Australia in South Africa 2014: 3rd Test Day 1 … Warner’s Wonder and the Captain’s Courage

Everything went Australia’s way on the first day of the third test at Newlands overnight: right from the minute Australia won the toss and batted they had the advantage in the game.

David Warner, much maligned by many during the week including me, finally did what many want from him: he let his bat do the talking. This was another innings of quality from Warner that mixed outright aggression at the start with graft to get to his hundred when the South Africans lifted their performance. Now if only he could stop doing all the things that fail to endear him to fans of the game he could be a world beater!

The loss of Dale Steyn with a hamstring strain is a massive one for the South Africans who, as happened in Port Elizabeth, find themselves a bowler down. Morne Morkel was excellent for the Proteas on what was a tough day at the office otherwise for them.

The highlight for me, despite the Warner hundred, was the innings of Michael Clarke: it has been a long time since a fast bowler has attacked a batsman as overtly as Morne Morkel attacked Clarke early in his innings and whilst he looked equal parts ungainly and lacking in technique he deflected the blows Morkel struck, got through the tough period and the thrived. Out of form going into this fixture it was almost as though the speed of Morkel energised Clarke and it now looks like there is little to stop another hundred for him on Day 2.

A final note: I see no other result in this game other than a draw. The pitch is flat. Scratch that: the pitch is very flat. It does no favours to cricket and its fans when wickets like this are trotted out in such important fixtures.

Play commences at around 6:30pm tonight Brisbane time.

The Warner Files: finally Cricket Australia sees sense

I have been calling for David Warner to be dropped from the Australian cricket team for some time on form. In case you missed my writing on this here is a selection of my thoughts explaining why Warner should be dropped and returned to first class cricket:

David Warner: time to consider a “mature age” apprenticeship? |

The Warner Controversy: where to from here? |

Australia A in South Africa: 193 reasons David Warner should stay in Africa! |

Whilst it has happened in the One Day International format it is still an important development for Warner.

One can only hope that now he will go back and get some form in the Sheffield Shield and work on his game. It has been said by many that I have been calling for this move simply because I am not a fan but all I have been calling for is exactly this opportunity to be given to him. I sincerely hope he takes the opportunity now given.

Australia A in South Africa: 193 reasons David Warner should stay in Africa!

David Warner’s must publicized mid Ashes tour diversion in Africa reaped rewards overnight with an explosive 193 runs to his credit against South Africa A on the first day of the first “Unofficial Test”. Batting at number 4 Warner dominated the South Africa A attack after coming in with Australia A in trouble at 2/46. He deserves our congratulations for such a good innings and, in my view, he must stay in South Africa to continue to rebuild his form outside of the focus that comes from playing in an Ashes tour.

I have to concede here: I am not a Warner fan. That said, I want the best for Australian cricket and I think that the worst possible thing Cricket Australia could do both for D Warner the cricketer AND the Australian cricket team is to rush him back to England. I have three reasons for this:

1. Whilst he is in South Africa he is facing test quality bowling without the pressure of needing to perform in the cauldron of the Ashes. Make no mistake: Kyle Abbott and Marchant de Lange, two of the bowlers from South Africa A, are no mugs and both have recorded seven wicket hauls in their limited test appearances to date. More runs in the subsequent games against these bowlers will only build his confidence.

2. I have long wanted David Warner to spend more time playing first class cricket to hone his game against the red ball before he returns to the test team. There is another unofficial test match to be played here and he must play in that game. He has only played in 13 first class games that are not test matches (of which he has played 19) and I have a hunch that the more first class games he plays the better he will get. A season in the Sheffield Shield, a full season, should follow this to help him build his craft.

3. Could there be anything worse for Warner’s confidence than coming back into the squad for the 4th test (it is patently too late for him to be selected for the 3rd test match now) after Australia has, in all likelihood, lost the series and then get a series of low scores? If Jimmy Anderson can exploit Shane Watson’s front pad then you can bet that he and David Saker have a plan they are ready to execute to expose the various flaws in Warner’s technique. The prospect of this is avoided if he stays where he is in Africa.

