CricViz analyst Freddie Wilde profiles David Warner.
David Warner forced his way into the Australian Test team through his performances in limited overs cricket, where he remains a global force, but he is now also one of the world’s premier Test opening batsmen with an average of 47.94. Warner is particularly dominant in Australia, where he averages 59.21 compared to 36.81 elsewhere. His averages in India and Sri Lanka of 24.25 and 27.16 reveal his struggles against spin. However in August he scored two landmark hundreds in spinning conditions in Bangladesh.
Warner is a short and stocky man which lends concentrated power to his game. His limited overs pedigree is evident in his Test attacking shot percentage of 31% (global average 24%) and no shot percentage of 10% (global average 16%). This aggressive intent manifests itself in his scoring rate of 4.63 RPO, which makes him the second fastest scoring top five batsman in Test history (minimum 10 innings), behind only Virender Sehwag. Warner is able to get away with an unusually attacking game thanks to his excellent timing which sees him time 16% of his shots well (top five global average 12%).
Against pace Warner is a very well-rounded player. Like most elite players he averages more than 50 when driving, cutting, pulling and flicking, which demonstrates his ability to score all round the ground from full and short deliveries – this is well illustrated by his Boundary Contact Point Heatmap.
Warner’s most conspicuous strength against pace is playing off the front foot, where he averages 76.80 which is the second highest of any active player to have played more than 50 matches (global average 38.94). Despite his front foot strength, Warner still plays 40% of his shots against pace off the back foot (global average 30%). This is probably a consequence of his height – at 1.70m he is relatively short – which makes it harder for him to get on top of some relatively full deliveries without going back. When he does play back he has a healthy average of 47.72.
Warner’s attacking intent and fast hands through the ball means he thrives on even the slightest hint of width, scoring 30% of runs through the cover point region (left handed average 21%). Against balls in the corridor outside off stump from pace bowlers he averages an astonishing 58.80 (left handed average 37.07). Warner’s Heatmaps illustrate his strength against width and his struggles when bowlers tighten their line.
Warner averages 40.11 against spin compared to 52.70 against pace. Against spin he is relatively comfortable coming down the pitch, averaging 56.10, and sweeping, averaging 49.00. His struggles can be traced back to a weak defensive game which sees him dismissed once every 60.50 defensive shots against spin (global average 85.53).
WARNER’S SPIN DILEMMA
Given Warner’s struggles against spin, targeting him with Moeen Ali is a logical strategy. In the 2015 series Warner attacked 38% of deliveries from Moeen (global average v spin 26%), but Moeen held his nerve and dismissed Warner four times in 79 deliveries. In the recent series against Bangladesh Warner reduced his attacking shot percentage against spin from 35% through his career to 27% and increased his rotating shot percentage from 26% to 38% – the result was two brilliant hundreds. Warner reined in his attacking instincts but, by focussing on strike rotation, he didn’t give them up entirely and sought to be positive without being reckless. It will be fascinating to see how he approaches playing Moeen in the coming series.
Of course, Warner is an opener and before his rivalry with Moeen resumes he will face England’s pace bowlers. In Australia the new ball (first 15 overs) swings just 0.68° on average – less than anywhere else in the world and almost 50% less than in England. Making use of what little lateral assistance England’s pace bowlers do get will be critical because once that is gone Warner’s all-round strength leaves few weaknesses. Against every length other than a bouncer he averages at least 45 – and against deliveries pitching on an in-between length (6 to 8 metres from the batsman’s stumps), Warner averages 51.65 (global average 33.25). Warner’s six dismissals at an average of 37.83 against bouncers (global average 31.73) offer England something to work on, but it is far from a major weakness. Given the strength of Warner’s all-round game England could look to frustrate him by bowling on an in-between length and into his body – cramping him for room, but on flat pitches there will be very little room for error.
Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. @fwildecricket