David Warner plays a shot during the second day of their second test cricket match against Bangladesh in Chittagong.
David Warner plays a shot during the second day of their second test cricket match against Bangladesh in Chittagong. A.M. Ahad

Warner conquers conditions and demons in Bangladesh

DAVID Warner's ironman hundred in Chittagong on Wednesday night announced the fighting opener as one of the fittest athletes in all Australian sport, but a middle order slide has failed to consolidate the advantage in a delicately poised series decider.

Excruciating 46 degree heat and overwhelming humidity could not suppress Warner from celebrating back-to-back centuries in a Bangladesh series where he was under searing pressure to prove he could even cope against the spinning ball.

However, all three results remain on the table after Glenn Maxwell, Matt Wade and Hilton Cartwright squandered opportunities to book Ashes spots to spark a middle-order flop and leave Australia 9-377 at stumps on a day three marred by rain and bad light.

The 72-run lead is significant, but with the wicket already showing signs of more extreme turn and deterioration, Australia are desperate for more to ensure they're not chasing a treacherous target batting last.

 

David Warner jumps in the air in celebration after scoring a hundred
David Warner jumps in the air in celebration after scoring a hundred A.M. Ahad

Match officials may have to look into footage late in the day which appeared to show Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan rubbing the ball into the pitch - something which could raise questions of ball tampering.

Warner's 20th career ton was by far his slowest in Test cricket, as he soaked up 209 balls and put his usual array of big shots away to find the boundary just five times.

Now into No.11 and equal with skipper Steve Smith on the list of Australia's all-time century-makers, Warner (123 off 234 balls) has conquered his sub-continental demons.

In conditions he described as the toughest he's ever encountered, Warner revealed the scope of what he and Peter Handscomb (82) went through and why his sub-continental resurrection was satisfying but hollow if Australia can't scrap their way to victory.

 

David Warner kisses his cap after scoring a hundred
David Warner kisses his cap after scoring a hundred A.M. Ahad

"It was really, really hard to run between wickets. You couldn't really suck in the oxygen and the fluids we were trying to get into us you literally felt like you were going to bring that back up," said Warner.

"They're extreme conditions.

"That's what we train for. That time off helped us a lot to gain some momentum and miles in the legs to prepare us for not just here but the upcoming summer. We talk about having some things in the bank and that's what we did. It's paid off so far.

"It's satisfying for myself but we're here to win games and I've given myself and the team as much (faith) as I can by putting on runs. At the moment we've got a lead of 72 so we've got to capitalise that in the morning to try and push forward to maybe 100 (run lead)."

There can be nothing but admiration for the courage shown by batting partner Peter Handscomb (82), who lost 4.5kg battling through extreme heat stroke to set Australia well on the path to saving face against Bangladesh.

 

Bangladesh's Mustafizur Rahman, right, celebrates with his teammate Soumya Sarkar after the dismissal of Australia's David Warner
Bangladesh's Mustafizur Rahman, right, celebrates with his teammate Soumya Sarkar after the dismissal of Australia's David Warner A.M. Ahad

Handscomb, cruelly running himself out trying to get a quick single for Warner who was on 99, deserved a hundred of his own to cement his place alongside Dean Jones in cricket folklore.

However, the profound contrast between Handscomb's obvious distress and Warner's relentless supply of energy spoke volumes about the vice-captain's extraordinary physical power as an athlete.

On this tour, the brutal conditions have consigned the likes of Pat Cummins and Maxwell to illness, but Warner in over six hours at the crease, somehow made the Chittagong sweat box as cool as winter.

Warner's innings wasn't defined by the flashy stroke play that earned him plaudits for smashing a century before lunch at the SCG back in January.

Rather it was a performance built on fierce mental focus and undying self-belief - by-products of the all-encompassing pre-season fitness regime he says has engineered his long-awaited coming of age in the sub-continent.

 

Bangladesh players celebrate as Australia's Peter Handscomb, on ground, fails to make his ground
Bangladesh players celebrate as Australia's Peter Handscomb, on ground, fails to make his ground A.M. Ahad

"Coming of age, maybe," said Warner when asked where the turnaround in Asia has come.

"It's a tough environment to come out and try and play your shots and play your natural game. Find your way. For me it's taken almost 16 or 17 Tests in these conditions to work out what my game plan is and stick to it."

After Handscomb's departure, Australia lost 7-120 with Maxwell (38) and Cartwright (18) blowing starts as they potentially vie for the No.6 spot in the Ashes.

Wade also failed to contribute with the bat and is now walking on the thinnest of ice - he and Maxwell making matters worse by wasting reviews.

Pat Cummins came and went not offering a shot to fall plumb lbw, before receiving a bizarre send-off from Nasir Hossain who stood next to umpire Nigel Llong and simultaneously lifted his finger.

Warner pushed himself to breaking point in daily training sessions more tailored for a boxer or marathon runner, than a cricketer.

 

Glenn Maxwell plays a shot, as Bangladesh's Mominul Haque jumps to avoid getting hit
Glenn Maxwell plays a shot, as Bangladesh's Mominul Haque jumps to avoid getting hit A.M. Ahad

But over the past two days, the proof of Warner's professionalism and physical conditioning was laid bare.

Coach Darren Lehmann said Warner's attention to detail on this tour has been inspiring for a dressing room desperate to find its identity away from home.

"The way he's adapted ... and actually gone about in a different way in the last couple of innings has been spectacular," said Lehmann after day two.

"He only hit four boundaries (the fifth came when he brought up triple figures) which is unusual for him. They spread the field quite a lot so it was hard for him to hit boundaries and play on the basis of how he (normally) plays.

"He led the way in how we wanted to play in that partnership. It's what you want from your leaders. He's been excellent, especially in the last couple of innings.

"He's that talented, he's probably got it now."

The only tragedy of Warner's innings was that Handscomb - with whom he shared a game-changing 152-run partnership - fell at the final hurdle.

Handscomb was guilty of backing up way too far, but it was a play of pure unselfishness as he tried desperately to find Warner a single to get him to his 100.

There was never a run there though and Handscomb could not retreat quick enough to avoid a direct hit run-out.

Warner was clearly rattled by the moment and ultimately took 15 balls to finally get off 99 and leap into the sky in jubilation.

This was an innings which proved Warner has many gears to his game, despite his reputation as a six-hitting powerhouse.

Taking 154 balls to score a century would not be considered slow for most batsmen, but for Warner this was his previous low - back in 2014 against India in Adelaide - before Wednesday's 209 ball slog.

News Corp Australia


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