David Warner is now a fixture in all three of Australia’s international formats. However, just over eleven years ago, his selection in the T20I side was the hunches of all hunches. The selectors picking him to make his debut for Australia before having played a single First-Class match.
He had made a name for himself as T20 specialist though. From the moment he first turned out for New South Wales as a 20-year-old, batting at number 6 in a losing cause against Queensland, he was every bit a Twenty/20 specialist. His first-ever innings of 20 off 11 balls set the ball rolling, and he didn’t look back. Meaning two years later he received his first Australian cap before his first for NSW.
When Warner came out to bat, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) scorers didn’t know what to do. For everyone else, they had a photograph, but not Warner. Where his face should be blazoned upon the scoreboard, instead there was a blank space. Commentators said it was a novelty act designed to sell more tickets. He would get a match or two, before being abandoned forever.
Australia rested three key players so Warner could play with Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, and Mitchell Johnson all taking the day off. Australia still had a strong team, but it could have been a whole lot stronger. It was a hunch, an experiment, a gimmick.
The experienced Shaun Marsh took guard, facing the powerful Makhaya Ntini. He and Warner traded singles, including the debutant’s first international runs before the fireworks started. Facing the fifth ball, Warner erupted the crowd by smashing only his second ball in international cricket to the fence for four! It was a dream start for the 22-year-old debutant, with six off his first over, off just three balls faced. Marsh, at the other end, had just two.
In the second over, Warner faced Lonwabo Tsotsobe, a virtual unknown, but one with a great reputation. Smash, another boundary, as Australia managed 11 off the second over, 19 in total, and the run-rate of 9.5 was already out of control.
If South Africa thought that things would calm down, they just had to wait for the fourth ball of Ntini’s second over. Still only the third over of the match, Warner smashed one into the stands for six. He followed the effort with another the very next ball before finishing the over with a four. He had already compiled 28 off just 11 balls, and Australia had 37 runs off their first three overs, and already it was looking like Australia’s match to lose.
In the next over, Tsotsobe had the more experienced Shaun Marsh out, caught at short fine leg off a bad ball that he tried to hit for six but failed to control. The carnage surely was over. But Ricky Ponting was no slouch.
Jacques Kallis, South Africa’s best player, came in to stem the flow of runs, and Warner treated him with disdain. Smash Four. Smash Four. And 12 runs were scored, keeping Australia’s run rate above 10 per over after five.
Then Dale Steyn came into bowl, and he was smashed even harder for two consecutive sixes. These blows saw Warner march to an incredible 52 off just 19 balls – on debut!
Johan Botha came in to stem the tide and managed a good over, with just five runs conceded. But the damage was already done, and South Africa desperately needed Warner to go.
Steyn had a wayward over with a wide bowled, and Warner, off the seventh ball, scored a four, for 12 runs off the over, as the pressure mounted.
Johan Botha then had a near-perfect T20I over, conceding just a single run. That is, until Warner smashed him over his head, and over a diving fielder on the long-on boundary too, into the stands for another powerful six.
Albie Morkel got rid of Ponting, caught by Steyn on the boundary while attempting a six, but with Warner there and the run-rate still over 10 per over, South Africa were in huge trouble.
Off Jacques Kallis, Warner scored yet another six, for 13 runs off the over, as South Africa’s pain continued as Warner bolted to 80 runs off 36 balls.
Albie Morkel had a good over, conceding just five. But then David Hussey joined the party, smashing Johan Botha for a six and a four, for 14 off the over, as South African headaches continued.
Then, finally, he fell. Makhaya Ntini came back angry, after conceding 26 runs off his first two overs. He would concede another four to Warner before he got his man. David Hussey first, and the very next ball he got rid of Warner, caught at deep midwicket by A B de Villiers. Not before the Australian had reached 89 off 43, a strike rate of 206.97, impressive even by T20 standards, and Australia, at 4/140 after 14, had a platform to do great things.
The Australian total finished on just 9/182, highlighting the quality of South Africa’s attack, but also just how good Warner had been. The next highest score after Warner’s 89 was Ricky Ponting with just 21. Only Luke Ronchi, with 11 off 5, bettered Warner’s strike rate.
South Africa, in reply, were never going to get there, with only JP Duminy with 78 off 48, putting up any resistance at all, as South Africa crumbled to 130 all out off just 18 overs, and Australia won by a massive 52 runs.
David Warner got the man of the match award on debut and he didn’t look back. A week later, he made his ODI debut, and two months after that he finally made his much-anticipated first class debut for New South Wales.
It would be almost three more years before Warner first played a Test Match. It was only then that he to shed his tag as a Twenty/20 specialist, but, when he first started, that was a good thing, as he was the T20 specialist we wanted.