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Stats Analysis

David Warner: a giant among openers, among the best Test batters at his peak

Stats show Warner will remain one of the best openers to have played for Australia, and perhaps the best opener of his era

Shiva Jayaraman
24-Dec-2022
David Warner hit 335* in 2019, the second-highest score by an Australia batter in Tests  •  Getty Images

David Warner hit 335* in 2019, the second-highest score by an Australia batter in Tests  •  Getty Images

Eleven years since making his debut in Tests after playing just 11 first-class matches, David Warner is all set to be only the 14th player - and the third opener - to play 100 Tests for Australia. So far, Warner has 7922 runs at an average of 45.52 and a strike rate of 71.20. He is seventh on the list of openers with most runs in Tests, and has 24 hundreds - the second-most by any opener for Australia.
Only four other Test openers have more centuries than Warner. Among the 118 batters with at least 3000 Test runs since 1992, Virender Sehwag and Adam Gilchrist are the only ones to have scored faster than Warner.
The best at a tough gig
Playing through an era that has largely been difficult for openers, Warner has been the most prolific of them. As opener - where he has played 179 of his 182 innings so far - Warner has 7883 runs at an average of 46.10, over a 1000 runs more than the second on this list. Since his debut, only 11 openers have lasted long enough to score at least 2000 Test runs. Among them, Warner's average of 46.10 is easily the best.
Also since Warner started in Tests, the next best opener is Alastair Cook, who scored 6555 runs at an average of 41.75. Warner's 24 hundreds since then are ten more than the next most among openers. In fact, since his debut, openers from New Zealand (20) and West Indies (16) have collectively hit fewer Test hundreds than Warner.
The other Australia openers to partner Warner over the years have a combined tally of 16 Test hundreds. No one has more than five centuries among them. Before his current opening partner Usman Khawaja, Warner had opened with 14 different batters for Australia in Tests. Barring Khawaja, who has scored 1325 runs at an average of 69.73 in 24 innings as opener, no one has managed to average better than Warner as opener. Since his debut, Australia's openers have a combined average that is almost ten runs less than Warner's 46.09 as an opening batter.
Fab four, or five?
In under a couple of years after his debut, Warner entered a phase in his career when he wasn't just the best opener at the Test level, but was also among the top batters. Starting with the 2013-14 Ashes and ending with the home season in 2015-16, Warner scored 3066 runs at an average of 62.60 and made those runs at a strike rate of 81.50 in 27 Tests. No batter scored more runs in Tests than Warner during this time.
Among 76 batters to have played at least 20 innings in that period, Warner's average of 62.57 was the fourth-best, only behind Kane Williamson, Steven Smith and Angelo Mathews, who was ahead of Warner by the smallest of fractions.
Warner's best in Test cricket started with his hundred in the second innings of the Gabba Test in the 2013-14 Ashes. In his next 49 innings, Warner added another 12 centuries to his kitty. He was as prolific as Smith and Virat Kohli during their own best streak of 50 innings. Barring them, none of the currently-active Test batters have scored 13 hundreds over 50 innings.
During that time, Warner accumulated 3017 runs at an average 62.90. Apart from Warner, only four batters with active Test careers scored 3000 or more runs over 50 successive innings. Three of those are from the famous notional quartet of the Fab Four - Kohli, Smith and Williamson. Marnus Labuschagne's amazing recent run in Tests puts him also in that elite league. Joe Root scored 2849 runs at an average of 63.10 during his best stretch of 50 Test innings, and just missed out from this list.
However, none of these batters came close to the frenetic pace at which Warner scored his runs. Warner scored those 3017 runs at a staggering strike rate of 80.20. From the above five batters, Kohli came closest to Warner, but he was still slower by 20 runs per 100 balls.
In fact, none of his contemporaries has matched the scoring pace that Warner managed during his best years. Among batters with active careers who scored at least 2000 runs in their most prolific 50-innings streak, Rishabh Pant comes closest to Warner with a strike rate of 74.10.
Three Ashes tours: one successful, one forgettable
Warner has scored 1883 runs at an average of 39.22 as an opener in the Ashes. Only three other openers from Australia - Mark Taylor, Bill Lawry and Arthur Morris - have scored more runs in the Ashes. Warner has 17 50-plus scores against England, one every three innings.
However, Warner has been half the batter in England as he has been in Australia. At home, he has scored 1237 at an average of 51.50 in the Ashes. In 25 innings in England, he has scored just 651 runs at an average of 26.
The 2015 Ashes was Warner's best in England: he made 418 runs at an average of 46.40 in that series. Those were decent numbers for an opener in England. Only four other openers have ever managed to hit more 50-plus scores in an Ashes series in England than Warner's five in that series.
His last Ashes in England, though, was disastrous. He could manage just 95 runs from ten innings, with Stuart Broad dismissing him seven times. It was a forgettable series for Warner, as no batter to bat ten times from Nos. 1-7 in an Ashes series had ever averaged under ten runs per dismissal before Warner.
The last Ashes in Australia was also by far Warner's worst at home. He made a bright start in the series with two scores in the nineties in his first two innings, but lost steam after that. Warner made just 84 runs in the other six innings, including a pair in the last Test in Hobart. Warner's 273 runs in the series came at an average of 34.10, whereas in his first two Ashes in Australia, Warner had scored 964 runs at an average of 60.30.
Impeccable home record despite recent dip
Warner has always been a formidable batter on the bouncier and faster pitches in Australia. In spite of the rut he has got himself into recently, he averages an excellent 57.30 in Australia, scoring 4929 runs from 53 matches. Eighteen of his 24 Test hundreds have come at home.
Before 2021, Warner had averaged 65.90 in Tests in Australia. Among batters to score at least 3000 runs in home Tests since the post-war era until 2020, only Kohli, Smith and Garry Sobers averaged more than Warner.
But his last ten home Tests have fetched him just 445 runs at an average of 24.70. His twin scores of nineties in the Ashes are the only fifties he has struck in 18 innings, but he has also been dismissed before reaching double figures in eight of those innings. In his first 43 Tests in Australia, Warner had been dismissed in single digits on only 12 occasions from 75 innings.
But Warner isn't new to setbacks - both on and off the field - and has managed to come back strongly in the past. His unbeaten 335 against Pakistan in Adelaide in 2019 - the second-highest score by an Australia batter in Tests - was an illustration of that. That innings, and the 154 he got in the first Test of that series, followed his return to Test cricket after serving the ball-tampering ban and a disastrous Ashes in England.
His 100th appearance for Australia might inspire him to make yet another comeback at the age of 36. Even if it doesn't, Warner will remain one of the best openers to have played for Australia, and perhaps the best opener of his era.

Shiva Jayaraman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo @shiva_cricinfo