A Boxing day Test hundred against the old enemy at the iconic ‘G’ – MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) – these are the stuff David Warner would have dreamt of and today, in front of thousands of fans and especially his family, he lived the dream. The events that unfolded the moment were as dramatic as the man himself. On 99, England debutant Tom Curran tucked up the ball at Warner and in reply, the latter top-edged a pull that flew to mid-on. As the adrenaline rushed in the English men, a pin-drop silence spread across the stadium. A dismissal like this was not for the first time in Warner’s career and he knew it, at least his reactions suggested it: he slammed the turf in disgust as he walked off the MCG field.
Meanwhile, the on-field umpire quickly checked for a no-ball. Those celebrations were followed by England’s worst nightmare – YES, Curran had overstepped! Warner survived. His teammates in the dressing room balcony went ecstatic, while the 88,172 crowd at MCG went mental. From screaming at top of his voice, Curran went silent, shook his head as he got ready to deliver his next delivery. An under-pressure Curran bowled a length ball then and Warner easily flicked it for a single and recorded a 21st Test hundred.
“Growing up, you always want a Boxing Day ton. It eluded me for a while until last year, and then I knew once I got in I really had to try to knuckle down and dig in,” a joyful Warner said after stumps.
It was those rare sights where the MCG crowd went insane as they watched Warner break into his iconic celebration of Toyota jump (he leaps in the air with a fist punch). Since the no-ball made the century a tad more special, Warner did his trademark jump twice and kissed his bat. Those couple of minutes will surely be etched in the history of MCG, but if you were an England follower, those scenes were heart-breaking and pallid. In other words, one could consider that the no-ball incident actually summed up the entire England tour. With several injuries and out of form senior players, England never looked in the contest in the first three Tests.
Curran might not be an express pacer but he is no less talented too. Throughout the opening day of the Melbourne Test, he stuck to disciplined line and lengths as he mixed it with a smart change of pace. Although Curran has grown up in the T20 era, he has the potential to shine in the other formats too and the testimony to that is his 171 wickets in 51 First-Class matches. He took a wicket with his second ball in international cricket during England’s T20I against South Africa in June and West Indies’ notable opener Chris Gayle was Curran’s first ODI scalp.
“It was horrible, the worst feeling I have had. But looking at the positives, I get to get my first wicket twice,” Curran, who will never forget this moment ever in his life, said.
But, eventually, those sympathies will come to an end for Curran and the Boxing Day 2017 will always be remembered for Warner’s century in cricket.
A year ago, Warner had become only the fifth batsman to have scored a hundred before lunch on the first day of a Test match. England, at least, were satisfied that they had denied Warner to replicate that innings of his on Tuesday. Because, the way Warner went about his knock on the Boxing day, a hundred before lunch indeed was on the cards. However, by lunch, Warner had 83 runs to his name. The explosive opener after his unbeaten partnership with Cameron Bancroft in the final innings of the opening Test, has been quiet by his standards. And it was just about time, he would go bonkers with the bat.
It finally happened after a gap of two Tests and it was significant because it was Warner’s second hundred in two consecutive MCG Tests. Surprisingly, MCG has been Warner’s least productive venue in Australia, where he averaged less than 40 in six Tests. Courtesy of his 103 off 151 (his slowest hundred at MCG), Warner now averages 244 in the last two Tests at the venue. The century also took him past the second hot sensation of Test cricket, Virat Kohli (20 Test tons) and Warner is one behind his teammate and captain, Steven Smith (22 Test tons).
Meanwhile, his 21st Test ton also took him into an elite club. Warner took 129 innings to reach the 6,000-run mark in Tests and he is the joint-fourth fastest Australian batsman to achieve this feat after Don Bradman (68), Ricky Ponting (125), Mathew Hayden (126) and Greg Chappell (129).
Although there were a few shots that went in the air between point and gully during Warner’s innings, all those were never close to getting him out until the ‘no-ball delivery’. The opener maintained a near-fluent innings, while his opening partner Bancroft looked absolutely out of touch. Warner, until he was there, handled the situation very well as he dominated their 122-run stand, in which Bancroft’s contribution was only 26. Warner created his own moments as he picked on poorer deliveries as finely as ever. He smashed Moeen Ali straight over his head for six in the last over before lunch. Post lunch, he spent almost 45 minutes in the 90s.
After his century, Warner’s joy short-lived as he departed soon edging a catch to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow off James Anderson. Although he did not capitalise on that form, he had done his job. Warner had given a perfect start to the Australians, that was well taken forward by the in-form and currently known freak batsman Steven Smith and Shaun Marsh on the other end. By stumps, Australia were in a comfortable position at 244 for 3 and England have a massive work to be done on Day two to deny the hosts any big first innings total.