What a way to celebrate Australia Day. David Warner and Travis Head gave the Adelaide Oval crowd special reason to enjoy the national holiday by rewriting the record books and compiling the all-time highest ODI partnership for Australia, a 284-run stand that set up a hefty win over Pakistan in the final match of the series. For a dead rubber, this game had plenty of bounce – at least, while Australia were batting.
Their 7 for 369 meant Pakistan would have required the third-highest successful chase in ODI history if they were to emerge with a consolation win; it was simply too big a task, despite a century from Babar Azam and a typically entertaining 79 from Sharjeel Khan. Although Pakistan managed their highest total of the series – 312 – they still suffered a 57-run defeat, and will fly home with a 1-4 ODI series loss to sit alongside their 0-3 result in the Tests.
Perhaps the only disappointment for the crowd was that Warner did not turn his 179 into a double-century. It was Warner’s 13th one-day international hundred, but the local spectators equally appreciated the maiden century from Head, the South Australia captain now making his way in the national side. Promoted to open with Warner for the second time in the series – Usman Khawaja was left out of this XI – Head finished with 128 off 137 balls.
Further records could have been broken had Warner stuck around a little longer. Although they set a new Australian ODI partnership record – beating the 260-run second-wicket stand between Warner and Steven Smith against Afghanistan in the 2015 World Cup – the all-time ODI opening partnership record eluded them by two runs. That remains the 286-run stand between Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga for Sri Lanka against England in 2006.
And Warner fell six runs short of equalling the highest individual ODI score by an Australian, the unbeaten 185 that Shane Watson plundered against Bangladesh in 2011. Towards the end of his 128-ball innings, Warner appeared to be struggling with cramp, and finally fell to a slower short ball from Junaid Khan that was slashed away to point, where Babar took a good catch low to the ground.
Remarkably, though Pakistan had gone 41 overs without taking a wicket, they claimed another one only two balls later, when Smith skied his second delivery off Junaid and was well taken by Wahab Riaz, who ran with the flight of the ball from mid-on and jarred his knee while landing. At least those chances stuck for Pakistan – the same cannot be said of much of their fielding on this tour, and fielding coach Steve Rixon might have to go back to square one.
How different might this result have been had Warner been caught on the first ball of the match, when his edge off a Mohammad Amir outswinger flew through the left hand of Azhar Ali at second slip? Warner was dropped again on 130, when Amir put down a sitter himself. Pakistan did take some catches in the final 10 overs – six of them, in fact – but they had given Australia a head start from which they could not recover.
The final 10 overs netted Australia exactly 100 runs, but this innings was set up by the openers. Without once clearing the boundary, Warner sprinted to a half-century from 34 balls – his quickest in ODIs – and then struck his first two sixes in one Mohammad Hafeez over. He continued at a similar tempo while Head played a more watchful innings, and it became a race: would Head reach his half-century before Warner got to a hundred? The answer was no.
Such was the disparity in scoring rates that both Warner and Head brought up their milestones from their respective 78th deliveries – that is, Warner’s hundred and Head’s fifty. It was Warner’s fastest ODI century by a distance, for although he has blasted a Test ton in 69 balls, before this match his quickest in ODI cricket was a comparatively languid 92 deliveries. This time, a double-century seemed on offer, and indeed he increased his speed to bring up his 150 from 107 balls.
Warner scored his runs all around the wicket – an almost even split of off-side and leg-side scoring. He struck 19 fours and five sixes before his innings finally ended. In the previous over, Head had brought up his first ODI century from his 121st delivery. He was especially strong in front of the wicket and struck nine fours and three sixes, before he skied a catch off Hasan Ali in the 47th over. Hasan would go on to raise a hundred of his own – 2 for 100 from his nine overs.
Facing such a chase, Pakistan needed everything to go right. The loss of Azhar – lbw to a Mitchell Starc inswinger in the third over – was a bad start. But Sharjeel and Babar gave Pakistan hope with a 130-run second-wicket stand that frustrated the Australians. Sharjeel continued his upward trend in this series: scores of 18, 29, 50 and 74 were followed this time by 79 from 69 balls, including two sixes, but a top-edged hook off Starc ended his run.
Starc was always a danger, and added the wicket of Hafeez, before Shoaib Malik retired hurt on 10 having copped a Pat Cummins short ball on the forearm. Babar completed his fourth ODI hundred but went no further, caught off a leading edge off Josh Hazlewood for 100 from 109 balls. When Umar Akmal fell for a brisk 46, the required run-rate had ballooned to more than 15.
The result was wrapped up by the sight of Starc rattling the stumps of Wahab Riaz to finish with 4 for 42. It was a fine effort, but there was no question that Warner had been the dominant force in this match. And now, he rests from next week’s Chappell-Hadlee Series in New Zealand, already with six ODI hundreds for the season. What a way to finish his Southern Hemisphere summer.