The rehabilitation of David Warner is only just starting and he is off to a flyer but, to me, the wisest course now would be to keep him away from the Ashes series and keep him playing first class cricket to build up his confidence and form. I am sure he will return a better and more rounded player and the Australian team, if he returns, will be much better for his time away.

David Warner: time to consider a “mature age” apprenticeship?

Much has been made in the lead up to the current test match being played at the Gabba about question marks, alleged or otherwise, over the form of Ed Cowan. In the context of Cowan’s sparkling century today, has the time now come to move one’s withering gaze to the other end and directly at the form of David Warner?

At the outset, I must concede that I was not a fan of Warner’s initial elevation to the Test team. I thought it was all to quick and in part was based on Warner’s marketability rather than his technique. Equally, based on form last year I was moved to concede that I had been narrow sighted in my early assessment of Warner’s elevation to the top squad after he impressed with a gritty century in his second game in Hobart.

The steady tick of time and further consideration of Warner’s play in more recent times reveals that maybe my initial assessment was right and now is the time to be considering his position in the team.

Three key factors are in play in making any consideration of this issue my view:

First, the statistics: in 10 test matches, Warner averages 39.60 with the willow having made 594 runs in 17 innings. In 2 of those innings Warner scored centuries, including his epic 180 in Perth against the Indians. In 10 of those innings however Warner has scored less than 10.

Second, it has to be acknowledged that Warner has become one of the faces of the game in very short order. This is an issue that vexes me but must be acknowledged because it could well prove very difficult for Cricket Australia to drop Warner without upsetting its commercial partners.

Third, there are some obvious replacements now knocking fairly heavily on the door. Test discards Hughes and Khawaja have had new leases of life in their adopted states, whilst the man presently occupying the number 3 slot in Australia’s order could also do the job at the top of the order should the opportunity arise. These players are all players who have been mentioned as possible replacements for Ed Cowan so why shouldn’t they be considered as possible replacements for Warner?

A question arises here that needs to be considered in the context of this debate: is Warner’s start to his career all that bad compared to those openers that have gone before him? Matt Hayden’s first 10 test matches yielded 413 runs at an average of 25.81 and one hundred. Justin Langer’s first 10 test matches yielded 402 runs at an average of 26.80 and one hundred. Pure numbers suggest that Warner’s start to his career is in fact better than those both of those legends of the game. However, one also must consider that during that span of 10 test matches Hayden was dropped 3 times from the team and Langer was dropped 4 times from the team.

This leads to me to the thrust of my argument in this blog which is this: Warner has the talent to be a top line player for a long time. However, he has not done an apprenticeship in first class cricket before his entry into the test cricket and thus his game is not yet to a state properly refined for the rigours of the top flight of the game. Of his 22 first class games as at today, 10 of those have been test matches. Contrast this to Ed Cowan who is presently playing his 80th first class game of which 72 have been first class fixtures.

Whilst there are two players knocking vociferously on the door in Hughes and Khawaja, the question must be asked as to whether David Warner’s time would be better spent playing first class cricket rather than face the best fast bowlers in the game. Time spent in the best domestic competition in the world would only serve to round the edges of his presently fairly rough game and would, I have no doubt, lead to him coming back a better and more complete player.

Langer and Hayden were dropped, often, and came back stronger having spent upwards of three full seasons in the Sheffield Shield competition. Indeed once they were given time to develop, and dominate, in the Sheffield Shield competition they returned to the “top flight” at the peak of their respective games and then dominated test match cricket too.

I, for one, think that now is the time for Warner to be given time to undertaken a “mature age” apprenticeship in the Sheffield Shield competition, given the quality of replacements waiting in the wings and the current state of Warner’s own form. I know this is an unpopular view, but on form AND in order to make him a better player, there is no time like the present.

I can only hope that the commercial imperatives linked to Warner’s selection do not play a part in any decision regarding his place in the team. It will be a sad day of that is the case.