Warner’s 200 a game-changer for Australia – and for him

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Those words were of the positive kind swirling around Warner’s mind as he limbered up for the MCG. He also noted how, in the late stage of his career, a reversion to the more free-scoring approaches of his younger days might be in order.

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And when he bounded out against South Africa in the final hour of Boxing Day, pursuing the Proteas’ unsatisfactory 189 all out, Warner moved with a decisive sense of his best game and how to play it.

Since they convened as a selection panel after the resignation of Justin Langer earlier this year, George Bailey, Tony Dodemaide and Andrew McDonald have been inclined towards perseverance over change: a quality some criticised following the unsuccessful defence of the Twenty20 World Cup.

With Warner, the selectors had a major quandary. A lack of runs in the here and now at home had the potential to conspire with mediocre tallies in previous series in India and England to make his place in the 2023 Test side a matter of more faith than empirical reason.

But in unlocking his shot making to put South Africa off-balance on the first evening, and then going on from there as the MCG surface flattened out to sculpt the third-fattest score of his Test career, Warner did not simply change a Test match.

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He also offered hard evidence that his powers have not diminished; not against top pace like the 152.6km/h thunderbolts of Anrich Nortje, nor against a bowling attack commonly regarded as among the world’s two or three most formidable.

Even as they were confounded by Warner, the visitors still took a toll. Cameron Green, tall as he is, copped a nasty blow on the bottom hand by Nortje, drawing blood and retiring hurt. Warner himself was struck on the left glove and the helmet along the way. Cheap runs these were not.

And by reaching 25 centuries and surpassing 8000 Test runs in 100 matches as an opener, all while striking at better than 70 runs per 100 balls, Warner put himself in a class virtually on his own. Only Virender Sehwag has made more runs at greater speed when taking on the new ball, and his tally of hundreds maxed out at 23 in 104 Tests.

In saluting Warner’s “Toyota” jump to mark three figures and fierce resolve to defy 37-degree temperatures – that is until cramp forced him off upon reaching 200 – Australia’s selectors were also reassured that the 36-year-old wasn’t just making a valedictory century as David Boon once did here before retiring.

Instead Warner was proving to himself, the selectors, 42,614 MCG spectators and the world, that he remains a clear and present danger for bowlers, on the cusp of a year that may well define the legacy of this Australian side.

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