Warner climbs legends podium after epic innings
David Warner produced the signature moment of his career on Saturday night, but amid the decimation of Pakistan, opinion was split over whether he should have been allowed the chance climb to the top of cricket's Mt Everest.
A year after being banished to the wilderness, Warner stormed his way into the record books by leapfrogging Sir Donald Bradman and Mark Taylor to finish on the epic score of 335 not out.
It was the second highest score in the history of Australian cricket, and the 10th highest by any man.
Restricted to starvation rations in England, the streetfighter from the housing commission flat in Matraville gave critics who have recently questioned whether he should go down as an all-time great some timely food for thought.
Steve Smith's redemption came in the Ashes, but Saturday night was the crowning of Warner's journey to hell and back.
Warner is just the seventh Australian to join the elite 300-run club, but the question on some people's lips still was, could it, or should it have been more?
Was there enough time to give Warner the chance to try and shoot down Matthew Hayden's Australian record of 380 and Brian Lara's legendary all-time mark of 400 not out?
Warner said he never believed it was realistic for him to be given an opportunity to chase that magic number, in fact he felt he got one more over than he was expecting - with Tim Paine willing him to break Bradman and Taylor's record.
"They said (we'd declare at) 5.40pm," said Warner.
"(That was) until the last over before (that time) ticked over. I think Painey wanted me to try and get past that 334 mark.
"I don't think (400 was on the table) at all. I think we really looked at the weather that's around tomorrow. We wanted to give ourselves a lot of time.
"We managed to get them six wickets down. If there is a bit of rain about tomorrow the bowlers get a good rest.
"I don't really know what to say. It really hasn't sunk in to be honest. As a kid you dream of getting a baggy green, then your first Test run, then your first Test hundred and so on.
"It's very rare you get those opportunities. I will cherish this moment for the rest of my life."
A ruthless display by pink ball king Mitchell Starc (four wickets) under lights - and a screamer of a catch from the skipper himself - backed up Paine's bold declaration, which rightly prioritised the team ahead of the individual, with rain forecast on Sunday.
Pakistan are on their knees at 6-96, an eye-watering 493 runs behind.
But Test great Brett Lee couldn't help feel the game was denied a rare moment for the ages.
"It's not a lot of rain (on the way) though is it? I'm just thinking, you don't often get that opportunity to go on to get a world record," Lee said on Fox Cricket.
"Years and years of cricket, and here's a chance to knock over 400 from the great Brian Lara.
"I would have preferred they start the innings under lights with the new pink ball.
"I just think if they went out to Warner and said here's the equation, 'you've got eight or nine overs to bat. If you can pick off another 70-odd runs, good luck'.
"I reckon if there's someone in world cricket that could get 60 odd runs in nine or so overs, it's David Warner."
Shane Warne admitted he was shocked Paine declared on 589 with an hour still left in the middle session, but despite craving the theatre that beckoned in front of 33,943 fans - and with Lara currently in town - didn't completely disagree with the rationale.
"I was a bit surprised. Because of the way Warner's batted today I thought he might have gone for the record," Warne said on Fox.
"But they wanted to have a crack at Pakistan. They're putting the team ahead of the individual. It would have been nice theatre to see David Warner go for the record."
The crowd gave its loudest cheer when Warner joined Bradman and Taylor on the famous mark of 334 - but as soon as he went one run past, the declaration was made.
"The game is not about individual records," said Taylor on Macquarie Sports Radio.
"The game is about winnings and losing. And what I liked about David Warner's innings is right the way through it, it was aggression with his strokeplay and running to set Australia a total that they can now win a game with."
When Lara made his career-defining 400 it killed the game and ended any chance of a result. Paine wasn't about to let that happen against Pakistan, with a premium put on winning.
"I was aware of (the history of 334). You grow up knowing what those milestones are," said Warner.
"Forever you talk about Donald Bradman. I remember Michael Clarke at the SCG declared on 329 not out. They're things that you look at the history books and say, 'How did they get there? That's a long time in the middle?' I managed to go out there and do that but it takes an incredible amount of patience which I surprised myself."
Test great Simon Katich felt that allowing Warner to cut loose wouldn't have taken too much more time out of the game.
"He had Lara within his sights and because he was scoring so quickly, 335 could well have become 400 potentially in the next 10 overs the way he was scoring," Katich said on SEN Radio.
"And that's not taking a huge amount of time out of the game."
Warner didn't hold back with a supercharged celebration of the first triple century made by an Australian since Michael Clarke, and it exhorted all the torment and emotion of the past 18 months.
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