WHEN David Warner lets his bat do the talking the end result is normally a good deal more magnificent than when he entrusts that task to his sizeable mouth.
Prior to this series, Warner infamously compared the Ashes to war, insisting that he works up feelings of hatred for opponents.
“As soon as you step over the line it’s war,” said Australia’s vice-captain, who scored a superb 103 yesterday to help his side to 244-3 on day one of the fourth Test in Melbourne. “You try and get into a battle as quick as you can.
“I try and look in the opposition’s eyes and try to work out, ‘How can I dislike this player? How can I get on top of him?’ You have to delve and dig deep into yourself to actually get some hatred about them to actually get up when you’re out there.”
Perhaps George Orwell was right after all; sport is war minus the shooting.
Certainly the verbal shots fired in this Ashes series would suggest that colosseums such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground are merely the modern equivalent of the Roman one in which people were slaughtered for the amusement of spectators.
Warner, in fact, would not look out of place in such ancient surroundings; he strikes as someone who might positively relish a duel to the death.
Short and squat, with powerful shoulders and strong forearms, he is a pocket battleship with a natural set that suggests “mess with me, and I’ll punch your lights out”, as Joe Root discovered in 2013.
If Warner was a dog, he would no doubt be a member of the pitbull breed and allowed out in public only with a muzzle. Even then, anyone who came across him being taken on walkies might be inclined to cross the road just in case the damn thing suddenly leapt at them as they inched past.
Beneath all the bluster and (pit)bull, however, Warner is not just a sledgehammer batsman with eyes only for distant confectionery stalls. Granted, he might smite sixes with savage simplicity but he can also strike silk-wrapped boundaries; he is, in short, the complete batsman.
Inevitably, the day was marred by some infantile verbals as Warner, apparently provoked by Curran, mouthed off at anyone within earshot following the no-ball episode, which rather summed up England’s series.Chris Waters
One sensed that Boxing Day was, appropriately enough, going to be Warner’s day when, quite early in his exhibition, he found the mid-off rope with a defensive push. When a man’s defensive pushes are reaching the boundary, it bodes ill for the opposition, and England tried to thwart him with a seven-two field and boundary riders in an effort to cut off favoured avenues of accumulation.
It was a tactic that they had previously employed well in the series, with Warner having managed just one innings of note – an unbeaten 87 that helped Australia home in the first Test in Brisbane.
But the sense that he was “due” grew with every passing delivery as the 88,000 MCG crowd saw him sprint to 83 out of 102-0 in the first session after Australia chose to bat on a flat, slow pitch.
While Warner made it look ridiculously easy, punching boundaries and then pinching singles in toying tandem, his opening partner, Cameron Bancroft, looked as secure as a computer without antivirus protection.
The contrast merely highlighted Warner’s magnificence and how Australia, for all that they lead 3-0 with two Tests to play, rely on him and captain Steve Smith for the bulk of their runs.
At close of play last evening, the contrast between Australia’s big-two batsmen and those of England’s was this: Warner and Smith had scored 790 runs in the series at an average of 98.75, Root and Alastair Cook 259 runs at an average of 21.58.
Warner should have fallen for 99, miscuing a pull to mid-on only to be reprieved by a no-ball from debutant Tom Curran, but he reached his 21st Test century from Curran’s next ball.
The celebration was typically vainglorious as the pitbull leapt about uncontrollably before finally edging James Anderson to Jonny Bairstow. Smith then picked up the muzzle to reach 65 at stumps after Chris Woakes trapped Bancroft lbw and Stuart Broad removed Usman Khawaja with another catch by Bairstow.
Inevitably, the day was marred by some infantile verbals as Warner, apparently provoked by Curran, mouthed off at anyone within earshot following the no-ball episode, which rather summed up England’s series.
“He (Curran) muttered something, I didn’t let it go,” said Warner afterwards, as though holding court in a prison canteen.
“I obviously had to bite back as I normally do,” added a man who is only truly eloquent with a bat in his hand.