Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Warner punishes Pakistan as Aussie bats pile on the runs
Australia opener carries bat on day two to reach stumps on 151 while Queenslanders Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne cash in
Andrew Ramsey at the Gabba, Brisbane
22 November 2019, 10:30 PM AEST
The top-order batting woes and repeated trauma inflicted by England's rampant pace attack during the recent Ashes campaign were rendered a ghostly memory today as Australia enjoyed a run-glut on their return to comforting home conditions.
Led by David Warner's unrelenting, undefeated hundred and the 222-run first-wicket partnership he fashioned with recalled opener Joe Burns (97), the hosts ground a listless Pakistan into the Gabba and finished day two of the first Domain Series Test 1-312.
In reply to Pakistan's first-day total of 240, Australia will begin day three with Warner unconquered on 151 (from 265 balls faced after six and a half hours at the crease) and newly ordained number three Marnus Labuschagne 55 not out.
With a lead that has already reached 72, and Test cricket's top-ranked batter Steve Smith yet to bat, the doubts that coach Justin Langer expressed this week about his team's top-order batting fragility sound as misplaced as were the predictions of Pakistan's fast-bowling potency.
The fact that the only wicket to fall today was to leg-spinner Yasir Shah underscored the home team's total dominance on a Gabba pitch that lived up to predictions it would become better to bat upon as the game entered its second and third days.
That statistic, and perhaps the day's storyline, would have been markedly different had rookie teenage fast bowler Naseem Shah not been shown to have overstepped with the delivery that yielded a catch off Warner's bat when the opener was 56.
But after experiencing a wretched Ashes tour, in which he aggregated just 95 runs from 10 completed innings, Warner must have felt due the sort of luck he has come to enjoy in recent seasons on home turf.
Remarkably, three of the past four Test centuries the left-hander has scored in Australia have come after being 'dismissed' by a no-ball, although it is doubtful those previous escapes generated quite as much attention and emotion as today's scenes.
That was because the opener, whose 22nd Test ton lifts him above David Boon and into the top 10 of Australia's all-time century makers, should have been the celebrated first scalp of first-gamer Naseem who was deprived his memorabilia moment in heartbreaking circumstances.
Warner's innings was also a decided contrast to his previous Test ton against Pakistan, which he scored inside the opening session of the 2017 new year Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
While there were many familiar flourishes in the opener's knock today – his preparedness to punish bowlers who erred in length or line, his scurrying between wickets to seize every available run, the sweetness with which the ball pinged from his bat – it was also strewn with atypical elements.
Only once did the 33-year-old pin back his ears and aim an ambitious swing at an earnest if largely impotent Pakistan attack, and that lapse should have ended his innings.
The much-discussed moment came in 16-year-old debutant Naseem Shah's first over after the lunch break – the seventh over of his Test career – when Warner tried to blast a full delivery pushed across him to the backward-point boundary.
Borrowing a method from his recent stint in T20 internationals, where he dominated bowlers from Sri Lanka and then Pakistan, he dropped to one knee and lazily flashed at the ball which found his bat's bottom edge and lodged securely in keeper Muhammad Rizwan's gloves.
The speed at which Naseem's elation at claiming such a vaunted scalp as his maiden Test wicket turned to numbing disbelief was matched only by the rate at which Warner snapped back into battle mode having quietly admonished himself all the way to the cusp of the boundary rope.
From that moment, Warner's focus never faltered while Pakistan's morale evaporated under the pleasant Brisbane sunshine.
His only moment of uncertainty came within seven runs of the century he's craved for so many months, when he scampered for a second run and lunged for the crease at the same moment as Yasir Shah's throw from the deep crashed into the bowler's end stumps.
For far longer than was needed to rule on Naseem's no-ball, third umpire Michael Gough scrutinised every available angle and possible frame sequence before pronouncing Warner could continue his innings which had already stretched almost four hours.
Having reached 99 from 170 balls faced (an inferior scoring rate to Burns's 88 from 138 deliveries) when tea was taken, the former vice-captain re-emerged after the adjournment showing even greater vigilance.
It was from the 11th ball he faced in the evening session that Warner was able to find the most fulfilling single of his post-ban career, slowing virtually to a walk as he completed his hundredth run before gathering himself for his trademark skywards leap in celebration.
He then submitted to a prolonged and heartfelt hug with his batting partner, before the disparate characters dubbed an "odd couple" by coach Justin Langer congratulated each other soon after for posting their second double-century stand in Tests.
As the milestones continued to mount, and Pakistan's decision not to include their most reliable and durable seamer Mohammad Abbas haunted them at every such turn, Burns closed in on what seemed an inevitable and deserved century.
Like Warner, he had endured a difficult journey to that point having fought his back into the Test outfit last summer where he prospered against Sri Lanka, only for ill-timed illness and weight of competition to deprive him of a place on the Ashes tour.
The Queenslander had begun his comeback innings today giving every indication he was understandably wracked by anxiety.
The first ball that Burns faced this morning saw him try and bludgeon a short ball from Imran Khan that ballooned over off stump, and which the batter managed to under-edge just short of Rizwan as he dived despairingly forward.
Imran's follow-up was another short delivery, which Burns pulled with vigour fuelled by nervous energy into the fielder at short-leg, but which got him safely to the non-striker's end to gather his thoughts.
But a ball later he was back on strike, and was almost run out for one when his deft nudge off the hip had him set off instinctively for a single only to find the ball's progress impeded by that same short-leg fielder (Shaan Masood) who aimed a reflex flick at the stumps as Burns scrambled to regain his ground.
It was only after Burns upper-cut Imran's fifth delivery over gully to the third-man boundary that he was able to settle into his innings, and the "odd couple" publicly reaffirmed their bond.
The reunited pair's century stand was posted on the stroke of lunch, and when they surpassed 150 in the day's 43rd over they had combined for Australia's most productive first-wicket partnership since Warner and Cameron Bancroft's unbeaten 173 in the corresponding Gabba Test against England two summers ago.
Upon reaching 200, they became the first Australia opening pair to reach that lofty threshold since their joint-best effort that also came at the Gabba, against New Zealand in 2015-16.
But just as Burns was contemplating his own redemptive fairytale, Yasir altered his line of attack to around the wicket and the opener's attempted sweep of a full delivery pitched outside leg stump instead saw the ball dragged on to his wicket.
Realising there was no third-umpire intervention or last-gasp miracle that would afford him a second chance, Burns remained propped on one knee, hands and head resting on his bat before he dragged himself to his feet and walked dejectedly off, to generous if anguished applause.
As the ovation dimmed and Warner helped himself to a cold drink, Warner revealed in a fleeting television interview he had been encouraging his partner to play straight until he reached his hundred, and felt gutted that the milestone had eluded him.
By that stage, however, Australia were within 18 runs of first innings parity and the batting struggles that haunted Australia's top-order throughout the Ashes had become a distant, ever-fading memory.
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: November 21-25, Gabba (Seven, Fox & Kayo)