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David Warner can still dominate Test cricket

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Expert
18th September, 2019
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To revive his Test career David Warner should skip Australia’s six T20Is in October and November and instead play Sheffield Shield to regain form for the home Tests against Pakistan.

The veteran left-hander is justifiably copping heavy criticism after the worst Test series of his career in the Ashes, during which he averaged just 9 with the bat and was picked apart by English quick Stuart Broad.

Many fans have suggested he should be dropped for Australia’s next Test series, which starts at the Gabba on November 21 against Pakistan.

When anywhere near his best, Warner is far too valuable in home conditions not to be in the Test team.

Granted, he was abysmal in the Ashes. Then again, he has never adapted to English conditions across three tours there, and it must be noted that it is by far the most difficult place in the world for Test openers.

The way the Dukes ball swings and seams extravagantly in the first 15-20 overs of each innings, combined with sometimes juicy pitches, makes opening in England a nightmare.

Warner has always been an entirely different proposition in Australia. The true pace and bounce of Australian pitches and the lack of lateral movement offered by the Kookaburra ball mean he can hit through the line and bully opening bowlers.

Not only does he average 60 on his own patch and have an extraordinary 15 tons from 38 home Tests, but he also scores at a lightning rate of 4.71 runs per over in Australia. His rapid scoring benefits Australia in multiple ways.

Firstly, it sets the opposition back on their heels and forces them to re-arrange their tactics. Secondly, it greatly reduces the pressure on his batting partner. Thirdly, it pushes the match forward, buying Australia extra overs in which to bowl out their opponents twice.

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In Warner’s long Test career his worst average in a home series is 39 and that came in 2016 against a rampant South African attack in a three-match series that featured two bowler-friendly pitches. In his two most recent home series he destroyed England and Pakistan.

Australia’s two opponents this summer – Pakistan and New Zealand – would be delighted if he is left out of the home side’s starting XI. In Warner’s eight home Tests against those two sides, he has scored six tons amid a phenomenal 1,101 runs at 85.

Some observers have suggested that, following his 12-month ban from international cricket, Warner has simply lost it, that he will never be the same. The way he dominated the IPL and then the World Cup – finishing as top scorer in the former and second-top scorer in the latter – suggest otherwise to me.

He still has it in him to clatter quality bowlers when the ball isn’t hooping around. That remains a highly valuable skill. I’ve been shocked by the number of cricket followers who in recent weeks have written off Warner’s incredible home record as if it has minimal value.

If hoarding runs as a Test opener in Australia is so elementary then why hasn’t any other Aussie opener matched his feats in the past decade? Last summer’s home series against India gave us an insight into the value of Warner’s dominance at home.

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In Warner’s absence, the three openers Australia used together averaged just 27 across that four-match series. Getting the veteran left-hander back to something like his best would be a massive boon for Australia.

Of course, there are no guarantees he can rebound from his horror Ashes. The events of the past 18 months may end up killing off his Test career prematurely.

It’s also worth remembering that fine Australian openers Matt Hayden, Chris Rogers and Justin Langer played Test cricket until they were 37, 37 and 36 years old respectively. Warner is only 32. Some would argue he relies on hand-eye coordination more than that trio, but only time will tell.

Warner’s first step on the road back to Test dominance should be to skip Australia’s six T20I matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan from late October onwards in favour of playing Shield cricket.

David Warner.

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

NSW have four Shield games before the Test series against Pakistan begins. Warner could play in all of those matches or, if he finds top form in the first three, sit out the last to rest up.

If he plays in one or both of Australia’s T20I series it will not only cause him to miss out on red-ball practice but also prevent him from having a steady build-up. Switching back and forth between wildly different formats is not what Warner needs right now.

Granted, Warner is one of Australia’s top three T20 cricketers. But neither of those T20I series are of great importance and Australia have a wealth of other strong opening options including Aaron Finch, D’Arcy Short and Alex Carey.

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Sitting out those T20Is would be the best thing for both Warner and the Australian Test team.