An emotionally and physically sapped David Warner says his “back against the wall” double century against the Proteas was the finest innings of his career.
Warner did not speak to reporters following his marvellous 200 on Tuesday afternoon, but after an “hour” in the ice bath and a restless night’s sleep, the milestone man, who became the 14th Australian to play 100 Tests for his nation, spent time with the game’s broadcasters on Wednesday morning.
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After a summer of headlines about everything but the runs off his bat, the 36-year-old looked like a man who had had the weight lifted off his shoulders after snapping a near three-year century drought.
“The emotional toll is on everyone,” Warner told Fox Cricket, as he watched footage of his family celebrating his milestones on Tuesday in the grueling Melbourne heat.
“Emotionally it was a tough day out there but overwhelmed by everything; not just the occasion, the build-up, 100th test, back up against the wall stuff, but just to have my family and closest friends to come down and celebrate this with me, as it’s their journey as well, it was amazing.”
Just like Steve Waugh almost three decades earlier after the former captain’s career-saving ton, Warner did not add to his overnight score when he went out to bat on Wednesday morning after Travis Head was bowled playing around a straight ball from Anrich Nortje.
But his first-baller on Wednesday, having retired on 200 midway through the final session on day two because of cramp, did little to take away from the elation of day two. If anything, it revealed the grueling nature of a day earlier where Warner batted and battled through the MCG furnace and faced the quickest spell of his career against Nortje, who was clocked at 155km/h as the left-hander snuck through the nervous nineties.
“That was the fastest spell to date that I’ve faced in my career,” Warner said.
“To do that in 37 degrees [Celsius] heat. To come back and bowl. I think I faced 18 deliveries straight against him.
“Not that I didn’t know what to do, it was how was I going to pull it? How was I going to duck it? And how was I going to eradicate it? You couldn’t. The speed was up there. It was the fastest I’ve faced. To try and negate that and pull it into areas that I could, it was almost impossible.
“When he lidded me, I was like ‘wow, that’s obviously very fast.’ Credit to him.”
Warner entered the Boxing Day Test with questions about his future.
After failing to reach three figures in almost three years, and with difficult tours of India and England to come, Warner had begun to feel the heat.
The 36-year-old revealed that he taken a different approach into the Test, deciding to return to the attacking mindset that had seen him become the most feared opener in the game for more than a decade.
“I go back to the hundred I scored here against England [in 2017],” Warner said.
“I went out and wanted to look to score … and I felt like that was missing a little bit.
“In the nets, I was feeling so good and I was almost contemplating not training and stopping because I felt like I was wasting it. I kept on saying to [batting coach] Michael Di Venuto, can you just nick me off or get me out somehow so I can get in a bit of grit in the nets?
“Going out there, I felt this game, I wanted to play my way, I wanted to look to score more. If I was going down cover driving and nicking, I was going to be happy about that. I just backed myself to go out there and play my shots.”
Warner battled cramp for much of the second part of his innings.
As Steve Smith pushed for twos and threes, Warner often limped to the other end. At drinks breaks plastic chairs were brought out onto the field to give the duo some rest.
“I think ‘Smudge’, he called for the chairs,” Warner quipped. “We needed it out there.
“It was challenging. We were expecting tents and everything.”
Feeling the pinch, he took on the finger spin of Keshav Maharaj. His final 50 came from just 32 deliveries.
Upon reaching his double century, Warner went down on his knees and pumped both arms in the air multiple times before springing up like a frog and celebrating with his trademark leap.
“I didn’t want to do the leap,” Warner said.
“I felt, what could I do different? And when I was down there and I did the pump, I was like, let’s just give it a crack. Heady’s [Travis Head] just laughing at me.
“My left calf was absolutely gone like everything else was. I didn’t know how to stretch it.”
Despite looking cooked all afternoon, Warner revealed there was one thing he insisted of: that he walk off the MCG.
“It was a sense of maybe embarrassment as well walking off,” he said.
“I did say to the physios, ‘do not carry me off. I am not getting carried off the field.’”
Meanwhile, Warner let the world in on some banter with teammate Marnus Labuschagne, who he “barbequed” early on day two after calling his partner through for an overthrow.
After scampering through for a quick single, Labuschagne responded to Warner’s call of a second run before stuttering and, ultimately, falling just short of making his ground at the bowler’s end. It meant the world’s No.1 Test batter was run out for 14.
“Unfortunately, yesterday, I probably put on a barbeque and you’ll hear later that he’s got his shirt hung up in the dressing room,” Warner said.
“’100th Test, thanks for the BBQ Dave Warner’ and he got me to sign it.
“You’ll see that shirt at the end of the Test.”