Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Tenacious Warner taps self-belief to rise from the Ashes
Shunning outside advice and trusting his boundless self-confidence - and a zealous appetite for working in the nets - have seen David Warner enter rare air
Andrew Ramsey at the Adelaide Oval
1 December 2019, 07:31 AM AEST
The moment that David Warner realised the seemingly impossible had become highly probable settled upon him an hour before tea, with the mid-afternoon shadows straying on to Adelaide Oval's pristine playing surface.
As the ground announcer so matter-of-factly confirmed, Warner had surpassed his previous-best Test score of 253, and the left-hander allowed himself a reflective moment to re-gather his thoughts; to re-assess his goals.
It's what he does.
From the time – as a gung-ho teen with fast hands and an unerring eye – that he first came to the notice of those who matter in Australia cricket, he has pitted himself against lofty ambitions, and almost always found a way to attain them.
His first Test cap (secured at Brisbane in December, 2011); his first Test run (from the second ball he faced); and his first Test hundred (in his second match).
Warner then dared to dream of harnessing his natural batting belligerence for long enough to post a Test match double-century, and that box was ticked against New Zealand at the WACA Ground four years ago.
But the 33-year-old claims that until he began refitting his batting gloves having eclipsed that benchmark yesterday and, in the process, studied the electronic scoreboard that flanks its heritage-listed forebear on Adelaide's famous hill, he had not seriously thought the next aspiration was gettable.
"It just sunk into me that it's very rare you get these opportunities," Warner said on Saturday night, of the epiphany that told him a Test triple-hundred was within his grasp.
"Given there was still a lot of time left in the game, and you look up at the scoreboard and there was another 71 overs to go (in the day) and I was on 250-odd, and I thought, 'This is probably a chance I'm never gonna get again'.
"Especially here at Adelaide Oval, with the pink ball."
There were some who had recently thought he might never again get the opportunity to represent Australia in Tests after luck and runs deserted him during this year's Ashes quest in England.
As England's fast bowlers, led by the ruthlessly incisive Stuart Broad, skewered Warner's vulnerability to the moving ball like entomologists pinning specimens in a display box, the opener began implementing bits of the advice coming at him from every direction.
Bat outside your crease, he was told – so he might meet the ball closer to where it was pitching.
Shift your guard to off-stump or beyond, they said – to reduce the chances of being trapped lbw.
But the changes didn't work, the failures continued to mount, and so bemused did the former vice-captain become in his return to Test cricket after a 12-month ban that, by the end of the campaign, his signature move was the bemused smile he wore each time he trudged back to the pavilion.
"If I had my time again, I would have not changed my guard," Warner revealed as he basked in the triumph of his greatest Test innings, and the most prolific seen in Australia since Matthew Hayden plundered 380 from Zimbabwe 16 years ago.
"I wouldn’t have listened to some external noises and backed myself more to bat where I have been here – outside off stump, leaving the ball patiently, getting my bat and pad close together and playing (the ball) under my nose.
"I am capable of that.
"I just think in England you can get caught up playing too much in front (of the body). So I've had to regroup since coming back."
As re-inventions go, his might be the most profound since Dylan went electric.
Having averaged 9.5 runs per innings across five Ashes Tests, Warner's average in Australia colours since returning home is an absurd 388, with 776 runs in T20 and Test formats for two (legitimate) dismissals from eight times at bat.
He was adjudged player of the series for both the three-game Gillette T20 Series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, it's difficult to see any player pipping him for that honour in the current Domain Test Series against Pakistan.
And ominously, his next assignment will be the first Test against New Zealand in Perth.
Against the same opponent, and in the same city where his previous Test-best score was procured.
Warner unabashedly claims his steely self-belief did not waver, even in the depths of his Ashes rut.
But he also notes that operation "regroup" has not been achieved solely through a bit of technical tinkering, a return to familiar climes and the stringent fitness regime to which he subjects himself, regardless of whether he's flailing or flaying.
"I've hit over 3,500-4,000 balls in the nets leading into Brisbane and here as well," Warner said of his training schedule, which has demonstrably changed compared to previous Australia summers.
"I've batted for a good two hours per session.
"So it's not by chance that I've tightened all that up, I've actually been working really hard on it in the nets.
"And I've never doubted myself, as well.
"I'm a very confident person, whether or not I scored those runs or didn't score my runs, I hold my head up high and have that little smirk on my face that I always have."
After Warner reached his triple-hundred, as the clock ticked past 5pm on a sunny Saturday afternoon, speculation grew about the likelihood of him eclipsing Hayden's suddenly not-so-distant record.
With a session and a bit still to play on the second day, and with Pakistan's inexperienced and impotent bowling attack flagging further, it also seemed eminently feasible he might reel in Brian Lara's world record mark of 400.
That seemed entirely fitting, given Lara was – at that very time – enjoying the social delights for which the annual Adelaide Test is deservedly famous.
But as Warner confirmed after stumps, with Pakistan in disarray at 6-96 on the same pitch where Australia piled on 3(dec)-589, neither of those historic milestones were ever seriously in his sights.
Even before he had posted his personal best total, Warner was discussing with his batting partner (and former skipper) Steve Smith how many overs the Australia bowlers might like to fire at their dispirited opponents, and therefore when current captain Tim Paine might declare the innings closed.
When Warner and Smith returned to the dressing room for the tea break, with the scoreboard showing 2-475 and the opener unbeaten on 261, they were told the closure would come at 5.40pm – 80 minutes after play resumed.
Despite the records within Warner's touching distance as the appointed hour neared, the only tweak to Paine's plan was to allow his star batter one extra over against occasional spinner Iftikhar Ahmed, from which he took the five runs required to overtake Don Bradman's career-high Test total of 334.
The declaration then came immediately after – at 5.41pm.
"We looked at the weather that's around tomorrow, and we wanted to give ourselves a lot of time," Warner explained of Paine's declaration, which was largely lauded for striking a neat balance between an individual's accomplishment and the team's needs.
"If we could have the amount of overs we had at them tonight (35) and get a couple of wickets – and we managed to get six wickets – then if there is a bit of rain around tomorrow, the bowlers get a good rest.
"Then we only have to come out and get 14 wickets in the last two days.
"So it wasn't a thing in our mind to go out and try and get that record.
"It was more about putting our team in a great position to win the Test, with a bit of weather about tomorrow and possibly the day after."
Not that Warner, in the batting form of his headline-strewn life, has given up on those personal goals that drive his remarkable and ever-growing achievements.
While he nominated India opener Rohit Sharma as the player he considers most likely to eventually take Lara's 400 as the highest individual Test score, there is at least one item on Warner's to-do sheet that remains unchecked.
"Two hundred in an ODI," he suggested with a laugh on Saturday night, noting his current high watermark in the 50-over game is the 189 he thrashed against hapless Pakistan at his beloved Adelaide Oval in 2017.
"I missed out here, with 10 overs to go.
"But I'll cherish this moment for the rest of my life, definitely."
Highest Test scores for Australia
380 – Matthew Hayden v Zimbabwe, Perth, 2003
335no – David Warner v Pakistan, Adelaide, 2019
334no – Mark Taylor v Pakistan, Peshawar, 1998
334 – Don Bradman v England, Leeds, 1930
329no – Michael Clarke v India, Sydney, 2012
311 – Bob Simpson v England, Manchester, 1964
307 – Bob Cowper v England, Melbourne, 1966
304 – Don Bradman v England, Leeds, 1934
Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner
Pakistan squad: Azhar Ali (c), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan Snr, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah.
First Test: Australia won by an innings and five runs.