A farewell to remember: Warner wows SCG one last time to end Test career with a win as Aussies polish off Pakistan
It wasn’t pretty and they’ve played much better during their recent golden run but Australia sealed a 3-0 series sweep of Pakistan at the SCG with David Warner farewelling Test cricket on a high, signing off with a memorable half-century in a successful run chase.
Warner shook off the nerves of the occasion and Australia’s history of fourth-innings collapses chasing small targets at the SCG to steer the side all but to the finsh line with a dazzling knock, dismissed for 57 just 11 runs shy of victory.
He received a standing ovation from his home crowd as he soaked in the walk to the famous pavilion with 8786 runs at 44.59, along with 26 centuries, under his belt.
The Australians looked down and out when they collapsed to concede a rare first-innings deficit but they showed champion qualities to not only drag themselves back in front in the contest but seal a memorable fightback win with eight wickets in hand and more than a day to spare.
For Warner it brings down the curtain on his Test career, spanning 112 matches over 12 years (less one for his ball-tampering ban) and countless headlines about one of Australian sport’s most polarising modern stars.
He missed out on the chance to hit the winning runs after Pakistan spinner Sajid Khan trapped him in front and called on the third umpire to send him on his way, bringing a wry smile from Warner when the three reds flashed up on the big screen.
The 37-year-old opener stepped onto his beloved home ground one last time on Saturday to face the new ball alongside childhood friend Usman Khawaja with the Aussies chasing a potentially tricky target of 130 for victory.
Khawaja didn’t trouble the scorers after falling for a duck in the first over of the chase, perhaps unlucky to be given LBW off Sajid Khan with two of the three categories on review judged umpire’s calls.
Warner took the attack to Pakistan in pursuit of early boundaries but nearly came undone on 25 when he skied Sajid to long on but Aamer Jamal misjudged the difficult chance and his despairing one-hand speculative snatch didn’t secure the six-stitcher.
He raced to his half-century, the 37th of his career, off just 56 deliveries as Australia surged to lunch at 1-91 to erase any thought of an unlikely Pakistan win.
Warner produced a couple of top-class reverse sweeps off Sajid to the boundary in his opening stint but was nearly out soon after the break when Pakistan reviewed an LBW shout from the off-spinner.
The replays showed the ball was only just clipping the bails so the umpire’s call kept the retiring legend at the crease.
Marnus Labuschagne played the support role in an understated manner to accompany Warner to the target, surviving a couple of close LBW shouts and a dropped chance from Shan Masood at mid-wicket along the way.
The Queenslander racked up his 19th Test half-century, and second for the match, with an on drive in the shadows of the victory target off just 64 deliveries.
Despite Jamal starring for the tourists with the ball in the first innings, he was the fifth bowler used for some reason, not getting a chance until after lunch when the result was well and truly beyond doubt.
Labuschagne eased the ball through cover to bring up the winning runs in something of an anti-climax after Warner’s dismissal, finishing unbeaten on 62, as the Aussies reached their goal inside 26 overs.
Pakistan had resumed day four on 7-67, holding a precarious lead of 81, after Josh Hazlewood’s thunderous spell late on Friday.
Any hope of building a defendable total on the rapidly wearing wicket lay with keeper Mohammad Rizwan and their find of the tour, Jamal, who blasted 82 and took 6-69 with the ball in the first innings.
Rizwan and Jamal played with discipline to keep the hosts at bay for the best part of an hour, taking the score to 109 before the keeper glanced Nathan Lyon too fine on 28 and Warner was lying in wait at leg slip.
Jamal had no confidence in Hasan Ali or last man Mir Hamza so he went the tonk but Travis Head swallowed up his well-timed pull shot on the square leg boundary to send him on his way for 18, making it an even hundred runs for the match. Not bad for a No.9 in his third Test.
His lack of faith was vindicated when Hasan wafted at a Lyon off break to be bowled for five, halting Pakistan’s advantage at 129 ahead of the Aussies.
Like most of his career, Warner’s final Test was never dull. He made 34 in the first dig after being dropped by yet another Pakistan first slip slip-up while a media sideshow played out over the whereabouts of his missing baggy green cap.
While his old man called the alleged perpetrator a scumbag and the Prime Minister also got in on the act in the capastrophe, it appears the Warner backpack containing his hallowed headwear was somehow misplaced rather than snatched by a ne’er do well. All Pakistan first slip fielders were immediately ruled out as suspects due to their inability to hang onto anything.
The series whitewash gets Australia’s World Test Championship defence off to the best possible start and they are all but certain to make it five on the trot when a weakened West Indies squad is served up as cannon fodder later this month at Adelaide and Brisbane.
For Warner, who has also retired from ODIs after November’s World Cup win in India, has one more mountain to climb at the T20 version in the Caribbean and June before he takes his final bow as an international cricketer.