Ego-less David Warner finds the code to conquering Asian conditions
They keep the men at the fence. They keep a few at catching areas too. They bowl outside off stump.
They use the tried and tested strategy. They know the deliveries outside off stump will tempt him. They know irrespective of the fielders, he will play those flashing drives and quick cuts. And they know one of these cuts or the drives or the relentless aggressive attitude will bring his downfall.
This is the template strategy against him. It was deployed when he came to India in 2013, to Sri Lanka in 2016 and again to India in 2017. The strategy has a proven track record. In India, he averages 24.25 and in Sri Lanka 27.16. In 22 innings in these two countries, he has only four scores of fifty-plus.
So when he arrives in Bangladesh they throw the same challenge at him, expecting him to dig his own grave.
But at Chittagong, David Warner refuses to go after the ball bowled at the fifth stump. He doesn't play his drives or cuts with aggression. Instead, he plays them cautiously and rotates the strike.
Bangladesh waits for that mistake. They wait for Warner's patience to end. And they keep on waiting. Till the end of the second day, then till noon on the third day. But that mistake never happens, the patience never ends.
And when at the stroke of tea, finally the wicket of Warner arrives, the damage is been already done. The Australian batsman walks back after scoring his second hundred in as many innings, and importantly after finding the cheat code for reaping success in Asian conditions.
The hundred at Chittagong is Warner's 20th Test ton. It is also his slowest in terms of balls faced. He faced 209 balls to score this century. The previous slowest hundred came against India at Adelaide in 2014. That hundred came in 154 balls. The hundred in Chittagong surpassed the previous hundred by 55 balls. A 28% increase in terms of balls faced.
The left-hand batsman scores a boundary four every 10.49 balls in Tests. In the first innings against Bangladesh, he scored only five fours after 209 balls, the point when he reached his hundred. It means a boundary four after every 41.8 balls.
Six of the 20 hundreds scored by the Aussie opener came at a strike rate above 100. 15 hundreds were scored at a strike rate above 80. His lowest strike rate before this hundred was 61.44.
The hundred in the second Test of the Bangladesh series came off 209 balls, at a strike rate of 47.84.
This is why this inning is special. This is why this inning stands apart from the rest of the 19 he has scored in his career. For his 20th hundred, Warner played the most number of balls, scored the least number of fours and scored more runs in defensive shots than he ever has in his career.
For some batsmen, aggression is one of the gears in batting. For a few, it is the only gear in batting. And for Warner aggression is batting. He goes to the crease not to score runs. He stands in front of the stumps to express his dominance, to show the bowlers their true place and to smash, whip and pulverize the cricket ball.
Aggression is the language the Aussie opener speaks. And when he is asked to keep quiet, he becomes restless. The mere idea of bowlers dictating the terms frustrates the left-hander. It hits his ego. It challenges him. And eventually, it brings his downfall.
While coming to the crease in the second Test, Warner did something for the first time in his six years of Test career. He left his ego in the dressing room. He was ready to keep quiet, he accepted the dominance of the bowlers.
They bowled outside off-stump. They kept the fielders in the right areas. They waited for Warner to explode. Instead, the Aussie batsman shouldered his arms, allowed the ball to go past him into the wicket-keeper's gloves. And when it was close to the stumps he whisked it off with delicate hands and calm mind.
They still kept the men on the boundaries. Warner quietly pushed the ball and ran singles. It happened for overs. It happened for sessions. Bangladesh and Warner kept staring at each other waiting for the other to blink the eye first.
In India in 2013 and 2017 and in Sri Lanka in 2016, Warner blinked the eye first. But in Bangladesh in 2017, an ego-less Warner refused to fall down. He took the battle to the end. He got beaten and bruised, he was dirtied, but he kept on fighting. He kept on running those singles and defending the good balls.
And finally, Bangladesh gave up, offering Warner the cheat code for reaping success in sub-continent conditions. Steve Smith deployed the same strategy against India in the recent Test series. He was beaten frequently, but the Aussie captain kept his head down and focused on playing for the longer duration.
Warner, in Bangladesh, gave away the temptation of boundaries and concentrated on rotating the strike. He blocked and blocked and kept on blocking the good deliveries because he knew in the sub-continent you don't bat for runs, you bat for time.
The left-hander batted for time, with his ego nicely packed and locked in the dressing room and finally conquered the final frontier.