Warner revels in Twenty20 debut
Thirteen days ago, Australia lost a Test match at the MCG, and with it a home series for the first time in 16 years.
There followed much talk of new brooms and sweeping change.
Last night the nation's elite cricketers returned to the traditional game's oldest stage, and only captain Ricky Ponting and batsman Mike Hussey remained. That must have been one hell of a big broom. This time it was Twenty20 cricket, where all is constantly moving, not least the make-up of the team.
A crowd packed with young faces saw a game full of fledgling steps, and a performance from an audacious novice they will never forget.
David Warner made his international debut, alongside four teammates — Shaun Marsh, Luke Ronchi, Ben Hilfenhaus and David Hussey — who before last night boasted six matches in Australian colours between them in this abbreviated form of the game.
A little more than three decades ago on the same ground, a swashbuckling left-hander announced himself on debut for his country in the Centenary Test. Warner's ascent to the international stage is in its way even more remarkable than that of David Hookes; only two others have represented Australia without playing first-class cricket, and that was in the very first Test match 132 years ago.
John Hodges and Tom Kendall might spin in their graves at what has become of the game, but there is no question Hookes, who died five years ago next Monday, would approve of Warner.
The 22-year-old NSW left-hander is so tailored to the Twenty20 game he might have emerged from a laboratory.
When Warner jogged along the red carpet and past the sparklers to open the Australian innings with Shaun Marsh, there was no sign of the double-sided bat his manufacturer of choice has been trumpeting. Not that having only one side of the willow at his disposal proved a handicap.
He is only a little man, but gives the ball one hell of a clout. Turning Makhaya Ntini to fine leg was deemed enough to get his eye in, and before the first over was through he had swatted South Africa's strike bowler over mid-on.
Unimpressed with just clearing the leaping fielder's right hand, Warner took the same route in Ntini's next over, clearing the boundary rope. A long-on was placed, so he hit the next ball over square leg for another six.
When third man came up so the leg-side rope could be covered, he edged through slip for four. It was the most stunning of arrivals; when Ponting joined him at Marsh's dismissal, he had faced 11 balls and made 30.
South Africa's short-game captain Johan Botha turned to Dale Steyn, the hero of the Boxing Day Test.
No one was surprised that he greeted Warner with a couple of short balls, all were stunned when he lifted the first over fine leg into the crowd, and cross-batted the second over mid-on into the Olympic Stand. That took Warner to the second-fastest half century in Twenty20's short international history — off 19 balls, with five fours and four sixes. (For those wondering, Indian Yuvraj Singh holds the record, off 12 balls!).
The tourists took the pace off, Steyn turning to slower balls and off-spinner Botha bringing himself on.
Still they were dispatched, into and over the fence. There was subtlety too; with the South Africans scattered, Warner nudged one to leg and hared two runs. No one was spared, with Jacques Kallis dumped 15 rows into the Ponsford Stand by the biggest blow of the night.
Parents with early starts to the working week might have wondered why they had to wait until 7.35 for a match to begin on a sunny Sunday. They weren't grumbling when they left for home.