The first thing that came to mind as one watched David Warner score his fourth Indian Premier League century was.... “why sandpaper?” The second thing was whether India would have been able to beat Australia in their own backyard if Warner, along with Steve Smith, had been part of the squad.
It was inevitable to think that way seeing how Warner has taken IPL 2019 by storm, three matches into the tournament.
Warner’s innings against Royal Challengers Bangalore was everything the cricketing world has come to love about his batting and then some more. He started off briskly, then settled down to play the role of an anchor and finally, blazed away as only he can to reach his century.
It helps SRH in a big way that Warner has struck a great partnership with Jonny Bairstow. The duo had scored two consecutive century partnerships coming into the game and they added another one to that tally against RCB.
But it wasn’t just any old century partnership – with the 185-run stand they overtook KKR’s Gautam Gambhir and Chris Lynn for the highest opening partnership before Bairstow perished for 114 from just 56 balls.
The duo brought up the team 100 in the 10th over and 150 in the 14th but the highlight of this partnership was not the 12 sixes and 17 fours between them but the manner in which they ran ones and twos in 42 degrees heat. They were relentless and quick, showing just how determined they both were as 64 runs came in singles and twos. Warner was the man clearly pushing himself and Bairstow to the limits, and the left-hander scored 50 off his 100 runs by running between the wickets.
RCB skipper Virat Kohli just wasn’t able to deal with them. There was simply no respite during any part of the innings.
It is not often that Warner plays second fiddle in a partnership but with Bairstow in sublime touch from the very first over, Warner was content doing just that. And once Bairstow was dismissed for what was eventually one run more than what RCB managed in 19.5 overs collectively, the Aussie took centerstage.
Warner sped away from 70 off 42 balls to 100 not out off 55 balls when the innings finally ended. It was his third century at the venue, and he acknowledged the sea of orange in Hyderabad for whose support he has been repeatedly grateful for.
“The 12 months has done me well,” Warner said after the end of the first innings. “I’m nice and refreshed. What a terrific innings here by Jonny, and a fantastic partnership by both of us.” He also skirted around the question as to whether this is the best he has ever batted – the evidence from the three innings he has played in this tournament so far tells us it might well be. Kevin Pietersen certainly thought so and he’s probably right.
The time away from the game would have been toughest on Warner. Bulk of the blame for the ball-tampering incident was put on him, and now to come back and play the kind of cricket he has played cannot be easy. The incident would have taken a huge mental toll on him.
Still, he has played with the kind of consistency that SRH fans have come to expect from him. He looks comfortable against pace and spin and there is simply no sign of rust.
Warner has always been someone who could go after the bowling but while the ban was on, he seems to have had the opportunity to re-evaluate his game and come out even better.
For Australia, Warner’s form means that they will almost instantly become contenders for the World Cup. Their bowling was never a problem but the presence of Warner and Steve Smith will shore up their batting in a big way. Even without Warner, they were competitive against India in the recent ODI series but add the left-hander to the mix and they suddenly look capable to defending their title.
For now, the IPL is where Warner’s focus is. The most prolific overseas batsman in the tournament’s history has started off from where he left off in 2017 and just seems hungrier, more determined than he normally is.