Redemption for David Warner as Proteas toil against Australia

David Warner

David Warner

Published Dec 27, 2022


Second Test, Day 2, MCG

South Africa: 189 all out

Australia: 386/3 (Warner 200*, Smith 85, Head 48*, Nortje 1/50)

Australia lead by 197 runs

Johannesburg - Late on a near autumn evening in Cape Town, there were two sporting careers unravelling at a rapid rate.

Reputations were being tarnished, and leadership positions revoked. It was the seminal moment in David Warner and Steve Smith’s careers after they had admitted to tampering with the ball in the third Test against South Africa.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since that fateful day at Newlands, with Smith having even led Australia again in the preceding series against the West Indies before the Proteas arrived Down Under.

Warner, though, has remained the key villain in the “Sandpaper-gate” scandal and with his form - his last Test century was back in 2020 - having also deserted him over the past two years, the vultures were closing in to script the end of the pocket-sized opener’s controversial career.

But as he has always done, when the world is against him, that’s when Warner’s bullish spirit comes to the fore, and replies with an authoritative middle finger salute to anyone who dared cross his path.

And there was no more emphatic statement than on Tuesday that Warner should garner greater respect as an Australian cricket legend. There are few that cherish the Baggy Green more than the 36-year-old, and his spellbinding 200 retired hurt in his 100th Test at the MCG should guarantee him a place in the museum that lives inside this great sporting colosseum.

It was an innings of brilliance, verve and absolute certainty that floored the Proteas and their impressive bowling unit.

The South Africans tried valiantly but simply had no response to Warner’s destructive blade which was only put down when cramp eventually forced him off the field.

After three consecutive series losses to the visitors from Africa on home soil, Warner has delivered the innings that should finally bring an end to this barren run. And with it should be his redemption.

Of all the South African bowlers nobody tried harder than Anrich Nortje. The big-hearted fast bowler from Gqeberha bristled in after the lunch interval and peppered Warner with a flurry of short balls that tickled the rib cage before following it up with a couple of toe-crushing yorkers.

It made for captivating viewing. Nortje, with his handlebar Aussie-like moustache, charging in and trying to knock over the prized Australian opener.

But Warner survived and then prospered as the day wore on and the Proteas bowlers tired in the searing Melbourne heat. A couple of lofted straight drives off Lungi Ngidi before skipping down the pitch to punch Keshav Maharaj into the bleachers illustrated his dominance.

It was only fitting that Warner had Smith for company for most of the day after Marnus Labuschagne had sacrificed his wicket in the morning after a mix-up with Warner.

Smith and Warner cannot be more contrasting individuals - both in personality and playing style - but they have travelled some dark roads together.

And with every run they added during their 239-run partnership, they buried the Proteas further into the ground and with it their Cape Town nightmares.

Smith was deserving of a century, and his body language indicated as much, when he despondently trudged back to the dugout for 85 after meekly guiding Nortje into the hands of Theunis de Bruyn at gully.

The damage had been done though. And Travis Head rubbed further salt into the wounds with a rapid 48 not out late in the afternoon.

There had been some good fortune along the way with wicket-keeper Kyle Verreynne dropping Smith down the leg-side early in his innings, but that let-off does not in any way take the shine off a day that belonged entirely to Warner and the Australians.