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India vs Australia: David Warner's Fluctuating Form Adds to Australia's Opening Woes in Test Cricket

By: Nikhil Narain

Last Updated: January 15, 2021, 17:09 IST

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David Warner hasn't looked like David Warner in the three innings he has batted against India in the ongoing series. The left-hander has seen his form fluctuating since the beginning of 2019 with a few big hundreds interspersed with a string of low scores.

David Warner hasn’t been David Warner in the Test series against India. With scores of 13, 5 and 1 the great opener has faced a total of 41 deliveries in the three innings he has batted in the series. He has looked a bit lazy and out of sorts, almost in a hurry to get on with things. Warner had suffered a groin injury during the ODI series against India and was picked for the Sydney Test more as an act of desperation after the home team’s crushing defeat in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. He is still not hundred percent fit which is even evident from the little time he has spent in the middle.

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Warner tried to drive a fuller delivery off the bowling of Mohammed Siraj in the first innings at the SCG with no feet movement whatsoever - he ended giving a healthy edge to Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip. It was a lazy half-hearted attempt by the left-hander who was beaten trying to attempt a similar shot of the previous delivery. He got a bit of a start in the second innings before uncharacteristically going for a slog sweep against his nemesis, R Ashwin, who trapped him leg before wicket. Warner was again dismissed playing an uncertain shot in the first innings at The Gabba. He poked at the delivery without really getting a good stride and was caught at second slip for a solitary one walking back in the very first over of the match.

This was not Warner at his best. This was a Warner, yes not fully fit physically but also not in the mental frame of mind to produce the big Warner special performances in Test cricket. He almost seemed in a rush - very unlike Warner the great opening batsman.

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Warner is an all-time great for Australia. He has an aggregate of 7263 runs in 86 Tests at an average of 48.09 and strike rate of 72.74 including 24 hundreds - he has, over the years, done for Australia, what Sehwag did for India in Test cricket opening the innings - score big runs at a rapid rate demoralizing opposition bowling attacks forcing them into submission.

But Warner has had an interesting last couple of years in whites for Australia. His aggregate of 900 runs and average of 47.36 in 12 Tests can be misleading. The southpaw hammered a brilliant unbeaten 335 in the Day and Night Test at the Adelaide Oval against Pakistan in 2019. He had already hammered 154 in another innings victory in the series opener against them at The Gabba. Warner also smashed an unbeaten 111 against New Zealand at the SCG in 2020. That is a total of 600 runs in just three innings. This means that he has scored two thirds of his runs since 2019 in just three innings. What Warner has done in the remainder of his 18 innings in this period is a matter of concern for Australia.

He has scored just 300 runs in the remaining 18 innings at an average of 16.67. Warner has been dismissed for a single-digit score in as many as 10 of these 18 innings since 2019. He has scored between 10 and 20 in three others. This basically suggests that Warner has failed in 13 of the 21 innings he has batted in since 2019 - that is a very high failure rate of almost 62%.

Warner has also played a total of 571 deliveries in the 18 innings - which, on an average turns out to be 32 deliveries per innings. This suggests that, on an average, he has barely survived the first hour in these 18 innings.

His inconsistency as an opener since 2019 have compounded Australia’s problems at the top of the order in this period. Barring the 70-run opening -wicket stand between Matthew Wade and Joe Burns in the first innings at the Adelaide Oval, the home team has not got any momentum at the start of the innings in the series against India. The remaining first-wicket partnerships read 16, 4, 10, 16, 6 and 4. On as many as 20 occasions the Australian opening-wicket stand has been dislodged before reaching 20 in a total 30 innings since the beginning of 2019.

Warner’s dominating presence was the re-assurance for Australia at the top of the order over the last few years. But his highly fluctuating up and down form has only added to their opening problems in Test cricket.

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