'Ironman' David Warner's 335-run journey from ignominy to history

Warner didn't believe he would ever beat Bradman's record (1:43)

David Warner says he will cherish the moment for the rest of his life after hitting record-breaking 335* v Pakistan (1:43)

How remarkable was David Warner's 335 not out, the highest Test score at Adelaide Oval, and the second-highest score ever by an Australian in Test cricket?

It was an innings big enough to take him past the iconic 334s of Sir Donald Bradman, whose name adorns the pavilion into which he walked at its end, and Mark Taylor, who applauded warmly from a radio commentary box at the achievement of his fellow left-handed opening batsman.

It was scored with speed and vitality, supreme fitness, and outstanding concentration in conditions that, while not unpleasant for batting, were no picnic. Unpredictable enough that a batsman as well set as Marnus Labuschagne, on 162, was clean bowled between bat and pad, and helpful enough for Australia's pacemen that Pakistan would slide to 6 for 96 by the close.

Most remarkable, though, is the fact that this innings took place at all.

ALSO READ: David Warner becomes seventh Australian in triple-ton club

One of Justin Langer's first - of innumerable - meetings after his appointment as Australian coach in May last year had a simple, vital premise: to hear all that he could hear about the Newlands scandal, and to ponder how Warner might be readmitted to the Australian team.

Steven Smith and Cameron Bancroft were not central subjects of this discussion, for there was little doubt that they would return to the fold once eligible. Warner, as has been the case so often in his career, was the wildcard, after he had been isolated by Cricket Australia as the figure on whom most blame was publicly placed. Fair or not, this focus had made the journey back so much harder, and the public attacks on Warner so much more intense.

With time, and perspective, views of Warner have cooled from that pitch of desperation and assumption. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Cape Town, he had so often acquiesced to the Australian team's demands in the past; he had always batted for team first; he was still one of the most gifted opening batsmen Australia have ever had. So he started on the road to selection and acceptance, keeping quiet when Smith and Bancroft made far more noise in exile, and wearing the fact that, in contrast to the other two, he was banned for life from any leadership role.

It was around March 2019 that Warner began seriously preparing for his international return, having observed a summer in which it was patently obvious that Australian cricket was not so chock full of quality batsmen that it could discard him.

He was to arrive via an IPL in which he hammered the world's best T20 bowlers and looked very much like his old self, only hungrier and leaner. Quite a return to major cricket, this was also something of a false dawn: Warner was unable to dominate the World Cup, though he scored plenty of runs at a more sedate tempo, and he was unable to have any impact at all on the Ashes, repeatedly confounded by Stuart Broad even as Smith turned in the finest series of his career.

Worries and questions swirled, not exactly about Warner's place in the Australian team, but about where his story might go next. Sponsors and broadcasters who had rushed back to Smith still kept their distance; the selection chairman Trevor Hohns openly queried how he might fare when asked questions from around the wicket by other international bowlers; journalists still wondered whether Warner might be received by more boos than cheers on home soil.

Adelaide, as it happens, provided the first flash of promise for Warner this summer, as he hustled his way to a first-up century in a T20I against Sri Lanka. The confidence derived from this innings gradually built into a powerful wave of poise and performance as he recalled the sort of dominance he had previously enjoyed on home shores. It was building, steadily, towards something, somewhere. Unfortunately for Pakistan, Warner found the return visit to Adelaide Oval to be to his liking.

Like most innings of this magnitude, Warner's had a background (how he got there) and a foreground (how he did it). The foreground at Adelaide Oval was the way in which he called, ran, backed up and bullied Pakistan's fielders, unrelentingly. Daring them to run him out, and ultimately defeating their will to do so. Having seen off the early attempts of Mohammad Abbas and Shaheen Afridi to threaten him in similar areas to Broad, Warner grew progressively more confident and pugilistic in his pursuit of boundaries, yet he still scored only 162 of 335 runs by reaching or clearing the rope. Instead, he was all fitness and engine, batting as ironman race.

And what could be more fitting than that, given the long and productive relationship with his wife Candice, a former ironwoman. The moment Warner started preparing for an innings of this kind dates back to the very first year of their union. In 2013, not too long after they got together, Warner was hitting balls with his longtime mentor Trent Woodhill.

Tired and ready for a break after an hour, Warner and Woodhill started packing up, only to be asked by Candice why the session had been so short. No-one taught Warner more about the value of physical stamina and the diligence required to achieve it than Candice did, and there was every indication that, even in the darkest moments of 2018, this quality helped to keep Langer convinced that he should return to the national team.

"I love the way he plays his cricket," Langer had said back in May 2018. "The way he runs between the wickets, the way he fields, the way he bats - they're things that for the less-trained eye, you might not respect as much. Has he got areas to get better at? Yep ... we've all got areas we can get better at."

So it was entirely fitting that Candice would be in the crowd of 33,943 at Adelaide Oval to witness Warner march off towards the Sir Donald Bradman Pavilion with a higher Test score than its namesake, and with every indication that he could have batted long enough to double his 335 not out had Australia not been pressing for victory against an uncertain weather forecast.

Warner was fresh enough, in fact, to walk straight back out after a ten-minute changeover with team-mates to take the first catch of Pakistan's innings, ahead of a passage that underlined that this pitch was far from placid. He had played a remarkable innings all right, remarkable for its existence as much as for its conception.