David Warner and Ed Cowan met mid-pitch to discuss a bowling change. This was the WACA in 2012, and India seamer Vinay Kumar was about to bowl his first ball in Tests. Australia had dismissed India for 161, and now the openers were looking to make it to stumps. After five overs, Warner had pushed Australia to 30, and now the two batsmen were chatting about the new bowler.
They agreed that they should take a good look at Vinay. Cowan worked one into the gap. Warner played out two dot balls with three slips behind him. The next ball, Vinay bowled a slightly overpitched ball around off stump that curved into the stumps. It was a perfectly acceptable Test ball, it could have been punched back down the ground, or defended into the covers. Warner launched it back over Vinay's head. Cowan went down to him and asked why he'd played that shot.
"It was in my wheelhouse."
"You're going to the cricket ground, aren't you? Yeah, you may be able to help me; whatever happened to those cheating Aussie guys? Was it Warner?" my Uber driver asked on the way to Bristol to cover Australia's first match at this World Cup. The driver wasn't a cricket fan, and he couldn't even remember what they had done wrong, but still, David Warner was on his mind.
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Whether it is people in cricket asking me what it was like to work with him at St Lucia Stars, the media asking if he will enjoy the booing, or fans asking about his batting, I spend most of my time talking about David Warner.
Steven Smith's seen as a pure cricket nerd swept up in the desire to win, Cameron Bancroft as an ingenue, and the rest of the team at Newlands as clueless spectators. David Warner's role as pantomime villain is now so entrenched that he's seen as the evil mastermind stroking his white cat with a piece of coarse sandpaper one of his minions found.
The Warner we have seen at the World Cup has been different. Gone is the brash young guy slapping Dale Steyn into the Southern Stand, he no longer uses doubled faced bats, and he's probably not been in a Walkabout since he hit the UK.
In this tournament, his Powerplay strike rate is 68, the third-slowest on any player with 50 or more runs in that phase of the innings.
Warner dismissed this, after Australia's win against Bangladesh. "I don't mean to go out there and bat slow, I am trying to get a calculation on how many fielders I've hit in the first ten. It gets frustrating, you sort of middle one and it goes full pace to the fielder, and you can get off strike. I got frustrated against India, and against Afghanistan."
He was more dismissive of the notion that he'd been trying to go slow than he's been with most of the balls in the Powerplay.
The bull, the reverend, Davey, whatever you call him, looked timid.
Some of these changes happened before the sandpaper incident. He's developed into an incredible runner between wickets, his placement when looking for twos on the leg side is surgical, and he makes sure he bats deep now. But since he has come back into the Australia team, there has been a timidity, a lack of certainty.
Against Afghanistan, some said he looked like he hit the fielders a lot. But he had a bowler with a seven-two field bowl two straight maidens at him. The West Indies brought out an odd off-side shot that found point. With Australia chasing India's 352, he struck at only 66, and scored 16 off 34 balls from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. When he made his hundred against Pakistan, it was slower than a run a ball, and, despite coming on a postage-stamp ground, contained only one six. And his innings against Sri Lanka finished with a strike rate of 54, and from Australia's opening partnership of 80, he made 26.
It didn't seem to matter that Warner had won two Man-of-the-Match awards; everyone was asking what had happened to Warner.
On his elbow was the kind of device your auntie uses to further her amateur tennis career into her 60s. There's also talk of his shoulder. From the Australian camp came whispers of mixed messages, and even advice taken too literally. Some said it's as if Warner's been told to bat through the innings, and he was doing it as diligently as a prepper who believes in the apocalypse.
David Warner has survived the hell out of the World Cup Powerplays.
After 18 balls today, he had ten runs, and sliced another nothing shot towards point, where Sabbir Rahman dropped him. There were also inside-edges close to the stumps. It was the same start we've seen from Warner repeatedly in the tournament. Then Finch told him to "bat deep and bat time".
Warner took the advice and kept working the ball around the field. Then Shakib Al Hasan came on. He's probably the only thing saving this World Cup from the unscheduled monsoon season. Warner showed him the respect his bowling's deserved. And then Warner got down on one knee and hit him 94 metres over deep midwicket. Michael Slater on commentary said, "That's the Warner we know." We knew once.
At times he was almost the player Slater lusted over, backing away and trying to flat-bat over mid-off. The muscle shots of his early career. There was the dominant straight drive that cleared the boundary by a distance. He took on a Mustafizur Rahman's short ball for a hooked six. A knee-high full toss was helped over the short fence. There were plenty of boundaries, and he had a strike rate of better than a run a ball against all but one Bangladesh bowler.
But most of these runs and boundaries came late. He was 77 off 96; he batted deep, as he was asked to do. And then he made 89 off his last 51 balls.
The most dramatic of his shots may have come when Shakib was so out of ideas that he tried a wristspinning delivery, which looked like a fan had wandered onto the field to deliver. Warner saw the short, slow filthy ball early, rocked onto his back foot, and pulled it high into the stands 92 metres away. Had Warner held Shakib above his head while saying, "I was wondering what would break first, your spirit, or your body," before dropping him on his knee, it would not have been more brutal.
The hero of Bangladesh never delivered another ball. Warner made 166.
Warner made a joke in the press conference about how his team-mates call him "humble" now.
When Warner was out, there was a similar smile on his face. He'd just got into the flow for the first time since his return, and realised he had a chance of making 200. He was unbalanced, having tried to uppercut a slow bouncer two feet above his head. The ball floated gently to the fielder; he bent over at the waist.
It wasn't the Warner of old; it's not just his nickname that changed. At the change of innings, he said, "I felt a little bit bogged down there and again frustrated. I managed to hang in there and build a good partnership with Finchy and Uzi [Usman Khawaja] as well. When you're deep into your innings you're a bit fatigued. I was just trying to give our fast bowlers as many runs as possible to come out and start well."
He also said, "We're just trying to make up for that year."
He was talking about the runs he's not made. From wheelhouse to doghouse, and back again.