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David Warner’s battle reflects Australia's concerns as they face Sri Lanka

The explosive opener has struggled to shake off his woeful form and hopes he can find some rhythm in a tricky contest against a hard-working Sri Lankan side.
FILE PHOTO: Cricket - ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021 - Super 12 - Group 1 - Australia v South Africa - Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - October 23, 2021 Australia's David Warner in action REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed(REUTERS)
Published on Oct 27, 2021 09:40 PM IST

It must not be easy being David Warner. Australia’s explosive left-hander cut his teeth in T20 cricket, which was the springboard to his success across formats, especially as the enforcer at the top of the Test team.

But Warner, since a groin injury in the home white-ball series against India, has slipped to a level where the fear of rival bowlers has been replaced with lip-smacking anticipation of an early strike. Any hopes of finding his rhythm in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE leg went up in smoke after Sunrisers Hyderabad dropped him from the eleven after two failures.

On Wednesday, Warner turned 35. It is a stage where even a player in great form will reassess his career. Warner spent the day desperately trying to find batting rhythm ahead of Thursday’s second T20 World Cup Group 1 game against Sri Lanka. He shunned the regular net pitches, worn from overuse after the IPL season, instead opting to practice on synthetic and concrete pitches in Dubai, venue of Thursday’s fixture.

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Australia will need the batsman with a T20I strike rate of almost 140 to fire, especially with skipper and opening partner Aaron Finch too out of touch. With the Ashes talk already swirling—Steve Smith was asked to comment on England all-rounder Ben Stokes’ availability for the upcoming series—form will be uppermost on Warner’s mind. But his first priority is to get a game, and a score to build on.

“I actually think people talking about my form is quite funny,” he told reporters. “I laugh at the matter because at the end of the day I’ve played hardly any cricket. The IPL, for example, I had two games and then basically wanted to give all the other youngsters a crack and what not.

“These practice wickets for example have been up and about for close to 12 weeks now, so training is quite difficult on them as well… At the moment I’m training on synthetic wickets, some polished concrete to get timing and rhythm and moving my feet, so that’s helping me. I think Finchie did the same thing the other day.”

“You have to get your brain working again with your feet and hands to get into good positions. You want to feel bat on ball, but it also makes you move your feet more.”

What will hurt Australia is that they have never won the T20 World Cup, and that oldest rivals England are the team to beat in the group after Eoin Morgan’s side eased to their second win on Wednesday. Australia’s opening win over South Africa required Steve Smith to step in with a crucial innings. He will go again despite an elbow problem. Pace spearhead Mitchell Starc though is an injury doubt after limping out of training on Wednesday.

Like Australia, Sri Lanka too have all to play for. A team that has seen constant churn and few recent wins to speak of in the last year or so other than beating India’s second string at home in July, their big hope lies in bowling. They have been boosted by the return of mystery bowler Maheesh Theekshana, who missed the opening win over Bangladesh due to a side strain.

Sri Lanka have put up four solid performances, after the pride of the 2014 champions was dented by being asked to come through the qualifiers. It has however helped the side. Besides leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga, pacers Dushmanta Chameera, Chamika Karunaratne and Lahiru Kumara is likely to test Australia’s shaky top-order.

Sri Lanka’s batting, where Bhanuka Rajapaksa has played a couple of solid knocks, though will have to stand up to the pace and bounce of Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.

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