January 26, 2017 - 3:59pm
What a way to celebrate Australia Day. David Warner and Travis Head gave the Adelaide Oval crowd special reason to enjoy the national holiday by rewriting the record books and compiling the all-time highest ODI partnership for Australia, a 284-run stand that set the team up for a mammoth total of 7 for 369 in the dead rubber against Pakistan. Perhaps the only disappointment for the crowd was that Warner did not turn his 179 into a double-century.
It was Warner's 13th one-day international hundred, but the local spectators equally appreciated the maiden century from Head, the South Australia captain now making his way in the national side. Promoted to open with Warner for the second time in the series - Usman Khawaja was left out of this XI - Head finished with 128 runs and a growing reputation; his part-time offspin makes him an especially attractive limited-overs player.
Further records could have been broken had Warner stuck around a little longer. Although they set a new Australian ODI partnership record - beating the 260-run second-wicket stand between Warner and Steven Smith against Afghanistan in the 2015 World Cup - the all-time ODI opening partnership record eluded them by two runs. That remains the 286-run stand between Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga for Sri Lanka against England in 2006.
And Warner fell six runs short of equalling the highest individual ODI score by an Australian, the unbeaten 185 that Shane Watson plundered against Bangladesh in 2011. Towards the end of his 128-ball innings, Warner appeared to be struggling with cramp, and finally fell to a slower short ball from Junaid Khan that was slashed away to point, where Babar Azam took a good catch low to the ground.
Remarkably, though Pakistan had gone 41 overs without taking a wicket, they claimed another one only two balls later, when Smith skied his second delivery off Junaid and was well taken by Wahab Riaz, who ran with the flight of the ball from mid-on and jarred his knee while landing. At least those chances stuck for Pakistan - the same cannot be said of much of their fielding on this tour.
In fact, they were left to wonder what might have been had the very first ball of the match stuck in the outstretched left hand of captain Azhar Ali at second slip. Mohammad Amir had swung the ball away from Warner and the outside edge flew towards Azhar; although the chance was a difficult one, it was also potentially a match-defining one. Warner was again dropped on 130, this time by Amir at long-on. And this time, it was a sitter.
If Pakistan's fielders couldn't catch anything, the TV cameras could - they caught coach Mickey Arthur and fielding mentor Steve Rixon with their heads in their hands after Amir grassed the skier. At least Pakistan took some opportunities in the final 10 overs.
Glenn Maxwell was taken at cover by Mohammad Hafeez off Amir, and Matthew Wade was caught in the deep by Shoaib Malik off Hasan Ali. A juggling catch from Azhar at long-off ended Head's 137-ball 128, and Hafeez took another sitter in the deep to get rid of Peter Handscomb. Still, the final 10 overs netted Australia exactly 100 runs, and left Pakistan needing the third-highest successful chase in ODI history to win the game.
But this innings was all set up by the openers. Without once clearing the boundary, Warner sprinted to a half-century from 34 balls - his quickest in ODIs - and then struck his first two sixes in one Hafeez over. He continued at a similar tempo while Head played a more watchful innings, and it became a race: would Head reach his half-century before Warner got to a hundred? The answer was no.
Warner's century came up with a quick single off his 78th delivery, and it was remarkably his fastest ODI hundred by a distance. He has scored a Test ton in 69 balls, but before this match his quickest in ODIs was a 92-ball effort. That his hundred came in the 26th over of the innings suggested a double was on offer, and indeed he increased his speed to bring up his 150 from just 107 deliveries. He scored his runs all around the wicket - an almost even split of off-side and leg-side scoring.
Head was especially strong in front of the wicket and brought up his century from his 121st delivery. Theirs were not the only centuries registered in this innings, though: Hasan Ali finished with the unfortunate figures of 2 for 100 from nine overs, making him the 10th bowler in ODI history to concede a century in an innings. It was indeed Australia Day, not Pakistan Day.