Rogers: 'When you batted with Warner, opposition wasn't actually concerned with what you were doing'

Chris Rogers, Joe Burns and Matt Renshaw on opening with David Warner, his best performances, and what makes him special

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Joe Burns and David Warner prepare for the opening Test, Brisbane, November 20, 2019

David Warner and Joe Burns have had six century stands in 27 Test innings they opened together  •  Getty Images

By any statistical measure David Warner is the best Test opener of his generation and only four openers in history have scored more than his 24 Test centuries. On the eve of his 100th Test match, ESPNcricinfo spoke to three of his Test opening partners - Chris Rogers, Joe Burns and Matt Renshaw - to find out what it is like to open with him and what makes him so good.
What is it like opening the batting with David Warner?
Chris Rogers (opened 41 times with Warner): Without a doubt, he would be among the most talented players I have batted with. And I've been lucky enough to bat with some good ones. But he definitely stands out from that point of view. When you batted with him, the opposition wasn't actually overly concerned with what you were doing. They were always concerned with what he was doing. It was almost like a mark of respect to him because they knew he could ruin the game within a session. Whereas the guy down the other end, they were comfortable that he would have to bat two or three sessions or more to change the game. But David could turn the game just like that. So, it was one of the benefits of batting down the other end with him. It was almost like you didn't exist.
Joe Burns (opened 27 times with Warner): There have been many times when you bat with him and there's no pressure on you because you know that you get down the non-striker's end and there's just a presence he has got at the crease. That's why it's so easy to bat with him, for me anyway. We seemed to bounce off each other really well. We had a lot of long partnerships, successful partnerships together. But for me, it was just the pressure that he took off his batting partner through his presence at the crease. I guess there's so much focus on him because he's so entertaining and he's so dominant that at the other end you can just chip away at your innings and get into your innings, get away with a few ones and get off strike, and the partnership just evolves from there.
"I'll never forget the four fours he hit in a row against Morne Morkel at Port Elizabeth [in 2014]. Morne was not bowling medium pace, and he is nearly seven-foot tall. It was some of the best batting I had ever seen"
Chris Rogers
Matt Renshaw (opened 16 times with Warner): Opening with him, it's a great feeling going out there. Because you know how he's going to take on the opposition bowlers, and especially for a young guy like me, when I came in, it felt like they were just concentrating on him. So I could get getting going how I needed to get going. I could take as much time as I wanted. But I always knew that he was there fighting with me at the other end, which was really good for me at the time.
What has made him so good for so long?
Rogers: One of the things I was most impressed with is how good a problem solver he is. I just expected him to have the attitude that, "I'm going to take down everyone." But I would have conversations with him where you could see him think his way through situations. That seems like it should be pretty obvious, but it actually isn't. Some guys would always have the mindset of "see ball, hit ball", and that's how they always played, but the best are not like that. The best are the ones who will manage the waves of the game, and he would do it.
Burns: He has got the ability to dominate attacks. With the new ball, bowlers are trying to put it in aggressive areas but he's so good at driving on the front foot, and then when they drop short, he has got that ability to kind of pick up the length [early]. He doesn't let the bowlers settle early doors. We've seen that for so long that he can dominate from ball one and put so much pressure on the opposition bowlers and opposition captain with the way he goes about it. I reckon where he has really improved over the course of his career is his defence. When bowlers do start getting that length right, which inevitably they do in Test cricket, he has got the ability to bat for long periods of time as well. Obviously, he has gone on and made a triple-hundred in the back end of his career. So it shows the ability to dominate from ball one but then also the ability to bat for long periods of time and it's very rare. We probably take for granted just how good he is because he has done it for so long. But it's so hard to find opening batters that can do both things as good as he does.
Renshaw: Just the way he came out there whether we're behind the game, whether we're in front of the game, just the way he always took the game on and tried to negate the lead or build a lead as quickly as possible with good cricket shots. When he started, and I was growing up watching him when he first came on the T20 scene, he was one of those guys who just played some big shots. But the way he has managed to forge his Test career, and the way he bats is something that a lot of people take for granted. But knowing how hard it is to bat at that level, the way he goes about things is really impressive.
"The ability to go from a Test-match opening batter to be able to dominate one-day and T20 cricket… When he is done, we will really appreciate just how good that was because I don't think another player like that is coming along any time soon"
Joe Burns
How difficult is it to do what he has done over 100 Test matches?
Rogers: Watching him go out and take down some of the best bowlers in the world against the new ball is extraordinary because everyone wants to be able to do it but you can't do it. There are very, very few people who have been capable of that. Obviously, [Matthew] Hayden did, but that came with his size and his brute strength. In Australian conditions, most guys have got to grind their way through.
Burns: I think that's the underestimated thing about how good a player he is. It's very rare to have players who can dominate all three formats and then you add in the fact that he's an opening batter as well. His skills in the red-ball game get challenged more than any other batting position. But then the ability to go from a Test-match opening batter, which you just don't see, to be able to dominate one-day and T20 cricket… When he is done, I think we will really appreciate just how good that was because I don't think another player like that is coming along any time soon. All the formats are becoming more and more specialised and players are going down one road as opposed to spreading themselves across all three and that shows just an ability to perform, but also obviously in his preparation, his physical and mental skill, everything that goes into it to be able to transfer your abilities into different formats.
Renshaw: I think it just speaks to his longevity and his skill. I think there's been a lot of times when people have questioned how he is going. But for me, I've always felt that he is such a class player, that he is just one innings away from turning it around. People keep writing him off but I know for a fact that he's completely driven. I know that he is just trying to do his best for his team, whichever team he is playing for. To be able to do it that well for such a long time is just a testament to how good he is.
What was the best batting you saw from him from the other end?
Rogers: I'll never forget the four fours he hit in a row against Morne Morkel at Port Elizabeth [in 2014]. Morne was not bowling medium pace, and he is nearly seven-foot tall. It was some of the best batting I had ever seen. At that stage, he had this ability to pick up the length [early]. That's probably what separates him from others.
Burns: To be honest, every time he made a hundred I just thought he was dominant in all aspects. There haven't been too many innings that I've played with him where I felt like the bowler was on top. It always felt like he was in complete control and it was almost a surprise when he got out. All the hundreds looked the same to me and that's probably a testament to his consistency, the consistency of his mindset towards the game. And I think that's probably what has allowed him to be successful for such a long time.
Renshaw: The most memorable would be the Sydney [century in the first session against Pakistan in 2017]. He never really said he was going to go out there and score a hundred in a session. He just went out there and batted. They bowled quite well to him but he just played some really good cricket shots. That was the most memorable because it was getting close to lunch and I was playing and missing, trying to try to get him on strike but then he was absolutely smacking them to all parts. He never put any pressure on me to try to get him on strike. It was more just keep batting, keep doing your job and then it just all worked out for him the way he saw it. Obviously, those hundreds in Bangladesh were pretty special as well. There were very tough pitches over there and he just found a way and did so well over there in pretty testing conditions.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo