CricViz analyst Freddie Wilde examines how Warner ended his barren run.
Whether David Warner is an all-time great Test batsman remains uncertain – his record away from home, where he averages 34.50 is good but not elite. What is not in doubt however, is that he is one of the very, very finest players in Australian conditions and on day two in Brisbane he reminded everyone of that with an imperious century. The only player with more runs in Australia than Warner at a higher average is Don Bradman.
During his unbeaten 151 Warner only missed or edged 17 balls. This false shot percentage of 6% is his lowest in any of his 22 Test centuries – a measure of his control at the crease. Warner’s composure here was in direct contrast with his dire struggles during The Ashes in England where he scored 95 runs across 10 innings.
Ball-tracking analysis shows how well England’s pace bowlers bowled to Warner during The Ashes. Bowling exclusively from round the wicket Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer tormented Australia’s opener by consistently hammering away on a good length whilst maintaining a very tight line. This combination meant England challenged the stumps regularly, forcing Warner to play. In contrast, Pakistan’s seamers were less accurate, not so patient and curiously only adopted the round the wicket angle sparingly.
Perhaps more significant than the quality of the bowling faced by Warner was the conditions in which he was batting. Warner’s dominance at home is largely the product of the fact that the ball moves considerably less through the air and off the pitch in Australia and this was very much the case on day two. A comparison of ball-tracking data with The Ashes shows the extent of the difference.
Together, the combination of less disciplined bowling and more hospitable conditions produced easier circumstances for batting. Our Expected Runs and Wickets model demonstrates this. Based on the balls Warner faced in England we would expect an average batsman to have scored 19 runs per dismissal. However, on day two in Brisbane that expected average was doubled, up to 38.
Of course 38 is a lot less than 151 and counting but Warner is not ‘the average batsman’ – and this is where his class comes in. Warner’s improved returns were not only the product of his improved circumstances; he adapted his method as well. Most notably Warner was more positive here than he was in England – this is partly because his innings lasted longer but whereas in England he only looked to score off 46% of his deliveries; here he increased that to 54%. This positivity did not necessarily translate into scoring rate though: his century was the second slowest of his career.
Warner’s positive intent did not compromise his technique. In England Warner’s batting was marked by continual technical changes and extreme methods, including batting well outside his crease in order to counter the swing and seam on offer. Here, less troubled by lateral movement Warner resorted to more old fashioned methods, staying inside his crease and playing the ball late and under his eyes. In the Ashes Warner’s average interception point when defending was 2.11 metres down the pitch, in Brisbane it was 40cm closer to the stumps at 1.71 metres. A simple, but telling statistic that reflected a man returning to normality.
Watching Warner on cruise control made it hard not to feel that in England his desperate search for form led him to lose sight of what had made him such an effective Test batsman: namely simplicity. Back in home conditions Warner’s mind and approach seemed totally clear. His stance, back-lift and trigger movement were no longer conspicuous. He was, once again, a bubble of concentration and clarity. Even a 20 minute tea interval stranded on 99 was not enough to break his rhythm.
Warner started the day with only 95 runs in his previous ten Test innings but by the time he reached his century it felt entirely inevitable. Home, sweet home.