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David Warner rides his luck on way to 94

England left to ponder missed chances, no-balls and selection

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Midway through the opening session of the second day, TV cameras panned to the Gabba nets. Running in were 1,156 Test wickets with James Anderson and Stuart Broad relieved from drinks duty to prepare themselves, you would presume, to be unleashed with the pink ball in Adelaide.
In the middle of the ground there was an absorbing contest between David Warner and the pace bowlers England had selected for this opening Test. Warner had already had a life in what would be a charmed innings when he was bowled on 17 by a Ben Stokes no-ball.
Warner's final score, 94, was one run fewer than he managed through the entire 2019 Ashes when Broad was his nemesis. Whether Broad would have got him earlier in this innings no one knows - although surely Warner was happy to not see him at the top of his mark - but England's incumbent quicks certainly created enough opportunities to claim the wicket.
This time, however, it was Warner's day even though he would fall short of a 25th Test hundred.
In the 2019 Ashes, ESPNcricinfo's data recorded that Warner played 64 false shots among his 10 dismissals - so on average 6.4 per dismissal - whereas on the second day in Brisbane in played 30 false shots, the last of which was spooning a catch to mid-off. On one hand that is a reminder of how extraordinary the previous series was, and the brilliance of Broad, and on other the fine lines that batters tread between success and failure. "Sometimes you just nick everything," is a phrase you often hear from a batter.
Warner had not played first-class since last March and in his two Test matches against India last season he was virtually batting on one leg having been rushed back with a groin injury to patch up the top order. So this was his first Test innings without a physical hindrance since he flayed New Zealand and Pakistan during the 2019-2020 season.
He was troubled by Mark Wood's pace and Ollie Robinson's nibble but played and missed rather than nicking it. Sometimes Wood was just too quick and Warner did not always seem in control of his movements. Stokes found Warner's edge with his second ball but it evaded the cordon, although as later replays would confirm it was also a no-ball as part of a large picture of missed overstepping highlighted by the absence of no-ball technology.
Another edge against Robinson went along the ground and Chris Woakes produced a lifting delivery which was unplayable. Warner had scrapped to 32 off 76 balls during the first session when he twice deposited Jack Leach for six in what was a clear statement of how Australia plan to approach England's spinners in this series - Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head would do considerable damage on a chastening day for Leach.
When Warner's edge was found and it carried against Robinson, on 48, shortly after lunch the catch burst through the hands of Rory Burns at second slip to continue a forgettable two days.
Further evidence that fortune was with Warner came on 60 when he clipped the ball to Haseeb Hameed at short leg and instinctively set off for a run before realising Hameed had the ball. As he turned to get back into his crease he slipped, lost the bat and was left scrambling outside of the crease only for Hameed's shy to miss
Warner went to tea six runs short of a century but did not progress any further when he lobbed a catch to mid-off during a period where England briefly brought themselves back into the contest through Wood and Robinson.
On another day, like those he had two years ago in England, this could have been a very different story for Warner. He'll just hope he hasn't used up his fortune in his first innings.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo