“Australia are glad that their fearless Warner is back. He not only won the Aussie hearts all over again, he even melted the Pakistani fans, who chose not to boo him but instead acknowledge and enjoy the talent Warner is”!

It’s the first ball of the 36th over. Shaheen Afridi is the bowler and David Warner is on the strike.

Warner edges a length ball between wicketkeeper and first slip and the ball goes straight to the ropes for a boundary. The Aussie opener flies into his signature celebration as he brings up his 15th ODI hundred.

This milestone was a tad more special as Warner was coming off a difficult phase. It was his first ton for his country since he was taken back into the Aussie dressing room after a year’s suspension following the infamous Sandpaper Gate.

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Warner’s return to international cricket did not begin on a sweet note. The likes of Afghanistan and India made life difficult for the explosive batsman, mentally at least. Although he notched up a fifty each against them, those were his slowest half-centuries ever in the 50-over cricket. Warner, who needed 77 balls to touch the 50-run mark against India, knew it was a matter of time when he turned tables around; all he needed was just a bit of introspection before Australia’s next game against Pakistan in Taunton.

“We were so pumped for him – obviously being a massive 14, 15 months for him. He was really open and honest after the Oval game [against India]. He said he was playing a bit timider than he normally is, his mindset, he has got to get that back. And you saw that [against Pakistan], he was on. We were just so pumped for him,” Warner’s teammate Pat Cummins said.

Also read: Pakistan’s patchy brilliance not enough against the relentless Kangaroos

While the two poor fifties were still fresh in Warner’s mind, he had a similar beginning as Australia batted first against Pakistan on Thursday. He was then assisted with Pakistan’s dropped catches, misfielding and overthrows. That aided Warner in setting the tone of Australia’s innings. Taunton pitch was supposed to help the seamers more in the beginning and Pakistan’s attack tried to use it in their favour. Shaheen Afridi had an ordinary start.

Wahab Riaz produced a vary of deliveries. Against Warner, Riaz hit in the bat high, at the splice of the bat, delivered a short ball and produced some extra bounce. But, the Aussie batsman was alert and watchful of a shot he played. He made the correct movement of his feet and was also cautious of the times when he was caught in the crease.

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Mohammad Amir continued to threaten Warner, who did not budge. In the 23rd over, Amir beat two back to back edges of the batsman but Warner was still confident enough to come forward to play Amir’s next ball and that showed how determined he was to turn things around in his favour. In his previous two innings, maybe Warner got cold feet as he was returning to the coloured national jersey after a gap of one whole year. It was noted that he had restricted his feet movement as there was hardly any coordination between his head and feet and that gave an impression that he was wary of taking any risk – something that did not go with his actual nature as a batsman.

On Thursday, since Warner was vigilant, he assessed the available gaps and played his shots accordingly. He danced down the wicket without the fear of getting out and pulled a ball that was just slightly short of a length. When a batsman gets into a dominant position of finding gaps easily and converting the ones into twos, he is boosted to punish a loose delivery bowled at him and Warner was able to do exactly that. His aggressive mindset, which was quite evidently missing in his previous two knocks, was back and so was Australia’s good luck.

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Whenever Warner has scored runs, Australia have been a lot different team and that phenomenon was witnessed on Thursday. By the end of the game at Taunton, the Australians breathed a sigh of relief as they had experienced the good old dressing room as if nothing had ever changed. When Warner entered the triple-digits off 102 balls, he celebrated animatedly looking at his Australian dressing room and then gave a big emotional hug to his batting partner Shaun Marsh.

Warner’s slowest ODI fifties came in easier conditions. In fact, his returning century came in tough conditions, which Warner later on termed as Test match contest like scenario where there was everything from the seam, uneven bounce and swing. The Taunton pitch had been under the covers for two full days, there was less grass and that batting on the same was always going to be difficult. Warner was more than satisfied as he conquered himself on those conditions.

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Australia were glad that their fearless Warner was back. He not only won the Aussie hearts all over again, he even melted the Pakistani fans, who chose not to boo him but instead acknowledge and enjoy the talent Warner is! Every shot of Warner was followed by a huge cheer from the crowd, that was dominated by Pakistanis in Taunton. Warner, who was never popular with crowds whenever Australia toured abroad, did not hesitate to acknowledge the love and respect he received in Taunton on social media, later on.

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