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Warner to play in Adelaide, but young openers should start forming a queue

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Expert
15th December, 2021
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‘David Warner may or may not play in Adelaide today’ was how I was going to start my final column of the year.

I’m not sure whether Pat Cummins’ ears were burning at the time or what, but around the same time I was having this thought, the new Australian captain was setting minds at ease at the Adelaide Oval.

“He’ll be right,” Cummins told reporters assembled ahead of the second Ashes Test, starting this afternoon.

“He had a bat (Tuesday evening), batted with a bit of discomfort but knowing Davey, he’s not going to miss this one. Once adrenaline and everything kicks in, (he’ll be) a little bit sore but he’ll be fine.

“It’s one thing batting in the nets but another thing when you walk out and it’s a packed crowd. I don’t think he had any kind of painkillers or anything yesterday.

“He’s played close to 90 Tests, I’m sure a lot of them have been played in discomfort or with (niggles) going into the game. He’ll be fine tomorrow.”

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She’ll be right, mate. Get out there, Davey. You’ll be fine, champ.

David Warner of Australia is bowled by Ben Stokes of England prior to it being ruled a no ball during day two of the First Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at The Gabba on December 09, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Warner did indeed have a net Tuesday night, and he did not indeed have any painkillers on board; the idea being to try and establish some sort of benchmark of acceptable pain threshold.

But he also didn’t face an actual bowler. Instead, Australian batting coach Michael Di Venuto was armed with a ‘wanga’ – that’s a ball-thrower, for anyone without dogs – and a bucket of new pink Kookaburras and told to do his best.

His best lasted about half an hour, we’re told. We’re also told Warner found trouble trying to play pull shots to the short stuff. As you would, with some badly bruised ribs that definitely aren’t broken. We’re told.

“The 35-year-old wore a chest guard as he batted against throw-downs … and made audible cries of pain on a couple of cross-bat shot attempts,” Louis Cameron wrote for cricket.com.au.

Warner “did not look comfortable during a net session on Tuesday evening,” ESPN Cricinfo’s Andrew McGlashan observed.

“I don’t get this rush to include a possibly still injured Warner when a perfectly good substitute in [Usman] Khawaja is available,” a Twitter follower named Whittaker Walt offered in reply to a tweet of mine wondering what could possibly go wrong, playing a clearly injured Warner.

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“Wouldn’t it be wiser to rest Warner and have him recover in time for the Boxing Day start of the third Test?”

And yeah, it probably would have been. It’s really hard to argue with this sentiment.

And look, I suppose there is still a chance he won’t play. Australia had an optional net last night, and he may not have got though it. Or he may have got through okay, but pulled up rather sore this morning. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see already bruised ribs flaring up after exertion.

‘David Warner may or may not play in Adelaide today’ is still theoretically true.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

But what it does mean is that regardless of how well Warner does or doesn’t get through the second Test, once again it’s a wonderful time to be a young Australian opening batsman.

Even if Warner does limp through Adelaide and improves enough for Boxing Day and beyond, the pressure on Marcus Harris to perform remains.

And the ongoing uncertainty about Will Pucovski’s future only underlines this, too.

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Usman Khawaja is in the Australian squad bubble and would be the obvious (and only) option should Warner be a late scratching today.

But I think we all know that replacing a 35-year-old Warner with a 34-years-and-363-days-old Khawaja is far from a long term solution.

So who are the options?

Queensland leftie Bryce Street is certainly the name on plenty of lips, and 119* against the England Lions in Brisbane last week certainly won’t hurt his cause.

Bryce Street of Queensland

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

His returns have been strong and consistent, which is nice: 1349 first-class runs in 36 innings with five 50s and five tons. He sits 12th in this season’s Shield tallies, with 324 from nine innings.

Henry Hunt is another one mentioned in dispatches, and his overall first-class record is pretty similar to Street’s. He sits eighth in the Shield runs this season with 391 runs from nine innings.

Hunt is a year older than Street and has played a similar number of games, having taken the Nathan Lyon route to state cricket, landing in South Australia from the ACT.

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The one I’ve got my eye on as a smoky is Western Australian Sam Whiteman. Nearly 30 and with nearly 4000 first-class runs to his name, he’s made 333 runs from one fewer game to Hunt and Street this summer, and with an unbeaten 176 in WA’s most recent Shield game against Tasmania.

Having ditched the keeping gloves to focus on batting in the top three, Whiteman also peeled off 555 runs including three centuries last season, too.

Baggy green

(Photo by Daniel Pockett – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images )

The question, I suppose, is whether a younger option might be favoured to a 30-year-old, but it’s also true that state cricket isn’t producing as many truly quality batsmen in their early 20s.

I’ve long held a theory that mucking around with the second XI competition over the last decade has played a major role in this, but that’s probably another topic for another day.

And perhaps that’s also why Warner has seemingly been given a significant amount of latitude to play a Test match when he’s clearly not fully fit.

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Without any finished products in Shield cricket barely scratching at the selection door, never mind beating it down, an 80 per cent David Warner – if it’s even that high – remains the preferred option.

So until there’s a better option, get out there, Davey. She’ll be right, mate. You’ll be fine, champ.

And a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

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