew. I had to be there at the end. I knew in the middle period if I kept going and got a big hundred, we would get 300."
Warner did make a change to his mindset in that he wanted to bat through the 50 overs. "We have always said that one of the top four batters has to bat through because then we'll get 300," Warner said. "Today I had a job to do. That was my role, and I was the set batsman. With the Powerplays I had to bat my normal way, and I did that, and when Michael [Clarke] came in he said to me, 'You try to be there till the 46-47th over, and I did that.' It was a conscious effort from me to stay there through the 50 overs, and it put us in a great position."
Once Warner got in, he sizzled. The middle overs and spread fields did not seem to matter. The bowlers were not safe, nor were the umpires, and the crowd too had to be alert. The two shots that often stand out for Warner are his pulls and cuts in front of square, which become important when the pitch is slow, as it was tonight. Warner kept hitting those shots once he had reached the middle part of the innings.
The persistence with a potential matchwinner has paid off for Australia, but Warner strained his groin too, while turning back for a second in the 45th over, and it is "very very" sore at the moment.
Warner's performance should have set up a one-sided win for Australia. That they did not win it so convincingly is a different matter, but Warner brought back memories of numerous ODIs that Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden took away from the opposition, something Australia have missed since their retirements.
Edited by Dustin Silgardo