Warner ton cut from same cloth as Waugh’s SCG classic

    David Warner kept telling us that he wasn’t out of form, he was just out of runs. That those chop-ons had been more a case of bad luck than bad footwork. That the belly fire remained, that the street fighting instincts developed in Sydney housing commission real estate hadn’t evaporated. Whatever you say about him, and make no mistake there is plenty good, bad and otherwise that could be said, he is as defiant as they come.This was a mightily commanding innings. It was classic Warner, up-tempo, controlled aggression, without a hint of nerves.He got runs all around the wicket, but was most prolific through cover where he tamed an attack labelled pre-match by South African captain Dean Elgar as the world’s best. The only thing that seriously looked like stopping him was the heat.Certainly he got the best batting conditions of the series: a flattened MCG wicket, sweltering Melbourne day and South African bowlers unable to keep up with their batters’ collective ineptitude.But it is one thing to have beneficial conditions, another to take advantage of them.Especially given the extreme pressure on Warner, whose mid-30s decline as a Test batter had become the chief storyline of the summer.To be fair, it is not as though Warner looked completely at sea. He was hitting the ball off the square, pretty regularly making starts, and just last month posted a one-day international century.However, his almost three-year Test ton drought was getting harder and harder to sugar-coat. He had averaged just over 26 in the format since the start of last year, and was coming off a first innings golden duck at the Gabba.More to the point he was 36, had impending Test assignments to India and England – countries where his record is poor – and had been wounded by the palaver around the bid to lift his life captaincy ban, a situation that while in significant part of his own making had left him in a shaky mental state on the eve of the Test summer. He had even used a pre-match conference to take yet another crack at Cricket Australia, prepared to chomp at the hand feeding him.When you add to the mix that it was his 100th Test, coming at the venue and against the same opponent as his barnstorming entrance into international cricket almost 14 years ago, this knock should sit comfortably in the same conversation as other iconic back-against-the-wall tons from Aussie greats over the past three decades. Warner’s demise had not been as dire as Mark Taylor’s long list of flops heading into the 1997 Ashes series, but this knock was very much in the same genre as the then-Australian captain’s career-prolonging second dig innings at Edgbaston.It will be difficult for any performance to match the theatre of Steve Waugh’s square drive for four to bring up three figures off the last ball of day two at Sydney in January 2003. But Warner’s knock was cut from the same cloth.His innings had parallels too with Mike Hussey’s drought breaking century at The Oval in 2009, Matthew Hayden’s painstaking knock there four years earlier and Justin Langer’s back from the dead ton at the same venue in 2001, having been given a lifeline replacing Michael Slater at the top of the order.There was even a bit of Ricky Ponting’s last hurrah centuries against India in the 2011-12 summer about this Warner dig.It was an innings to serve as yet another reminder of the risks of writing off great players too early.Australian coach Andrew McDonald had insisted ahead of this series that Warner was in selectors’ plans for the India tour. But McDonald gave the important qualifier: “for now.” That there was no obvious heir apparent to Warner’s opening spot certainly provided an extra buffer. And the man himself was adamant he was keen to keep going beyond the Sydney Test next week.However after twin failures in Brisbane, Warner’s margin for error to guarantee going to India was still his call and not that of the panel was getting finer. This century snuffs that out. Whatever happens for the rest of the series, it will now be his call. Just as it was for Taylor, Waugh, Hussey and Langer.We can’t say we weren’t warned.There was symbolism too in the fact it was Steve Smith in the middle there to embrace Warner once he was through his trademark Toyota leap celebration. Smith and Warner combining to grind down South Africa. There’d been a lot of sandpaper under the bridge.

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