Was Tim Paine right in declaring with David Warner batting on 335?
David Warner was batting on 335, and had an opportunity to etch his name in history. The southpaw had smashed the opposition bowling to all parts of the ground and was in sight of the record 400 scored by the legendary Brian Lara back in 2004.
But his captain Tim Paine had other ideas. He signaled for Australia to declare the innings as soon as Warner went past Sir Don Bradman’s highest Test score of 334.
Did Paine and Australia rob Warner of the rare opportunity of going past the coveted 400 mark? This is what Warner had to say about his chances:
“I felt there I could have gone on and done that (broken Lara’s record). Obviously it was a nice, fast outfield (at the WACA) but I’m just thrilled to put runs on the board back-to-back and being consistent.”
Warner also admitted that he Lara’s record was on his mind as soon as he crossed the 300-run mark. When asked what his target was towards the end of the innings, he replied:
“Four hundred. If the boundary was a bit smaller straighter I might have taken them on a bit more."
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In the context of the match, the declaration didn't exactly seem necessary at that point of time. The brittle Pakistan batting lineup has not showed up on this tour so far, and was in fact dismissed for 302 on Day 3. With more than two and a half days to go, the match might well get over by the fourth day itself.
Moreover, Pakistan had consumed just 171 overs in both their innings put together in the first Test, where they were thrashed by an innings and 5 runs.
Paine on his part insisted that the declaration was made keeping the best interests of the team in mind.
“It’s a tough one, no doubt. I think everyone would have loved to see the 400-mark get beaten. But unfortunately with the weather that’s around, we made a decision as a team that we would put in place a time. With the Test championship here now and 60 points on the line, if we had kept batting and it rained for a day ... we would be kicking ourselves," said the Australian skipper.
Paine's point of view is understandable. But given the conditions and the level of the opposition, it wasn't wrong for people to expect some leeway. The weather has been clear and Pakistan's batsmen are unlikely to last two more days; how much harm could delaying the declaration by an hour have done?
Yes, the team comes before the individual any day, but Australia were batting at a whopping run rate of 4.64 runs per over. More pertinently, Warner was scoring his runs at a strike rate of 80.14. Even if Australia had waited for another 10-12 overs, Warner could have gone past Lara.
Australia would've likely won the match anyway, with or without a 400. But now this match will go do down as just another triple-century win, rather than a historic, record-breaking one that Warner and his family would've cherished like no other.
By putting the 'team over the individual', Australia have robbed Warner a rare chance at history. And it's a chance that does not present itself everyday.