Guinea pig Warner keeps passing tests

Scott Bailey
David Warner's 335no against Pakistan is the second highest Test score by an Australian

By his own admission, David Warner was one of cricket's guinea pigs.

The first man to represent Australia before even playing a first-class game.

That was back in 2009, when Warner hit the scene as a trailblazing Twenty20 specialist and a new form of star.

Warner lit up the MCG that January night with 89 off 43 balls against South Africa.

But even he couldn't see any way he could become more than a white-ball sensation.

He was the last person most would have expected to join the 300-club. One of just seven Australians to do so.

Nor was he a man many could see hitting 23 Test centuries and counting, or breaking any of Don Bradman's records.

Be it the highest score at the Adelaide Oval, or Bradman's Test-best 334, which he bettered with 335no against Pakistan on Saturday.

"I had the luxury of coming through and being that person thrown out there - a little bit out of a testing guinea pig," Warner says.

"When I got the opportunity to play for Delhi in the IPL and I met Virender (Sehwag) there, he sat me down.

"He said I will be a better Test player than Twenty20 player. And I said to him 'you're out of your mind'."

If Warner was an experimental guinea pig, the testing can now be declared an absolute success.

But it hasn't been easy.

When his Test debut came two-and-a-half years after his first Twenty20 cap, critics again asked if he was right for red-ball cricket.

Australia were a team struggling to occupy time at the crease. Just a month earlier, they had been rolled for only 47 against South Africa in Cape Town.

Could a so-called T20 specialist like Warner really be the answer?

But Warner is king at answering critics.

In just his second Test he batted through the second innings to score 123 against New Zealand on a seaming Hobart wicket as his teammates fell around him.

Questions have rightfully been asked about his record overseas too. He averages just 34.50 on foreign shores.

But still, his career average hasn't dropped below 40 since March 2013, and it's current mark of 48.58 is 12th highest of all Australian Test players.

"(Sehwag) always said to me: 'What, they have some slips and a gully. Cover is open, mid-wicket is just there and mid-off and mid-on are up'," Warner said.

'You just play your way and you will get off to a flyer and sit there all day and pick them off'.

"It's always just sat in the back of my mind. It sounded very easy when we were discussing that."

The Warner plundering runs this summer is very different to the one Sehwag spoke to a decade ago.

Just as cricket has evolved to a more attacking game, Warner has gone the other way.

Like a man determined to atone for his recent Ashes failures in England where he reached double-figures just once, his last two knocks against Pakistan have been the longest two of his career.

The 33-year-old has batted through a day twice this summer, something he'd done only once prior.

His defence has tightened up, and unlike in England he is playing the ball from under his eyes rather than reaching for it in front of him.

So much has his cricket changed, Warner indicated on Saturday night that when he gives up one form of the game to focus on another, it could likely be Tests he keeps playing.

"I think early days, I just kept backing myself the way I played and I didn't really change the gears in the right sort of context in the game," Warner said.

"Cricket smarts evolve and I've had to learn on the run, playing Test cricket.

"The only way I knew was to sometimes throw the kitchen sink at it. If I got out early then I'd kick the can a little bit.

"But over time, the last two Tests, it's the best I think I've ever batted - the most disciplined I've ever batted and the most patient I've ever batted."