David Warner century gives hosts early control in Boxing Day Test
Warner and Australia captain Steve Smith carried the opening day of fourth Test
Australia’s David Warner celebrates reaching his century during the first day of the fourth Ashes cricket test match. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters
It was a curate’s egg of a day. In the first session Australia raced to 102-0, 83 of which came from David Warner’s bat; in the second they were becalmed while losing two wickets. But in the evening Australia reasserted themselves with Steve Smith back at the helm, protecting his side’s advantage as resolutely as a kangaroo does her joeys. At stumps Australia were sitting pretty once again on 244-3. Smith, who barely missed a ball or played a shot in anger, was unbeaten on 65.
Smith is now so ruthlessly methodical that it’s possible to perambulate the outside of this vast arena and still picture every stroke he plays. The great batsmen are so predictable and Smith undoubtedly is one of them. Yet the hordes of fans had probably came in the hope that it was Warner who would prevail, and he did not disappoint.
Forget the curate and his egg for a moment. It was the Reverend who delivered his Christmas message in front of a packed congregation and then most of them went to sleep or home. To put it more bluntly: Warner hit his 21st Test century to decorate the first day of the Boxing Day Test, whereupon he was dismissed and thereafter nothing much of note happened.
On an otherwise pedestrian day of Australian ascendancy there were brief moments of high drama for the masses to enjoy and theynearly always involved Warner. By mid-afternoon he had cruised to 99 with barely a false stroke, though his progress through the 90s had been relatively slow and careworn as England’s seamers opted to bowl to him with a 7-2 heavy off-side field.
Tom Curran, who had been given his first Test cap by Bob Willis, a debutant in Sydney in 1971 when he was still a Surrey player, bowled from around the wicket; Warner attempted to work the ball towards the empty leg-side and only spooned to mid-on where Stuart Broad held a simple catch. The feelings of elation – for the bowler – and despair – for the batsman – were soon reversed as a replay revealed that Curran had overstepped and was therefore still in pursuit of his first Test wicket.
In the stands there may have been some torment for Willis, who also suffered the agonies of costly over-stepping in his youth. You could imagine, too, that England’s fast bowling coach must have been tearing his hair out in the dressing room – except they do not have one in attendance at the moment. Chris Silverwood commences his tenure in January. The exasperation of the England players – especially since Warner was the beneficiary of that no-ball – was plain to see.
Next ball, Warner tapped the necessary single and embarked upon an exaggerated celebration. Yet after this setback Warner was becalmed and would only add three runs before he was caught behind off Jimmy Anderson. Warner’s 103 came out of the 135 runs scored while he was at the crease and a pattern was set: Australia’s great players, Warner and the inevitable Smith, could score freely enough; the mortals, on the slowest pitch of the series so far, could not.
The contrast between the best and the rest could not have been more vivid than in the morning. Warner was briskly into his stride, straight-driving with authority and clipping the ball square of the wicket with ease - although occasionally he sent the ball in the air on the off-side. For him batting was a breeze; for Cameron Bancroft it was a trial.
The young West Australian was rarely beaten though on several occasions he was inconvenienced by the short ball at his body. That’s not supposed to happen when English pacemen are bowling. So, by the time Warner had gleaned 83 at lunch, Bancroft had mustered 19. Even so it already looked ominous for Joe Root and his men.
Yet the afternoon belonged to England despite the frustration of Warner’s escape on 99. Firstly, a Chris Woakes delivery thudded into Bancroft’s pads and the batsman did not even consider consulting his partner before walking off. His replacement, Usman Khawaja, was just as passive. He may not have looked in trouble, but there was no urgency from him as if he had reached two conclusions: this was a flat pitch so there was no way that he was going to take any risks, and he has been short of runs in this series.
After reaching his century Warner was not inclined to go for the jugular; instead after his reprieve he tried to consolidate, and as a result became stuck against Anderson, who eventually found his outside edge. In the 26 overs of the afternoon session Australia had scored just 43-2.
After tea Khawaja fell, ending a sequence of 414 barren deliveries from Stuart Broad. Once again Broad had been on target without threatening, but here a cutter kissed the edge of the bat to produce a simple catch that Jonny Bairstow dared not drop. Khawaja’s 17 had been just as laborious as Bancroft’s 26. Shaun Marsh then missed his first two balls from Broad and was perilously close to lbw – an “umpire’s call” working in the batsman’s favour. Soon he was into his measured stride.
The off-breaks of Moeen Ali, whose presence had been in doubt after being hit on his left hand when training on Christmas Day, offered no threat and leaked runs at a rate so alarming that Root tossed the ball to Dawid Malan and a few optimistic leg-breaks. Smith was wary against him as if to confirm his view that Malan is England’s best spinner.
Anderson was the best of the seamers as usual, while Curran, despite overstepping the mark with dire consequences, at least looked as if he was enjoying himself, which was not obviously the case with all eleven out there.
Australia first innings
Batsman Runs Balls 4s 6s
C T Bancroft lbw b Woakes 26 95 2 0
D A Warner c Bairstow b Anderson 103 151 13 1
U T Khawaja c Bairstow b Broad 17 65 2 0
S P D Smith 65 131 6 0
S E Marsh 31 93 4 0
Extras 1lb 0 1nb 2
Total for 3 244 89.0 overs
Bowler O M R W
J M Anderson 21 8 43 1
S C J Broad 19 6 41 1
C R Woakes 19 4 60 1
M M Ali 6 0 35 0
T K Curran 17 5 44 0
D J Malan 7 1 20 0
Fall of wickets
Order Name Runs
1 C T Bancroft 122
2 D A Warner 135
3 U T Khawaja 160
H D P K Dharmasena, S Ravi, R S Madugalle, J S Wilson
D A Warner, C T Bancroft, U T Khawaja, S P D Smith, S E Marsh, M R Marsh, T D Paine, P J Cummins, N M Lyon, J R Hazlewood, J M Bird
A N Cook, M D Stoneman, J M Vince, J E Root, D J Malan, J M Bairstow, M M Ali, C R Woakes, T K Curran, S C J Broad, J M Anderson, S Sub