AUSTRALIA are ready to end controversial batsman David Warner’s exile and plunge him back into the starting XI as part of a last-ditch attempt to avoid a series-clinching defeat in the third Ashes Test this week.
Warner was suspended by Cricket Australia less than a month before the start of the Ashes after he punched England youngster Joe Root during a late-night altercation at a Birmingham bar.
The 26-year-old was then left out of the squad for the first Test reverse at Trent Bridge and the loss that followed at Lord’s, despite the appointment of a new coach in Darren Lehmann.
But with the tourists needing a victory at Old Trafford to retain any hopes of regaining the urn, Lehmann has opened the door for Warner to come in from the cold and bolster a flagging top order.
Warner, who averages 39.46 in 19 Test appearances, offered a reminder of his talents by scoring 193 for Australia A against South Africa A last week, although even that was marred by a verbal spat.
“He got 193 and played well, did exactly what we wanted him to do,” said Lehmann.
“We want blokes to make hundreds and he’s ticked that box. We’ll have to look at the wicket and what we come up with in the top six.”
No Australia batsman has made a century so far in the series, with opener Chris Rogers perhaps the most likely to make way for left-hander Warner, having made a total of 89 from four innings.
Phillip Hughes is also under pressure, having managed just two singles at Lord’s, while Lehmann is also considering the merits of Ed Cowan, who hit 66 and 77 not out in a three-day match against Sussex at the weekend.
“He batted really well both innings,” the Australia coach added. “We’d love him to get a big hundred and really put pressure on, but it does his chances good.”
Warner’s dazzling innings against South Africa A was soured when he became embroiled in a verbal clash with opponent Thami Tsolekile, prompting the umpire to call the match to a temporary halt.
He narrowly avoided being sent home from Australia’s tour of England, which also included the Champions Trophy campaign, following his scuffle with batsman Root in a branch of the Walkabout chain.
It was his second major misdemeanour of 2013, having been fined £3,700 for sending expletive-laden messages to journalists on Twitter earlier this year.
Squad ill discipline was one of the factors responsible for coach Mickey Arthur’s sacking, and replacement by Lehmann, just two weeks before the start of the Ashes.