In what was the joint fourth-fastest century in Tests, Warner utterly demoralised India in the company of the relatively obdurate but still free-scoring Ed Cowan. Warner was momentarily stopped by a blow to the head from Umesh Yadav, but recovered to clout his next two deliveries to the fence and moved from 95 to 101 with a rasping club over wide long-on from the bowling of the debutant Vinay Kumar. Unbeaten at the close, he did not give a chance.
The match is now streaking away from the tourists, who had placed themselves in a position of peril with another abject batting display. Sent in to bat by Michael Clarke on a pitch promising early movement in addition to its customary bounce and pace, India were 4 for 63 at lunch, and subsided not long after tea to undo the grafting of Virat Kohli and VVS Laxman, who added 68 in the afternoon to momentarily blunt the hosts.
That partnership aside, India once again failed to cope with the swing, seam and disciplined line of the home attack, comprising Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc. Upon his dismissal of Laxman, Siddle sank to his haunches, in a sign of how much a hot day in Perth had drained Australia’s bowlers despite their regular wickets, and he did not re-emerge after tea.
Hilfenhaus removed Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir at either end of the morning session before helping to round up the tail, while Siddle accounted for Rahul Dravid, bowled for the fourth time in five innings. Harris was sturdy in his first Test appearance since November last year, and had the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar to show for it. Starc nabbed two of the last four wickets.
Warner and Cowan began not long after tea, intent on building their most substantial opening stand together. There were a few nervy moments early as Zaheer Khan gained some early swing, and Cowan edged centimetres short of Tendulkar at first slip.
However Warner was striking the ball crisply, and he was given added impetus when Ishant Sharma chanced a few jibes. Warner responded with fighting words and a flailing bat, in what soon became a rare exhibition of unbridled batting aggression.
He drove Zaheer through mid off, pulled Yadav wide of mid on, and greeted Vinay’s entry to Test cricket with the most impudent straight six. Warner would save his most telling blow for Ishant, who delivered a length ball only to watch it sail back over his head and rows back into the crowd.
Cowan was moving along quite swiftly himself, driving and pulling with good sense, and together he and Warner looked the most perfect of contrasts. In the space of 17 overs Warner had sprinted to 80, on what now looked the most friendly of pitches.
Warner’s eagerness to attack brought him one moment’s discomfort when he was too swiftly through a hook at Yadav and suffered a blow to the side of the head and helmet. After gathering himself and calling for new headgear, he spanked the next two balls to the boundary – there was toughness to go with the terrorising of India’s bowlers.
His century duly and deservedly arrived before the close, and a sell-out crowd rose unanimously to salute two hours of awe-inspiring destruction.
India’s openers fared very differently. They were confronted by a pitch that looked green but was already beginning to show evidence of cracking, which suggested it was not as moist as it appeared. Nonetheless there was still plenty of swing, seam and bounce on offer to Australia’s bowlers, requiring astute judgment of line and length.
Sehwag had been at the centre of plenty of pre-match bluster surrounding his natural method, and the batsman looked tentative in his brief stay. Sehwag only faced four balls, the last of which was a beautifully pitched Hilfenhaus away swinger that flicked the edge and was well held by Ricky Ponting in the cordon.
Dravid walked to the wicket having been bowled in three out of four innings, and played at more than he might otherwise have done to avoid a repeat. He struggled for timing, however, and was so intent on defence that when Siddle delivered a leg side ball of full length, Dravid’s unnecessarily conservative posture turned it into a yorker that clattered into middle stump via the pads.
Tendulkar drew applause for a trio of straight drives from Siddle that recalled his sparkling 114 at the ground in 1992, but was not in total command. Harris was rewarded for two unstinting spells before lunch when he seamed one back to pin Tendulkar in front of the stumps.
Next over Hilfenhaus ended Gambhir’s stony-faced occupation, whizzing an offcutter across the left-hand batsman to prompt a push away from the body and an edge through to Brad Haddin. Gambhir admonished himself for succumbing to a nick for the fifth time in as many innings, the victim of another intelligent display of full, fast bowling from Australia.
Laxman and Kohli were more or less India’s last hope of a substantial total, and their batting in the first hour of the afternoon was suitably grave. Starc, Hilfenhaus, Harris and Siddle continued to bowl well, but neither batsman offered quite so much in the way of probing bats that their predecessors had done. The ball grew older, the pitch settled under the sun, and the batsmen grew a little more comfortable.
The stand was gathering strength and tea was less than 10 minutes away when Siddle made a critical break. Bowling full and swinging wider, he tempted Kohli to press too eagerly forward, and the low chance was held by Warner at point. In Siddle’s next over Laxman pushed firmly at a length delivery and offered a catch to Clarke at first slip.
Starc had been threatening to bowl the perfect inswinger for most of the day, and it was Vinay Kumar who received it to be palpably lbw. MS Dhoni played an ordinary stroke at Hilfenhaus to be caught in the slips, though Zaheer’s ugly smear at the same bowler was arguably worse. Ishant edged Starc behind to complete what had become a procession – the last six wickets falling for 30.