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Ahead of milestone 100th Test, Warner vows to play like his old self

"I know when I'm at my best, I'm taking the bowlers on", he said, two days out of Boxing Day Test

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Warner's strike-rate has dipped in the last two years, but so has his average  •  Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Warner's strike-rate has dipped in the last two years, but so has his average  •  Chris Hyde/Getty Images

David Warner has vowed to go back to the future on the eve of his 100th Test as he strives to end his lean three-year run in Test cricket ahead of a massive 12 months for Australia's Test team.
Warner's milestone has given him pause to reflect on what has got him to this point and what has made him the player he is. He is just 78 runs shy of 8000 Test runs, and only four openers in history have scored more than his 24 Test centuries. Yet he has not passed three figures in Test cricket since January 2020.
But with his milestone match just two days away, he has vowed to play like the Warner of old as he searches for that elusive Test century.
"I know when I'm at my best, I'm taking the bowlers on," he said on Saturday. "It goes well and it flows with the team and the guy at the other end. Now I've probably gone a bit more responsible and trying to put the team into a good position without playing a bit rash.
"If anything I can probably be a bit more aggressive and go back to the older me, take them on a little bit more. But I think that also is dictated from what wickets you are getting.
"You don't want to have a dig at the curators, but the last two years our wickets have been green. If I go out there play a cover drive and nick one, you guys [the media] will have a feeding frenzy.
"But now I'm in good positions and I'm nicking off, that's the nature of the beast. This might be a wicket where I can go out and play like the old me. So you have to adapt to those conditions that's what I've been doing the last 18 months."
Warner's assertion that he has been more circumspect is evident in his strike-rate over the last three years. It has dipped to 57.21 compared to his staggering career rate of 71.18. Even more concerning though is the runs. In his last 15 Tests and 27 innings he has averaged just 26.07 with only four half-centuries. His numbers are even leaner in 2022. He has not scored a half-century in his last 10 Test innings.
Warner's claim that he needs to be more aggressive doesn't quite stack up against some of his dismissals in the West Indies series where he was out driving aggressively away from his body in three of his four innings. But he claims he has been out of luck rather than out of form from either a technical or decision-making standpoint.
"You look at some of the chop-ons and I've been in great positions when I've been nicked off," Warner said. "So there's nothing you can actually do about that. That's what happens in the game of cricket, it ebbs and flows.
"People [were] writing me off in that one-day game here [against England] and I went out and scored a hundred on a pretty dicey wicket.
"It is about making runs. You're never out of form. They're not the words that I use and they're definitely not used in our change rooms. It's about [being] out of runs. And for me, I've got those starts but I keep having a little bit of misfortune but at the end of the day it comes around and when it comes around it comes around fast."
Warner is hopeful it can come thick and fast on Boxing Day against a familiar foe. In celebrating his 100th Test this week he has been reminded of some of his great innings against South Africa, including his extraordinary 2014 tour that yielded three centuries against a world-class attack.
While South Africa's current attack hopes they have inflicted some psychological scarring on Warner in Brisbane, he has no such fears.
"I think if you look at the attacks that I've faced over my career, I wake up every day going into the nets facing the best attack in the world," Warner said.
"I've faced guys that bowl 145kph every training session. So it's not different for me. Am I scared going in those nets? 100% I'm scared. Going into the nets and facing those guys for the last decade has been a challenge in itself.
"But going out there and knowing that I've put numbers on the board against some of the great attacks that South Africa has produced, they stay with me when I go out there. You speak about Cape Town [2014], that was probably my best whole batting performance from the batting perspective and a lot of good things happened to me when I played against the South African attack.
"For me, it's about as I said, come out here with a positive mindset and hopefully I'll keep replicating that."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo