Okay, it’s a bit unfair to kick a guy when he’s down.
But I’ve already looked on the bright side of the Ashes – Steve Smith’s stratospheric series, which by some measures was the second most dominant by any batsman in history.
It was therefore striking to see Warner going in the opposite direction, plumbing depths that few players have reached in a Test series – all the more so when Warner was paired with Smith in ‘the redemption from sandpaper-gate’ club and after Warner had a very productive World Cup campaign. Maybe he looked a little off his best, with some uncharacteristically slow starts in the World Cup, but that might have boded well for a solid Ashes campaign, showing that he was knuckling down to adjust to the English pitches.
Sadly it was not to be, with Warner managing only 95 runs in ten innings, an average of 9.5. This article reviews how this low point in an otherwise illustrious career measures up in various metrics of series that batsmen would rather forget.
Bad openings: The two Warners
Warner’s series has been rated the worst ever by an opener to play ten innings in a campaign, breaking New Zealander John D’Arcy’s 1958 record of 13.60 against England.
However, that is slightly misleading, as another Warner, Sir Pelham ‘Plum’ Warner, who captained England on its ill-fated tour of South Africa in 1905-06, opened the batting eight of ten times and only scored 89 runs at 8.9. Arguably it is worse getting a couple of ducks in the middle order than against the new ball.
In that series South Africa ambushed what was really an England second XI with a posse of three bowlers who had mastered the recently invented googly on unfamiliar matting wickets. South Africa won 4-1, the first time they had won a single Test against England after four fruitless series.
The two Warners present an interesting contrast at the head of the low-scoring openers list. Sir Pelham was the quintessential establishment figure in the age of amateur ‘gentleman’ captains, being educated at Rugby School and Oxford. He was a lifelong bigwig in the MCC and co-manager of the England team in the Bodyline series, where he disapproved of bodyline tactics but didn’t kick up a fuss because he thought England captain Jardine was a good chap.
Single digit scores
The two Warners are also the only top-order batsmen (those in the top seven of a batting order) who have scored eight single-digit scores in a series. They surpass several notable players who racked up seven single-digit scores in a series: West Indies great Learie Constantine, Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart. And eight scores or more under ten in a series is still pretty exclusive company when we include tailenders – only 13 others have done it. Topping the list with nine such dismissals are Mohammed Shami and Australian bowlers Shane Warne, Rodney Hogg and Allan Hurst.
Ducks in a row
Warner also registered the first Ashes pair by an opening batsman since Atherton went duck-duck at the MCG in 1998-99. He was the first Australian opener to make a pair since Mark Taylor against Pakistan in 1994 and the first to make three consecutive ducks since Graeme Wood in 1980 against New Zealand.
Warner had some worthy partners in crime in Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris. According to Fox Sports, as a trio they scored 197 runs at an average of 9.85, the second-lowest average by a set of Australian openers in a series of at least two Tests and the worst since 1888. The worst – 9.0 – was by Michael Slater and Greg Blewett across just five innings against India in 1999-2000, but it mattered little as Australia won 3-0 with the likes of Ricky Ponting, Justin Langer and Steve Waugh outscoring Sachin Tendulkar and co.
That 1999-2000 series is also the only one in which Australia’s average opening stand was worth less than at this year’s Ashes. Australia lost its first wicket for 8.50 runs on average in the recent series, the same as the 1888 Ashes but way better than 5.4 recorded by Slater and Blewett in 1999-00.
Dismissals by one bowler
Warner’s seven dismissals by Stuart Broad was only the second time a bowler has dismissed a player seven times in a single series. Moeen Ali has been the most recent victim, at the hands of Nathan Lyon in 2017-18. Another big name on the list was David Gower, knocked over seven times by Geoff Lawson in 1989, but that was a six-Test series.
However, according to some reports, Warner did break a record in being dismissed by Broad seven times in one series for less than ten runs, going past the previous record of six held by India’s Vinoo Mankad against Ray Lindwall and England’s Mike Atherton against Glenn McGrath.
Some very accomplished or notable players have notched up pretty dire series averages over the long history of the Ashes. Graham Gooch was limited to an average of 14 over five Tests in 1981, while Mike Atherton and Archie MacLaren only eked out 13.8 in 1997-98 and 1902 respectively.
The worst by an Australian top-order batsman across a five-Test series was in fact Tommy Andrews, who managed only 49 runs at an average of 8.1 in 1926 – though he batted only six times in a rain-soaked series. The worst across a four-Test series was Jack Badcock, with a mere 4.6 in 1938. Doug Walters managed only 7.7 over four of five Tests in 1972.
Amazingly, the worst series average by an Englishman playing at least four Tests in a series was 7.6 in 1954-55 by Dennis Compton, who would be a strong candidate for selection to an all-time England XI.
But Warner takes the booby prize for lowest average over nine innings or more in a series. Of course that’s partly a reflection of the quality of his career as a whole. Most other players – for example, Doug Walters in 1972 – would get dropped after such a series of low scores. In fact few have lasted beyond three Tests.
Below is a list of the worst Ashes series by average where batsmen played at least four matches.
|Jack Badcock (AUS)||1938||4||8||32||4.6|
|Denis Compton (ENG)||1950-51||4||8||53||7.6|
|Doug Walters (AUS)||1972||4||7||54||7.7|
|Tommy Andrews (AUS)||1926||5||6||49||8.2|
|David Warner (AUS)||2019||5||10||95||9.5|
|John Gunn (ENG)||1901-02||5||9||77||11|
|Archie MacLaren (ENG)||1909||5||7||85||12.1|
|George Ulyett (ENG)||1884-85||5||7||87||12.4|
|Adam Lyth (ENG)||2015||5||9||115||12.8|
|Len Darling (AUS)||1934||4||6||77||12.8|
|Jack Mason (ENG)||1897-98||5||10||129||12.9|
|Mike Atherton (ENG)||1997-98||4||8||110||13.8|
|Jason Roy (ENG)||2019||4||8||110||13.8|
|Paul Collingwood (ENG)||2010-11||5||6||83||13.8|
Hopefully Warner can quickly put the 2019 Ashes behind him. Whatever happens, he will still finish with a much better Test record than anybody reading this website, unless the likes of AB de Villiers or Steve Waugh are logging in. And he will still bag further lucrative contracts from the IPL and Big Bash. And at just over 35 when the next World Cup comes around, he could still be a key contributor in that format.
Whether the prospect of the 2023 Ashes series will seem like another chance for redemption or the stuff of nightmares remains to be seen. At least Stuart Broad will almost certainly won’t be around to repeat the torment.