Dave Warner

Warner ponders Asian imbalance

Stand-in skipper says success in ODIs in Asia could be translated into Test victories

Australia’s successful stand-in ODI captain David Warner has aired his thoughts on how the toppled number one-ranked Test team might amend their appalling recent form in the red-ball format in Asia.

By adopting the white-ball strategies and mindset that contrastingly sees them as the most successful ODI outfit among all Test-playing nations in subcontinental conditions over the past five years, Warner believes.

Australia’s hard-earned 4-1 ODI series win against Sri Lanka – the last three of those wins overseen by Warner after incumbent skipper Steve Smith returned home for a rest – underscores a remarkable disparity between the team’s fortunes in the 50-over and the five-day contests.

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In one-day cricket, Australia’s record over the past five years of 12 wins from 18 matches gives them a higher winning percentage (66.67) than all other teams in matches played in Asia (stretching from Hong Kong in the east through to the United Arab Emirates in the west).

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Even the Asian Test nations so familiar with slow, dry, spin-accommodating pitches boast inferior winning percentages to the reigning ODI world champions – India (65.52), Bangladesh (52.08), Sri Lanka (49.35) and Pakistan (44.43).

And yet no team has a worse Test record over the same period dating back to the start of September 2011 than the Australians, who so covet consistent success in the elite format of the game.

Indeed, no rival nation could manufacture a worse record given that Australia has not won a Test in Asia throughout that five-year period, a feat equalled only by Zimbabwe who admittedly have been granted significantly fewer opportunities – three Tests played over that time compared to Australia’s 11.

Even struggling Bangladesh has recorded three wins (all against Zimbabwe) from the 20 Tests they’ve played over that time and Australia’s hopes of breaking their duck at the next opportunity appear grim given their opponent over four Tests next February and March will be India.

Who hold the highest ratio of Test match wins in Asia over the past five years with 16 from 23 starts (69.57 per cent).

But Warner, who battled to meet his own lofty standards in the Tests and the first four ODIs before scoring a breakthrough century in the final one-dayer at Pallekele last Sunday, believes there is a clear reason that Australia’s white-ball results are infinitely superior to those in the Test cauldron.

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And while some of those are self-evident, such as the fielding restrictions and nature of the game that sees a web of close catchers rarely employed like they are in Tests, he suggests the adoption of a one-day mindset could help turn around their woeful recent Test efforts.

Simply because the ticking-clock backdrop of limited-overs cricket compels batters to find a way to score within the finite time frame of 50 overs, while the more ponderous schedule of a Test means batters often become trapped in a fog of uncertainty, defence and ultimately failure.

"Speaking from my own personal experience, I think it comes down to runs on the board and a bit of pressure," Warner said in the aftermath of the one-day series when asked for his take on how Australia’s ODI expertise might be applied to the failed Test template.

"We all talk about taking the game on, and in these conditions you still need to look to score.

"We didn’t adapt fast enough.

"When we’re at home, we always have that intent to score (in Test cricket), that’s when our boys are playing our best.

"But in these conditions you’re going to have to sweep, you need to use your feet, you’re going to have to watch the ball hard onto the bat and you can’t leave the ball because one is going to skid on.

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"I think that’s where we lacked a little bit (in the Test matches against Sri Lanka).

"You see here in a one-day game you can get that little bit of a release because you can’t have those catchers around the bat.

"These kinds of shots, there’s no reason why you can’t play them in Test matches.

"That’s how you’re going to have to score in these conditions."

And it is the batters who have repeatedly let Australia down in series against India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka since they last secured a Test match victory on Asian soil, at Galle in August 2011.

In that time, of the 50 Test batsmen with the highest averages in Asia (having played five or more innings) only two are Australians – Shaun Marsh (393 runs at 78.60 from three Tests) and Steve Smith (582 at 41.57 from seven).

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The fact that the three bowlers on the commensurate list for best bowling averages during that period are all seamers – Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood – suggests Australia’s spin bowling department must also carry some culpability.

A comparison with the equivalent individual performances in the ODI game throughout that window further highlights the discrepancies.

George Bailey, Smith, James Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson and Adam Voges all sit among the top 50 batting averages, while John Hastings, Starc, Adam Zampa, Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson are part of the corresponding coterie with the ball.

Of course, pitches rolled out for ODIs in Asia have historically been vastly different to the sort of tracks employed for sub-continental Tests.

Sun-baked, heavy-rolled roads for the white ball games versus dry, dusty, low and slow challenges to the skill and temperament of batters and the patience and resilience of bowlers in Tests.

But as Warner noted after the most recent ODI series was won in Dambulla, the pitches used by Sri Lanka throughout that five-match campaign were largely replicas of the surfaces on which the Australians had been tried (and found so sorely wanting) in the preceding Tests.

And while that might have been construed as a good thing in that it gave Australia’s floundering batters further experience in conditions they have repeatedly failed to master, Warner claimed it short-changed the paying public of Sri Lanka.

Who he reckons wanted to see free-flowing, high-scoring encounters when they handed over their 100 rupees (around $A1) for a general admission ticket to the largely sold-out one-dayers.

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A view challenged by former Australia Test captain Mark Taylor who, until Warner’s gritty 106 in the final ODI at Pallekele, held the record for the highest individual score by an Australian in an ODI in Sri Lanka (the 94 he compiled off 129 balls at Colombo in 1992).

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"David Warner, it's great to see him getting some leadership experience over there, but he's come out and said that people want to see games like ... where England scored 444 in a one-dayer (against Pakistan at Trent Bridge last week)," Taylor told Channel Nine’s Wide World of Sports last Sunday.

"Well the Sri Lankan public, they want to see Sri Lanka beat Australia.

"They don't care if it's 110 against 109.

"Okay, they want to see some nice shots and some nice cricket, but they want to see Sri Lanka win.

"So they're going to put out pitches that don't suit Australia and we have got to play better on those pitches.

"There's been a lot of talk about the pitches over there, in my opinion far too much talk.

"The pitches that Australia got in that series were the pitches they were always going to get, and we're always going to get there (on the subcontinent).

"It's not going to change."

Which means, if the conditions remain unaltered, then it’s up to the players who have failed to cut the mango chutney – more specifically, the under-performing batters – to bring something different to the table if Test results are to mimic the recent ODI returns.

And Warner might just have handed them that recipe. 

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