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Australia v South Africa first Test cricket match 2022: David Warner’s position safe, Andrew McDonald says

Australian coach Andrew McDonald has revealed David Warner remains in his plans for Test matches beyond the South Africa series despite the veteran opener’s rocky run in recent times.

After facing South Africa in three Tests at the Gabba, the MCG and the SCG, with the first set to begin on Saturday, Australia will play four away Tests in India across February and March.

The Australians are also eyeing June’s World Test Championship final at The Oval and are in a prime position to qualify, having rocketed to the top of the table with eight wins from 12 matches.

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Warner has averaged just 28.12 over his last six Test series and hasn’t scored a Test century since compiling an unbeaten 111 against New Zealand at the SCG in January 2020.

The left-hander was dismissed for 5, 48, 21 and 28 in the Test series against the West Indies, which wrapped up as Australia won by 419 runs on Sunday.

But before flying from Adelaide to Brisbane for the first Test against South Africa at the Gabba, McDonald said he wasn’t yet concerned about Warner’s rut.

“Not at this stage,” McDonald said.

“His appetite for the work in and around training is still there.

“He’s busy at the crease and you’ve seen signs that he is going well.

“He’s just found different ways to get out, and sometimes that can happen.

“He’s eager to continue on at this stage; he hasn’t hinted anything else.

“We are building towards a World Test Championship (final) and he wants to be part of that, so that’s a clear focus for us, and we’ve got South Africa … and then (we’ll be) on to India.

“So there’s no indication of anything else at the moment.”

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Warner averages only 24.25 from eight Tests in India, where the ball keeps lower and is more conducive to spin, and he’s yet to ton up.

“At this stage, we’ve got him in our plans for India,” McDonald nonetheless said.

“We’ll see what happens in the next three Test matches, but at this stage he’s firmly in our thoughts.

“There’s been some challenging conditions in India … (and) there’s no doubt we’re going to be challenged there, but first and foremost we’ve got South Africa (and we’ll) navigate through that.”

Although Warner hasn’t made a Test ton since starring against New Zealand at the SCG in 2020, he twice fell in the 90s during last summer’s Ashes.

There’s no denying Warner’s standing as a great Australian Test opener; he’s chalked up 7919 runs at the average of 46.04 and sits in equal eighth on the list of most centuries by Australians, having struck 24 tons in 98 matches. The former Test vice-captain also has a triple century to his name and the rapid strike-rate of 71.23.

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McDonald was straightforward when asked how the selection panel could decipher if Warner’s decline was temporary or if his sparkling career was quickly fizzling to an end.

“If you keep picking him and he makes runs, then you know he’s back,” McDonald said.

“And if you keep picking him and he doesn’t, then he’s probably on the fade.

“I think it’s as simple as that.”

Warner sensationally withdrew his appeal of his lifetime leadership ban on the eve of the Adelaide Test against the West Indies, citing “offensive comments” allegedly made by the legal counsel assisting the independent panel employed by Cricket Australia.

Warner also said he wasn’t prepared for a “public lynching” to heap more “anguish” on him and his family.

“I think he’s shown in the past that he can move forward pretty quick,” McDonald said.

“He’s great at compartmentalising, separating the off-field from the on-field, and I think most of the great champions do that very well.

“I sense this situation is not different.

“We respect and understand David’s decision to withdraw from that appeals process.

“He’s moved forward, we’re moving forward as a team and we’ve got a seriously good opponent confronting us at the Gabba, so our focus is firmly on that. And so is David’s.”

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