FOURTH TEST IT CUMMIN! WARNER SIGNS ARE NOT GOOD
FIRST the bad news: had England taken their pick of which of the three sandpaper villains to dominate this summer, it would not have been Cameron Bancroft or David Warner.
Without much shadow of doubt, it would have been Steve Smith whose brilliance may yet dictate the destiny of the urn.
But the good news, in terms of neutralising the threats systematically one by one, is that yesterday proved that only the former captain remains.
Bancroft is long gone if he was ever really here – dropped after the second Test with 44 runs in four innings to his name and seen since in a hi-vis bib ferrying drinks and gloves to and fro.
After yesterday the chance of Warner (above, left) joining him at The Oval increased significantly when the batsman slumped to a first pair of his Test career.
Warner has had a torrid time of it this summer with a half century in the first innings at Lords standing like a lone high rise in a desert of dross.
And if one man has put him there it is Stuart Broad (right) who yesterday pinned him hopelessly plumb to take his wicket for the sixth time this series, the third time in succession for a duck.
Broad’s subjugation of the opener has built during this series as Warner has retreated into his shell. He now has his wicket 11 times in 22 Tests, more than any other bowler.
He has had no answer to early swing particularly with Broad bowling fuller for longer in this series than at any other time during his career.
Yesterday’s dismissal followed an all too familiar pattern but the reaction was exaggerated – a smiling resignation as he rested on his bat as if he knows he is beaten.
Where Smith has risen to the challenge of silencing the crowds, Warner has just worn his sackcloth and ashes up and down the country with a weary grimace. He looks cowed, his appetite for the fight dimmed.
Aside from South Africa, Bangladesh and the UAE, his returns overseas have never been as good as those back home.
In 2013 he posted 138 at 23 in three Ashes Tests here, in 2015 he produced an impressive 418 at 46. So far Broad has ensured his threat has been nullified with 79 runs at 9.8 per visit to the crease.
If Australia can secure the Ashes here at Old Trafford some time today, the opener will point to the victory of the collective as proof of his rehabilitation.
But he will also be thankful that most likely he will not have to face the tall
England bowler in an Ashes series again.