Fox Cricket’s Kerry O’Keeffe cheekily predicted before the second day’s play that if David Warner broke his Test century drunk on Tuesday, he’d break Brandon Starc’s Australian high jump record.
And the veteran opener would’ve gone close when he passed triple figures.
For when Warner leapt into the hot Melbourne air to celebrate his 25th Test century, there was clearly an extra spring.
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Of all the centuries Warner has produced at international level, few would’ve felt as satisfying, relieving and emotional for him as scoring a hundred in his 100th Test while under the most external scrutiny he’s ever faced.
Warner’s family and the entire crowd at the MCG rose to their feet on Tuesday after Warner tucked a short ball from Kagiso Rabada to the fine leg boundary for four.
The left-hander sprinted towards the Shane Warne Stand, removed his helmet and extended both of his arms before leaping and punching the air with his helmet. He then blew a kiss towards his wife Candice and her kids in the grandstand, with Candice struggling to hold back tears.
“For him to be able to do it while his back is against the wall means even more,” Candice Warner told Fox Cricket.
“You’d think by now writing David off is probably the wrong thing to do. He thrives on that.”
Steve Smith stood back to let Warner have the limelight. And you sensed Warner needed those few seconds, as this was a milestone he truly wanted to savour.
“Fairytales come true,” former Kiwi keeper Ian Smith aptly said on Fox Cricket.
Warner’s previous triple-figure score had been against New Zealand on January 6, 2020. Eighteen Aussie Tests, 28 Warner Test innings and 1086 days later, he was a centurion again.
It genuinely felt last week Warner had arrived at a crossroads following a golden duck then a score of three against South Africa at the Gabba.
But as the cricket world has become accustomed to with Warner, he responded to his critics. Emphatically.
“One of the great motivations in sport and in life is to prove people wrong – and it’s driving this boy from Matraville,” O’Keeffe told Fox Cricket.
“At 36 years of age, people are saying ‘twilight time’ – is it? Not in David’s mind it’s not.
“The last time Warner played as disciplined as this, he got a hundred on a green top against New Zealand in Hobart (in 2011) … He’s wound the clock back.
“His reaction time, his shot selection … the trademark punches through cover off both feet – it’s all been on display.
“This is a drama where you couldn’t write this script. He looked gone in Brisbane – I know it was a sporting pitch – but the doomsayers were saying ‘he’s gone, he’s in the dimming twilight’. And he’s bounced straight back.”
There were a seemingly endless number of Warner records passed during his knock.
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Warner became the eighth Australian men’s cricketer to pass 8000 runs – quintessentially with a four all-run. He also became the fifth batter to pass 5000 runs on Australian soil and overtook Mark Waugh in seventh spot for most ever Test runs by an Australian.
When he reached his ton, Warner became just the second Aussie batter – and the 10th overall – to score a century in their 100th Test.
Most remarkably, Warner became the first player in Test history to score at least three hundreds at the five major Aussie venues: The MCG, SCG, Gabba, WACA/Optus Stadium and Adelaide Oval.
Aussie legend Michael Hussey said he could sense Warner was primed for a big innings after watching him negotiate a tough one-hour period at the end of day one when the opener had everything to lose and little to gain.
Hussey highlighted how Warner picked his deliveries to defend and attack, adding how impressed he was by the left-hander’s early pull shots against Rabada anytime the Proteas paceman dropped short.
“The way he played (on Monday) was in stark contrast to how he played in Brisbane,” Hussey told Fox Cricket. “He really did look tentative, he wasn’t watching the ball right onto the bat … he just did not look like the David Warner we’d become accustomed to.
“But (on Monday), he was a different player. He looked positive from the word go, he was aggressive, he was looking to put some pressure back onto the bowlers, get Australia off to that fast start.
“It was back to the David Warner we’ve been used to seeing for all these years. He showed real intensity at the crease and was watching the ball closely, he was calling loudly and running well between the wickets.”
Warner passed 50 midway through the first session on day two. But as he raised his willow to acknowledge the crowd’s applause, there was a steely look of determination on his face. He knew his job was far from complete.
Arguably the trickiest part of his innings came just after lunch when he faced a nasty, fiery spell from Proteas paceman Anrich Nortje, who sent down thunderbolts over 150km/hr from around the wicket – an angle Warner has traditionally struggled to play. But the left-hander, somehow, survived and found a way to rotate the strike with Steve Smith by scoring singles.
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“It’s a good sign David Warner is watching the ball, because not many would be able to keep that up,” star Aussie keeper Alyssa Healy told Fox Cricket after Warner defended a scintillating Nortje yorker.
“It’s probably not textbook the way he’s played Nortje, but I don’t mind it. He’s setting himself up to be able to get under the short ball if need be. He’s not really looking to hit the ball down the ground setting up that way, but I don’t think he’s too concerned about that. I think it’s more about self-preservation, rather than something extravagant.”
Warner spoke pre-game about batting with a more positive mindset – a Warner trademark that had, by his own admission, disappeared from his game in recent times. But against the Proteas, he watched the ball closely and had so much energy running between the wickets.
O’Keeffe was particularly complimentary of a back-foot punch Warner played through the covers while in the 50s.
“This is David from 10 years ago, how quickly he reacted to this shot,” O’Keeffe said.
“The weight transfer, drop the hips, head still at contact, eyes on the ball, beautiful bat face for that shot and punched it through his favorite area and took off like a hare.
“He’s on point. It’sa measure of when he’s playing at his best when he’s on the back foot, balanced and closing the bat face to control it down.”