March 28, 2018 / 10:16 AM / 4 months ago

Masterblaster Warner's guns spiked by ball-tampering scandal

SYDNEY (Reuters) - David Warner was a young firebrand with a prodigious talent for batting who made an unlikely transformation into the vice captain of the Australian test team with ambitions of one day taking the top job.

FILE PHOTO - Cricket - South Africa vs Australia - Second Test - St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, South Africa - March 9, 2018 Australia’s David Warner walks off after being bowled by South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Those ambitions were ended on Wednesday when he was banned for 12 months by Cricket Australia for his decisive role in the ball-tampering scandal that has rocked the country to its core.

The ban also brought an end to a miserable tour of South Africa for the 31-year-old opener in which he failed to reach his customary heights with the bat and was at the centre of a series of controversies.

Dismissed early in his career as a limited-overs slogger, Warner developed into one of the most devastating test batsmen of the modern era with his ability to take the game away from the opposition in a single session.

Along with his explosive left-handed batting, though, came an aggressive attitude that, even in his later maturity, pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in the game to its very limits.

To many in Australia, he was a symbol of all that is wrong with the modern game and, to those critics, the end of his captaincy ambitions will be something of a relief.

Born a few hundred metres from the Sydney Cricket Ground, Warner was raised in public housing in an underprivileged neighbourhood of Matraville.

He was the first Australian since 1877 to win international honours without having played first-class cricket when he debuted for his country in Twenty20 in 2009, clubbing 89 off 43 balls against South Africa.

His test career began two years later against New Zealand and, despite the reservations of some, he soon became a fixture at the top of the Australian order as partners came and went.

The pub brawling — most famously punching England’s Joe Root — and “attack dog” reputation of his younger days were supposed to have been replaced by a more measured attitude after his marriage to ironwoman Candice Falzon in 2015.

His batting certainly matured with more control to his drives and patience at the crease, even if he could still up the pace and produce fireworks when necessary.

He never lost his appetite for a battle on the pitch or off, however, as he showed during the pay dispute with Cricket Australia last year when he, not captain Steve Smith, was the voice of the players.

The more openly confrontational side of Warner emerged again in the opening test against South Africa in Durban earlier this month, where he had to be held back from Quinton de Kock after an exchange of words with the South African.

A heavy fine for responding to what he claimed was an insult aimed at his wife looked like being the low point of his tour until his catastrophic misjudgement in Cape Town.

Editing by John O'Brien

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