How Pakistan got it utterly wrong against David Warner at the Gabba

David Warner soaks in the applause at the Gabba AFP

You're a right-arm fast bowler, for all your sins. You have a fresh new ball in your hand. Forty-odd yards away is taking guard The Bull, David Warner, but right now meek as a cow. This is 2019 where word travels faster than the speed of sound and so you know what you have to do. For starters, you have to go around the wicket. Right?



Pakistan got a few things wrong in Brisbane, as individuals and as a team, from selection to shot selection. What they also got wrong was the way they bowled to Warner.

Warner's issues this summer in the Ashes are well-documented. Very well-documented. Stuart Broad from around the wicket, fuller and right at Warner's stumps and 95 runs from 10 innings (61 of them in just one) the result.

Broad dismissed Warner seven times in the Ashes that way. All of Warner's 10 dismissals were by right-arm pace bowlers coming around the wicket to him. England's right-arm fast bowlers bowled 149 out of the 184 deliveries Warner faced against them from around the wicket, or nearly five balls every over (and frankly, the surprise is it wasn't six balls every over).

So up turned Pakistan in Brisbane, with all this information presumably at their fingertips because this is 2019, and their two right-arm pacers proceeded to bowl 70 balls at Warner from over the wicket and 47 from around.

You might look at those figures and say, okay, at least they did try it. Not anywhere near enough compared to England, but Imran Khan and Naseem Shah did end up bowling nearly eight overs' worth from around the wicket.

Except if you break it down a little more, the reading gets worse. In the first 20 overs of the innings, when the ball was new and hard and most likely to do something, Pakistan's right-arm fast bowlers delivered just eight of 39 deliveries to Warner from that angle. Only four of those were full or on a length and either at the stumps or just outside off - that is, the delivery Broad troubled Warner with the most.

Imran went around to him in the sixth over. For one ball. Warner was already on 15 off 21, looking more settled and confident, more The Bull than he had all summer in England. For context, 15 was his second-highest score in Test cricket in 11 innings; it was only the third time he had made double figures in that stretch. And then no more from around until Naseem did in the 11th over.

A batsman in a seriously bad run of form, with an obvious opening to exploit - Pakistan missed a trick that isn't even a trick right now, it's an SOP. Except the captain Azhar Ali didn't see it that way.

"There was a lot of talk about it," he said, ahead of Adelaide. "We spoke about it as well. But David Warner is a class player. You speak about weaknesses of all batsmen. We speak about players and where you need to bowl to trouble them. But that's why great players are great. They know how to counter it and manage it. We didn't miss a trick and we did discuss it, but we weren't able to execute it properly."

This is a weird answer because it could only be a failure to execute if they had gone around the wicket in the first place and Warner could only have countered it had he had to face it. Which, as we know in those first 20 overs, he didn't. And what made it doubly clear that this was a failure of planning was the second new ball, which Pakistan took late on day two and with Warner now on 149.

Imran's first ball to Warner was from around the wicket. It was full. It swung in sharply. Warner misjudged the length, line and swing, left it and the ball duly clipped off stump, but didn't knock the ball off. The next morning Pakistan persisted and with this new ball, Imran and then Naseem bowled 23 out of 26 balls from around the wicket at him. In that time he only scored two singles. In the final over before morning drinks, he was beaten from that angle twice, driving, before being dismissed by Naseem, albeit off a short ball that swerved into him.

"A batsman in a seriously bad run of form, with an obvious opening to exploit - Pakistan missed a trick that isn't even a trick right now, it's an SOP"

There are some pretty experienced heads in this Pakistan squad: Misbah-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis in the backroom staff, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq on the field, with nearly a decade of international cricket behind them. How did they miss this?

Could it have been the ball and conditions? Maybe Pakistan figured that the Kookaburra will not do as much on a harder, truer surface, in sunnier climes and warmer temperatures than a Duke's in a wet-summer England? Maybe they knew that before this Ashes, Warner was averaging 52 over his career against right-arm fast bowlers from around the wicket, and over 57 in Australia?

Although if they knew that they would also have known that it is bowlers with naturally fuller lengths who troubled him from that angle before the Ashes and that, as Broad revealed, going fuller to Warner was as significant as the angle.

Was it the bowlers? Because you've still got to be a good bowler to get him out from there, either by holding the line, or moving the ball away. Pakistan had two guys with ten Tests between them, one on international debut, barely a week on from a tremendous personal trauma, the other returning after three years. And actually, had Naseem not over-stepped from over the wicket in the 27th over, we might not even be discussing this.

But this wasn't just about Warner, or England at Warner. This is a trend, something that all right-arm fast bowlers have been doing more and more to left-hand batsmen since 2015. They've bowled twice as many balls around the wicket to left-handers since then as they did from 2001-14 - and, clearly, for good reason. Didn't miss a trick?

Ultimately, it wouldn't have made a difference, not with Pakistan's record in Australia. They've lost Tests there every which way you can lose Tests. That doesn't mean, though, that you don't have the best possible plans in order to give yourself the best chance at not losing Tests.

They look to be righting some selection wrongs for Adelaide but will they get it right to Warner?