Australia’s amazing turnaround in the ongoing Ashes has primarily been due to the brutal manner in which Mitchell Johnson has blown away the English batsmen. Without doubt, he has got under the skin of the Englishmen and has given Australia a massive edge. But, cricket is a team game and one man alone cannot change the fortunes of a side. While Johnson has been very well supported by the likes of Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris, skipper Michael Clarke has also made a big contribution coming up with a couple of big knocks.
Equally important, and perhaps even more significant, has been the performance of David Warner at the top of the innings. The openers set the tone of an innings for their side. Depending on their performance, sides can either flounder or flourish. The stark contrast in the efforts of the openers in the last Ashes and this one is a striking example of how important their success is to that of the team. Chris Rogers and Shane Watson were tried as an opening pair for a couple of games in England, and while Rogers tasted moderate success, their pair as a whole was a failure.
Warner was recalled to the side for the third Test of the previous Ashes, but made only one half-century in six innings, and was clearly a big disappointment. Just before his recall, Warner had been dropped from the national squad on disciplinary basis as he had allegedly gotten into an altercation with Joe Root off the field. Following his failures on the cricket pitch as well, it seemed that Warner was heading towards joining the list of talented batsmen wasting their gifts. His success in the ongoing Ashes will be so heartening for Australia.
Unlike in the previous series, Warner has ensured that he converts his starts into big scores. The left-hander hasn’t cut down on his aggression, yet he has impressively smashed two tons in three Tests so far, which have put Australia in commanding positions. His 124 at Brisbane ensured Johnson’s first-innings heroics did not go in vain, his unbeaten 83 at Adelaide then set up the victory for the Aussies. At Perth, he must have been disappointed to have fallen for 60 in the first innings, but more than made up for it with a wonderful albeit lucky century in the second essay, which has put Australia in a position to retain the Ashes.
The advantage with having Warner at the top of the order is that he scores his runs at a fast pace, and when he gets going he normally puts his side in a commanding position. This is exactly what has been happening in this Ashes. At the same time, since Warner’s game is fraught with danger his consistency would always be on the lower side. In many ways, he is playing a role Virender Sehwag did so wonderfully for India for nearly a decade. If Warner can do the same for Australia for a similar duration, Australia win end up winning a lot more games.
--By A Cricket Analyst