David Warner endured a 1086 day wait, one littered with as many turbulent times as batting near misses and one which demanded a strength of character few could boast, for his 25th Test century.
Even the last 20 minutes were as tough as it gets as he endured a ferocious spell of fast bowling, and took a 154 kmh thunderbolt to his thumb, before the 36-year-old entered a realm populated only by the best-ever with a hundred his greatest supporter said no-one should have ever doubted would arrive.
A day after Australia’s newest test star put the second clash against South Africa on the home team’s, its oldest player took the tourists apart in a 156-run stand with his “great mate” Steve Smith in baking 36C Melbourne .
It was so hot at the MCG Warner and Smith sat in chairs ushered on to the field during the drinks break. Warner even needed treatment for a hamstring cramp when he reached 124, his famous fitness, the key to his cricketing longevity, and frenetic running in his 100th test, giving in to the conditions, 187 balls in.
At tea Australia was 2-231, Warner unbeaten on 135, Smith on 60, after Marnus Labuschagne was run out in the first session, with the lead at 42 and set to climb against a flagging South African attack.
Australian captain Pat Cummins decision to bowl first, a plan which took in the potential for the tourists to be bowling in a furnace, paid off as Warner endured their best offerings to carve out an unforgettable innings.
The list of achievements the lad from Matraville added to an already Hall of Fame worthy career included passing 8000 Test runs and moving in to seventh on the all-time Australian run-scoring list., jumping over Mark Waugh.
But assuming he remains in that position, even in the acknowledged twilight of his Test career and, some 450 runs behind the man in front of him, and his batting partner for most of day two at the MCG, Steve Smith, could be folly.
“You’d think by now people would know writing David Warner off is the wrong thing to do,” his ever-forthright wife Candice said after he carved out one of his greatest cricketing efforts, told Fox Cricket.
“It’s been incredibly tough and people don’t take those things in to consideration … he never uses it an excuse, he uses it as motivation.”
Warner flew to Melbourne for the second test against South Africa, via Bali as per an Instagram prank, being doubted by plenty having scored just three 50s from 20 innings in 2022.
His last Test hundred came before Covid stopped the world, the pandemic halting for nearly three years one of Australian cricket’s great run scoring sprees.
No-one beats father time, plenty said, and at 36, every innings without that hundred added fuel to the fire for the critics.
But few fires burn harder, or hotter, than Warner’s.
Whether he’s handling a full over of 150kmh-plus deliveries from Anrich Nortje, or battling Cricket Australia over a lifetime leadership ban his teammates have all declared went beyond all scope of punishment, Warner is a fighter.
After just under 20 minutes in the 90s, as Warner flicked the Proteas’ number on fast bowler, Kagiso Rabada, to the fine-leg boundary, screaming “GO” as the ball raced off his bat, that fight, his desire, his want, re-set the clock as the scoreboard showed Warner on 100 once again.
Warner became just the second Australian, with Ricky Ponting, to score a century in his 100th test. It’s a feat only 10 people, worldwide, have achieved in cricket history.
It was his 19th century in Australia, having passed 5000 runs at home. Warner also took his test average at the MCG beyond 50, scoring his third ton at the home of cricket.