Short of runs and under pressure, David Warner entered the Boxing Day test against South Africa issuing a reminder to the doubters never to underestimate the fight of a “housing commission boy” living the dream.
On Tuesday, on day two of his 100th test, the veteran Australia opener retired on 200 after tea in cramped-up exhaustion after tormenting the Proteas in a Melbourne Cricket Ground furnace, quashing all debate about his place in the side.
On the way to his third double-century, Warner smashed his 25th hundred, and first in nearly three years, while becoming Australia’s eighth player to notch 8 000 runs in tests.
Warner had edged towards his first hundred with unwavering focus but sealed it by throwing caution to the wind, pulling South Africa spearhead Kagiso Rabada to the fine leg fence to draw the crowd to their feet.
Five years on from scoring a century in his 100th one-day international against India in Bangalore, the 36-year-old ripped off his helmet and made his trademark leap into the steaming Melbourne air.
Warner has rarely held back after reaching a ton but there was added gusto in his celebrations as he blew kisses off his bat to his family and fans around the ground.
Hours later, baked in 37 degrees Celsius (99F) heat, Warner soaked up another standing ovation after hitting four off Lungi Ngidi to reach his second hundred, slumping to his knees and pumping his arms in the air with a roar.
Warner got to his feet to leap in the air again but failed to stick the landing and was left propping himself up with his bat on shaky legs.
It had hitherto been a forgettable home summer with the bat, clouded by off-field drama over his permanent leadership ban four years after the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.
An embittered Warner pulled his bid to have the ban lifted, fearing it would mean having to publicly relive the darkest chapter of his rollercoaster career.
Facing South Africa for the first test series since ‘Sandpaper-gate’, Warner managed only three runs in the series opener, raising questions about his future in test whites despite the perilous Gabba pitch.
On Tuesday he had 124 on the board half an hour out from tea before he lay down by the MCG wicket to have trainers work on his cramping legs.
Not unlike his career, it was a sparkling innings of endurance and full-blooded shots, and also one moment of poor judgment. Trying to poach another run from an overthrow before lunch he ran out batting partner Marnus Labuschagne for 14.
But that was soon forgotten as he went on to rack up 16 fours and blast Keshav Maharaj for two sixes, drawing chants from the crowd before limping off with Australia 329 for three.
His wife and strident defender Candice cheered him from the crowd, thrilled but hardly surprised by his 254-ball epic.
“For him to be able to do it while his back is against the wall means even more,” she told Fox Cricket.
“You’d think by now writing David off is probably the wrong thing to do. He thrives on that.”