Warner keeps fighting to the end after IPL struggles
David Warner, as ever, could not be faulted for his sterling efforts as he concluded Delhi Capitals' woeful Indian Premier League campaign with his best score of the season.
But once again, the Australian veteran's half-century - his sixth of another fruitful campaign with the bat - proved nowhere near enough as Delhi, IPL strugglers all season, were hammered again in their final match by Chennai Super Kings on Saturday.
The Ricky Ponting-coached and Warner-captained Capitals are ninth of the 10 teams and could still finish bottom if Sunrisers Hyderabad win their final match handsomely.
Yet though he rarely found his best form all season and was badly let down by Delhi's other main batters, Warner kept battling to the end, the 36-year-old finishing with one his best knocks of the season as wickets tumbled around him.
It was a day at Delhi's Arun Jaitley Stadium to encapsulate Warner's entire season.
Having to chase Chennai's formidable 2-223, Delhi once again seemed too reliant on his batting, even though it as a huge ask for Warner keep up with the required rate as his teammates kept departing.
He reached his fifty off 32 balls and went after Ravindra Jadeja's spin with relish to end up with a season's-best 86 off 58 balls, featuring seven fours and five sixes, including one spectacular switch-hit.
No-one could realistically have expected any more from him but, by the time he was the seventh man out in the 19th over, the game had already gone when he slogged Matheesha Pathirana to long-on. Delhi ended up losing by a humbling 77 runs.
"We lost wickets in clumps, lost a few close games we should have won, which hurt, so we'll have to go back to the drawing board, regroup and come back stronger next year," shrugged Warner, as he pondered Delhi's campaign which featured only five wins in 14 matches.
Personally, though, he had been a model of perseverance, even when struggling in the power plays. He's the sixth highest scorer in 2023 with a considerable tally of 516 runs - the seventh time he'd been past 500 - but of the top 20 run-scorers, his strike-rate of 131.63 is the lowest.
In contrast, Chennai's New Zealand opener Devon Conway, who scored 87 to set the Super Kings on their way to the playoffs, has compiled his 585 runs at a rate of 138.62, while the IPL's top run-getter Faf du Plessis has 702 at 153.94.
"It's about trying to be as consistent as you can at the top of the order, whether you're striking at 150 or not, and give yourself a chance," shrugged Warner.
"Our power play wasn't the best this year, so we have to think long and hard about that."
His next stop will be the huge Tests that await in the world final at the Oval and then the Ashes, but his Australian colleague Marcus Stoinis will feature in the IPL playoffs after his Lucknow Super Giants eked out a one-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens.
Stoinis, who's had a fine tournament, suffered a rare two-ball duck, but 58 from his teammate Nicholas Pooran helped Lucknow make 8-176, with Rinku Singh just failing to get KKR home on 7-175, despite his unbeaten 67 off 33 balls.