ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Warner's first steps bear promising signs
Opening batsman hits the right notes in his official return to international cricket as a long summer gets underway
2 June 2019, 02:39 PM AEST
As far as first steps go, it couldn't have been much steadier. David Warner has a long, challenging English summer ahead but Australia's much-maligned opening batsman appears to have steeled himself for the task.
Against Afghanistan, playing his first international match since Cape Town 14 months ago, Warner peeled off an unbeaten 89 to steer his side to a comfortable seven-wicket win on the first day of the northern summer.
It wasn't explosive – the 74 balls he took to reach his half-century made it his slowest in ODIs.
It wasn't flashy – he shelved the T20 tricks that have been on display in leagues around the world during his international hiatus.
And it wasn't his finest hour – for a player with 35 international hundreds, that bar is high.
But it was a statement.
In making his highest score from 34 international innings in England, Warner gave himself an ideal first outing in the tournament. He had missed one of Australia's warm-up matches with a glute strain so was perhaps a tick behind where he had planned to be in his preparation and readiness. Therefore, to spend more than two hours in the middle of the County Ground in Bristol, soaking up 114 balls in the process, was priceless.
"The way that I started out there, playing Twenty20 cricket over the last 12-14 months hasn't really moved my feet at all," Warner said during the post-match presentation.
"So to get back into rhythm out there, and start moving in the right direction – getting my head over the ball – (it) was great to get out there and do that."
With the headlines and controversy attached to his name following the sandpaper scandal, Warner's metamorphosis as a one-day batsman is easily forgotten. On Australia Day of 2017, during a run of 10 hundreds in two calendar years (2016-17), the left-hander vaulted ahead of the likes of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers into the number one spot on the ICC's ODI batting rankings.
In September the same year he made 124 against India in his 100th ODI to bring his runs tally to 4,217 – second only to Hashim Amla in history at that milestone point in a career.
It remains his most recent ODI hundred, but the innings against Afghanistan suggests number 15 is only a matter of time.
It also raises the wider question of how a productive World Cup might impact his form in the Ashes. Warner's 2015 Ashes has often been written off as a failure, probably because he failed to score a hundred throughout the five Tests.
However the statistics – five fifties from nine innings and an average of 46.44 – actually make solid reading for an opening batsman, particularly against the new-ball pairing of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Those numbers are more impressive when viewed in the context of Tests played in England in the intervening four years; in 84 innings by visiting openers, just three centuries have been scored, while Alastair Cook (three times) is the only English opener to have hit three figures through the same period.
Warner entered the 2017 Bangladesh Test series with critics focused on the fact that just one of his then 18 Test hundreds had come in Asia, with the rest being plundered on hard, fast tracks of home (14) or South Africa (three) that were well-suited to his game. In Dhaka and Chittagong, he peeled off successive hundreds. It was another statement.
When the Ashes begins on August 1, there will be similar theories around his ability to handle the swinging ball. Given his history, one would suspect Warner will view it as simply another chance to prove himself.
But with a World Cup to defend, he will be trying not to think about any of that right now, and the 32-year-old succinctly summed up the feeling after Australia's success against Afghanistan.
"Great win, good start for us," he said. "Now we've just got to keep the ball rolling."
2019 World Cup
Australia's squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
June 9: India v Australia, The Oval
June 12: Australia v Pakistan, Taunton
June 15: Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval
June 20: Australia v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge
June 25: England v Australia, Lord's
July 9: Semi-Final 1, Old Trafford
July 11: Semi-Final 2, Edgbaston
July 14: Final, Lord's
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE