Warner hits way out of rut

IT IS one of sport’s uncommon delights to see an individual rebuild his self-belief, from rock bottom, out in full view. David Warner arrived at the second Test in much the same condition as the Adelaide Oval: half-complete, with an architect’s impression of glory in his head, but basically a shambles.
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His recent slump in confidence was real, even if the statistics helped hide it. Edgy in Brisbane, he was perhaps lucky to get out quickly. In 1997, Doug Walters said Mark Taylor’s problem was he was batting for too long, drawing out his agony as he clawed his way towards form. Warner had at least avoided that.

On a perfect clear morning, Warner walked out, as out-of-form batsmen will, with an air of fake-it-until-you-make-it. The positive body language and signs of intent were orthodox psychology, but what often happens is about 20 minutes into an innings, once the surge of bravado fades, the batsman is back in his rut.

So it went, until Warner got lucky. In his third over, Morne Morkel bowled two fullish balls wide of off-stump. Warner threw his bat at both, slicing one and middling the other to the cover boundary. Then Dale Steyn repeated the error in his fifth over, and Morkel gave Warner another. Warner’s first six boundaries, all between point and mid-off, were not necessarily controlled, but on the scoreboard he was nearly 30.

The crisis in Australia’s innings happened at the other end, prompted by Jacques Kallis taking the ball for the 11th over. In the next 16 minutes, Ed Cowan, Rob Quiney and Ricky Ponting were out, and suddenly Warner’s personal crisis was forgotten.

It helped that soon after Michael Clarke’s arrival Kallis’ brilliant spell of swing bowling became just a cameo as his hamstring did for South Africa’s day.

A day of grand entertainment hit a high note after lunch, as Warner and Clarke put on a festive 100 runs in 10 overs. This was mostly a matter of taking full advantage of poor bowling. It was slowed by a probing spell by Rory Kleinveldt, who, it must be said, had earlier fully vindicated his captain’s lack of confidence in him. A late replacement for Vernon Philander, Kleinveldt started with the same trundling short-pitched ordinariness as in Brisbane.

But, in the middle of the day, Kleinveldt troubled Clarke for several overs and put a brake on the Australians’ momentum, leading to Warner’s dismissal to Morkel.

Warner’s job, by then, was done. The middle order was again cashing in and, with their three best bowlers booking MRI scans, it was the visitors looking in need of renovation.

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