I confess, I’ve never liked David Warner. He’s not a bad batsman, but he’ll never be a great. He’s just scored 97 against South Africa at the WACA and he had a good knock against them in Adelaide a few years back, but he is useless against sideways movement.
But that’s not why I don’t like him. It wasn’t even the Joe Root incident that saw him kicked off the 2013 Ashes tour to England, you could pass that off as youthful idiocy and it didn’t seem to bother Root much. What made me dislike him was his “scared eyes” speech during the first test of the 2013/4 Ashes Series at the ‘Gabba. What he said may have been true, but his saying it was utterly graceless and classless in a team and series which was in desperately short supply of anything approaching either. Jonathan Trott had just pulled out of the tour having been mentally shot to pieces by the ferocity of Mitchell Johnson’s pace attack, and he never recovered. Any opponent with grace or class would have wished him well and not mentioned it again, particularly when at the time of Warner’s speech Australia were in a commanding position in the test. At the time the Australian team, media, and a good portion of the public thought it was all fair and above board, and the episode demonstrated how these thick-skinned Australians are so much tougher than the cowardly Poms.
Only we were then supposed to buy into the bullshit which occurred not long afterwards when Australia had its “Diana moment” with the death of Philip Hughes. The nation grieved in harmony with “best mate Davey Warner” as he shed tears over what was a tragic accident. Crying over the loss of a mate is fine, fella. But not after you’ve strutted around like the schoolyard bully gobbing off about how tough you are while mocking fellow batsmen whose mind obviously isn’t quite right.
So I don’t like him as a person, despite his efforts to grow up a bit since. But the bravado of his ‘Gabba speech looks very much like the pride that comes before a fall. I remarked after that series that Australia is incapable of batting under pressure:
Despite Australia’s success in each match, they found themselves 100/5, 257/5, 143/5, 202/5, and 97/5 in successive first innings. However, they were fortunate enough to have a remarkably in-form Brad Haddin come to the crease each time, and another middle/late-order batsman – Johnson in Brisbane, Clarke in Adelaide, Smith in Perth and Sydney, and nobody at all in Melbourne – to stick with him to post relatively modest scores (Adelaide excepted) which proved to be far beyond England’s reach.
Despite their success, this team has yet to demonstrate it can follow even a modest first innings total or bat a second innings from behind, and their bowlers have not had to bowl sixth and seventh spells.
And then when they went to South Africa afterwards:
However, crucially they were under no scoreboard pressure at any point, and finally – in the second test at Port Elizabeth – Australia lost the toss, were told to bowl, and subsequently were required to walk out to bat 423 runs behind after bowling 150 overs and watching two South Africans score centuries. As I expected, Australia lurched to 246 as their top order largely failed – although Warner’s capability surprised me, scoring 70. Brad Haddin, the batting hero of the Ashes, was bowled for 9. South Africa piled on another 270 and with an eye on the fifth day weather forecast declared with a lead of 448. Once again Warner lasted longer than I expected against Steyn with the new ball, although an aggressive 66 was not really what was required under the circumstances. Rogers, who I always quite liked, went on to score 107 while the rest of the team amassed a whopping 24 runs between the whole lot of them, losing 9 wickets in the final session of the day. South Africa won by 231 runs.
After our drubbing in 2013/4 I said this:
For Australia, it’s all about whether they can carry this success into the next series against South Africa and beyond. For that to happen, they need to avoid falling into the same trap that did for England by interpretting resounding victories over weakened and demoralised opposition as evidence of perfection, and dismissing setbacks (i.e. the defeats by Pakistan and South Africa) as mere blips.
Why do I bring all this up now? Because as I said at the beginning, Australia are playing South Africa at the WACA and bowled out their opponents for 242 before racing to 150 for 0 in reply. Warner batted well and was on 97 when he threw his wicket away. But from there Australia collapsed to 244 all out. And here he is talking to the media again:
David Warner admits that Australia’s batsmen have fallen into a debilitating pattern of middle-order batting collapses that are wasting decent starts, and also says he does not know how the problem will be rectified.
You don’t say?
Having made 97 in an opening stand of 158 with Shaun Marsh, Warner said he was demoralised by watching the loss of all Australia’s 10 wickets for 86, surrendering prime position in the WACA Test to South Africa despite the visiting team’s loss of Dale Steyn to a serious shoulder injury.
Demoralised? What happened to the legendary Aussie ticker, maaaaate? Isn’t such mental softness reserved for us Poms?
The passage of play mirrored numerous innings on the recent tour of Sri Lanka despite vastly different conditions, and Warner said he could see the pattern stretching even further back, to the 2015 Ashes tour.
“I feel there has been a trend as well in the last 12 and maybe 18 months that also follows on to when we were in England and we were playing there,” Warner said. “It’s tough to see as an opening batter sometimes when you get off to those starts as a top four and then you sort of fall away that easily.
No, chum. It goes back a lot further than that. Had you been paying attention in the 2013/4 Ashes test instead of strutting about in bully-boy mode you’d have seen your top order was bailed out by Brad Haddin and A.N. Other in every match. For all your disparaging of Trott’s mental strength, where is yours now? And that of your team mates?
If cliches were runs, Australia – who have allowed South Africa to go from 45 for 2 to 390 for 6 in the second innings by close of Day 3 – would be miles ahead. Take it away, Davey Boy:
“knuckle down…batting unit…build partnerships…put their hand up…move forward…you have to back yourself as a player…mixed messages…at this level for a reason…gain a bit of momentum…him as an individual.”
Let’s see how he and his pals go in the final innings staring down the barrel of a 400+ run deficit. With Steyn out injured they might be in with a shot, but if history is any guide they’ll be skittled well short of that.
A decent second innings effort by Australia, underpinned by Khawaja’s 97 and Neville’s 60, but they’ve still lost by 177 runs to a South Africa which was a bowler short through most of the match and also missing Morne Morkel. And this is at home, too. The most worrying thing for Australia will be that SA managed to declare their second innings on 540 for 8 even though all their bowlers are fit. For several years now Australia have relied on very good bowling to make up for poor batting.