David Warner blitzkrieg seals 4-1 series win

A white hot David Warner produced more record-breaking feats to spearhead Australia to a convincing 57-run victory over Pakistan at the Adelaide Oval and a 4-1 series triumph.

The recently crowned Allan Border Medallist continued his imperious form with a career-best 127-ball 179 to highlight Australia’s mammoth 369 for 7, which set a new record for the highest One-Day International (ODI) total at Adelaide. In reply, Pakistan were plucky and enterprising but were never really in the hunt finishing on 312 for 9 in the 49th over with veteran batsman Shoaib Malik retiring hurt after being hit by a Pat Cummins delivery and unable to return. Talented No. 3 Babar Azam starred with 100, while Australian spearhead Mitchell Starc (4 for 42) was brilliant with the ball.

Pakistan’s chase started disastrously when captain Azhar Ali (6) was trapped in front by Starc in the third over but the visitors regrouped through Babar and Sharjeel Khan, clearly their two batsmen during a tough series.

Sharjeel’s hard-hitting perfectly complemented Babar’s orthodoxy during an enterprising second-wicket partnership of 130 runs to briefly provide Pakistan with a flicker of hope. Much like Warner, a player he’s often been compared to, Sharjeel pounced on any waywardness and took the aerial route to thwart Adam Zampa, Australia’s legspinner.

After impressing during this series albeit without a ton, Sharjeel looked set for a breakthrough but, frustratingly, was undone by a short delivery from Starc to fall for an entertaining 69-ball 79. Moments later Starc claimed the wicket of veteran batsman Mohammad Hafeez as the pressure intensified on Babar.

The 22-year-old was up to the challenge and showcased nerves of steel as he waltzed through the 90s with three exquisite boundaries off James Faulkner and then scored a single to notch Pakistan’s first century of the series. However, Babar couldn’t go on and fell the very next ball he faced as essentially the match was over despite some gallant Pakistan batting towards the backend.

Earlier, after Steve Smith completed a clean sweep of tosses for the series and elected to bat, Warner combined in a record partnership with Travis Head (128 from 137 balls), who scored his first ODI century after being promoted to open – a position where he started the series before shifting down the order following Usman Khawaja’s surprising omission.

The pair plundered 284 runs for the opening wicket, overtaking the previous highest Australian partnership in ODI cricket of 260 by Warner and Smith against Afghanistan at the 2015 World Cup. It was also the second highest opening stand in ODI cricket history, just two runs short of the record set by Sri Lankans Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga.

Fresh off a scintillating century in Sydney last game, Warner was nearly out first ball of the innings when he edged Mohammad Amir but was dropped by a diving Azhar in the slips. Undoubtedly, it was a tough chance but the drop proved mightily costly as Warner cashed in on a typical flat Adelaide Oval pitch.

In a contrast to the previous match in Sydney, there was a hint of swing with Pakistan opting to start with Amir and Junaid Khan instead of their penchant for utilising Hafeez’s off-spin early.

However, nothing could deter Warner continuing a hot streak in ODI cricket which has now yielded nine centuries in the past 12 months during an astounding purple patch. The 30-year-old thrashed the bowling around although didn’t go overboard in his aggression as he has seemingly perfected picking which balls to go after.

Head, the South Australian captain, relished playing his first ODI on home soil and proved the ideal foil for Warner by digging in early in a bid to score a maiden century. The partnership wasn’t merely all brawn with a highlight being sharp running between the wickets, as the pair sneakily pinched singles to continually frustrate the beleaguered Pakistanis.

Bettering his blistering batting in Sydney, Warner scored the fastest 50 of his ODI career – in 34 balls – and needed just 44 more deliveries to score his 13th century, easily bettering his previous fastest by 14 balls. Ominously, Warner didn’t overly celebrate his milestone suggesting he had his eyes set on a massive score.

During a period of experimentation with the Champions Trophy looming, Australia has chopped and changed their batting line-up leading to some inconsistencies during this series. Thus, it was the first time Australia had a century opening stand in ODI cricket this summer with Head’s dazzling performance ensuring a new top-order partnership may have been found although Warner will be rested for the upcoming Chappell-Hadlee series in New Zealand.

Head started relatively sedately but was unruffled by Warner’s domination preferring to build an innings before launching once set, highlighted by a brutal pulled six off Amir, reminiscent of his Big Bash League heroics of yesteryear.

After such an inept display in the field in Sydney, Pakistan enjoyed a slightly improved fielding performance but, unsurprisingly, was tainted by some comical mistakes, notably Amir dropping a sitter off Hasan Ali when Warner was on 131.

Capitalising on the reprieve, Warner went on a rampage smashing the luckless Hasan, including 14 runs off three balls during one furious stretch. After a five-wicket haul in Sydney, Hasan had the macabre figures of 100 for 2 from nine overs.

Warner joined Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar as the only batsmen to have made five scores over 150 as a maiden double ton loomed. However, Warner started struggling with cramps which severely impacted his running and perhaps contributed to his demise when he tiredly slashed to Babar at gully to fall six runs short of Shane Watson’s Australian individual record.

For much of the innings Australia looked headed for a score over 400 but lost some momentum after Warner was dismissed as wickets tumbled with batsmen attempting to slog. Head almost made it to the finish but his memorable innings finally came to an end in the 47th over although Australia had more than enough on the board.

Australia’s attention now turns to a return bout of the Chappell-Hadlee series in New Zealand starting in Auckland on January 30, while Pakistan will return home with the focus shifting to the Pakistan Super League.

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