David Leggat: Warner ramps up the test entertainment

David Warner. Photo / Getty Images
David Warner. Photo / Getty Images

In 2050, might David Warner be seen as being among the more influential batsmen in test cricket history?

Stifle those sniggers. Time was when the opening day of a test match might produce 50 runs before lunch, a couple of hundred over the six hours as a team set out its stall.

Attempt a hook shot in the opening couple of hours? Forget it. Stick to playing in the V young man and you'll do well, were among the mantras of days gone by.

Then along came Virendar Sehwag, armed with a keen eye, unshakeable self-belief and courage to trust himself, and he pushed the accelerator from the off.

But the Indian annihilator - test average 50, two run-a-ball triple hundreds, four double centuries at a merry clip - was viewed as something of a freak.

Now comes Warner, the stocky New South Welshman, who played T20 internationals before representing his state at first-class level.

He looked a one-trick pony, belligerent and bustling. Test batsman? You're dreaming.

So Warner got his chance, primarily because Australia's senior allrounder Shane Watson was injured for the two tests against New Zealand in December.

In his first innings, he was caught behind off Tim Southee for three, a fine ball which followed the lefthander, who played a nothing shot.

Had it been a T20 game, muttered the local scribes looking on, it would have bounced off the pickets at mid wicket.

Was it, therefore, a case of Warner, knowing what was expected of a test opener, eschewed his natural instincts? Maybe.

His unbeaten 123 in New Zealand's memorable test win at Hobart a week later, took 170 balls. It was a fine hand, which came within a couple of decent blows of pulling off a remarkable victory.

What happened at Perth against the out-of-sorts Indians last week, though, was something else.

Warner belted 180 from 159 balls, racing to his century over the last session of the first day after India's batsmen had done their now-standard vanishing act.

He positively lathered the bowling, playing his natural game, the shots which he knows best and which feel most comfortable to him.

The point is this: is it time to reassess the merits of adopting T20 methods to test batting, particularly at the top of the order?

It's not for everyone, and it surely won't work every time. But if a batsman's best approach is to do things which would have the traditionalists' spluttering, why not?

Warner played some fabulous shots, which you will find in the textbooks, along with other, more rumbustious strokes.

Warner has only played five tests. He averages 63. His strike rate is 85.49. He may be a busted flush this time next year, but Warner excites, and cricket is part of the wider entertainment industry.

This is a game of different strokes, though. England's Alastair Cook, Indian Gautam Gambhir and South Africa's Hashim Amla, all top line international batsmen, can hunker down with the best of them.

Bottom line? Top order batsmen should play the game on their terms, find the cloak which fits best and stick to what works. And if you're an entertainer, all the better.

- NZ Herald

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