Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Opening up about David Warner's standing

Australian opening batsman David Warner. Photo / Photosport
Australian opening batsman David Warner. Photo / Photosport

These are pyrotechnic days for cricket as scoring rates have climbed in test, one day and T20 matches.

Maximum hits are no longer an occasional piece of exquisite timing or the muscular cow-corner choice from nine, ten jack.

Smaller grounds, better bats and run-rate targets have muscled in on the drop anchor, dead-bat, dunny-door, play for time attitudes which were the accepted way of playing the game.

That changed in the last 40 years as limited overs cricket began to chew into conventional ways of thinking and playing the game. The pace of all games sped up as men like Gordon Greenidge, Ian Botham, Adam Gilchrist, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Virender Sehwag and Brendon McCullum raised the speed limits.

It was surprising though that when pugnacious Australian opener David Warner pounded a century this week in Sydney, it was only the fifth time in 140 years of test cricket that someone has achieved that feat in the opening session.

The left-hander joined a slim list alongside his famed countrymen Victor Trumper, Charlie McCartney, Don Bradman and Pakistan's Majid Khan as he pounded his 18th ton from 78 balls on his home track.

Equally remarkable is that Warner has turned his reputation from a thunderous block-bash T20 pinch-hitter into a quality technician and multiple centurion at the top of the test order where he averages 49 in his 60 internationals. Warner may not win too many awards for his on-field interaction but there is no dispute about his excellence and value to Australia in all forms of the game.

Warner is pushing higher up the honours list as pollsters post questions about which is the best Australian opening partnership and who have been the best individual men at the top of the order.

In the sixties, Bobby Simpson and Bill Lawry averaged almost 60 in 62 tests together with the next-best Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden who averaged 51.41 in the 113 tests they were partners then Mark Taylor and Michael Slater who put on 51.14 in their 78 appearances together.

All those men have individual averages in the 40s except for Hayden who ticks over at 50 in his 103 tests.

Another Aussie opening great Arthur Morris chipped out 46.48 runs every time he batted in his 46 tests and Bill Ponsford averaged 48 during his test career in the 1920s.

King of the opening averages was Sid Barnes who, in his 13-test career either side of World War II, averaged 63.05.

Six years ago, Warner made his maiden test century and carried his bat when Australia missed chasing down a target against New Zealand in Hobart but he does have a career-high score of 253 against New Zealand at Perth in 2015.

His defence has tightened, his shot selection and patience has improved while his modus operandi is still to dominate the opposition. He'll be here soon for the return Chappell-Hadlee series and a different inquiry about his credentials to line up alongside the very best to open the innings for the Baggy Greens.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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