Warner's possible net gains offset by damaging net pains
Struggling with form … David Warner's cross-format program has left him underdone for Test opening. Photo: Getty Images
DAVID WARNER yelled at himself as a ball from James Pattinson flew off the edge of his bat. The next one, from Peter Siddle, he missed altogether. A later attempt to strike a net bowler into the River Torrens resulted in a painful blow to the ribs.
Warner has a ''see the ball, hit the ball'' approach to batting, but it's not so simple for Australia's combative opener at the moment. His torrid session in the Adelaide nets on Tuesday suggests he is struggling to overcome the disjointed preparation that saw him sit on the bench for the Delhi Daredevils at the Champions League before the Test series against South Africa, leaving him just one first-class game to adapt.
Warner has been putting in extra sessions in an effort to rediscover the sweet spot on his bat, but on Tuesday he looked like a batsman at war with himself. Selection chairman John Inverarity recently declined to guarantee Warner's place after Shane Watson returns to full fitness, and if Rob Quiney plays in Adelaide and excels, and Warner fails, the pressure will intensify.
"He's always going to be in a different preparation phase to me because he plays three formats of the game" ... Ed Cowan on his fellow opening batsman David Warner. Photo: Getty Images
Ed Cowan expressed sympathy for his opening partner, who was trotting around the globe playing Twenty20 while Cowan was at home accumulating precious time in the middle for Tasmania in the weeks before the Test series against South Africa.
''He's always going to be in a different preparation phase to me because he plays three formats of the game. Since the last Test series in the West Indies I think I've played 11 or 12 first-class games - Dave hadn't played one. He's constantly going to fight that battle of travelling around the world playing white-ball cricket. Thankfully I don't have that,'' Cowan said. ''That's the nature of the beast, I guess.''
Even though he approached the Test series with a succession of middling scores, Cowan's grounding in the Sheffield Shield enabled him to quickly banish any self-doubts that crept into his head.
''They're only fleeting thoughts, I'm not sitting at home wallowing in a glass of whiskey, they're just moments that I've [asked] … 'Am I doing this the right way?' To have that affirmation … that you're hitting the ball well and you might not have got huge runs in the Shield game but you know that you spent 140 balls against a Test quality attack and they couldn't get you to play a bad shot, you just keep telling yourself that you're on top of your game.
''Batting is about rhythm and feeling and after a while you get a pretty good indicator of how you're going, so I always felt like I was close.''
Warner has no such comfort. In Brisbane, he poked at a ball he could have left and edged Dale Steyn to second slip for four from 15 balls, while Cowan received the ultimate affirmation with a maiden Test century, 136 against a high-class attack.
Warner scored two contrasting centuries in his first five Tests, the first with his head down in a valiant but unsuccessful effort to save a match against New Zealand in Hobart, and the other a blistering 180 against India in Perth last December. In the eight innings since, he has averaged 25.87, with one half century.
Ricky Ponting still believes Warner has the temperament for Test cricket, and drew a comparison with another swashbuckling left-hander, Adam Gilchrist. ''There's always going to be those questions asked about Dave because of the way he plays. No one thought Gilly would have the temperament to survive and make as many hundreds as he did in Test cricket, but he found a way and he did it,'' Ponting said.
''Sure, it's a bit different for Dave because he's an opening batsman, but the bottom line is he's not playing any more short-form games than the majority of our players. What he has to be able to do, though, is adapt himself very quickly from the changeover of formats. It's not an easy thing to do. One thing I know is if he's playing well and hitting the ball off the middle of the bat, he'll set-up a lot of Test wins for Australia.''
For the moment, Warner can be thankful his Test place is not riding on his net form.