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Ashes are still the ultimate, says Warne

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Mihir Bose | 21:52 UK time, Monday, 22 June 2009

Three days before the first Ashes Test, Shane Warne will be leading his Rajasthan Royals side in a Twenty20 charity match against Middlesex at Lord's.

Surely his fingers will be itching to bowl on what promises to be a slow turner at Cardiff where he would be lethal?

Warne says not, although I suspect that the temptation to rip off his tie and jacket and jump from the commentary box on to the field and say, "Ricky, next over mate", could be huge.

What is undoubtedly true, and quite a turn up for the books, is that one of the greatest spinners in the history of the game now acknowledges that England may have the upper hand in spin during this Ashes series.

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He is not merely impressed with Graeme Swann but also Adil Rashid.

Rashid, of course, is already something of an English sensation, being a leg-spinner from Yorkshire, where such back-of-the-hand stuff has historically been distrusted.

Warne's assessment of Rashid is purely on his cricketing abilities. But the fact that he is willing to lavish such praise for a bowler yet to make his Test debut suggests England may have an exceptional talent in the making.

This is all the more interesting given that Warne has not changed his views about Monty Panesar: that Monty has not played 38 Tests but the same Test 38 times - in other words he has failed to develop as a bowler.

Interestingly, for a player who in the last decade-and-a-half has laid waste to English batting, the Englishman he rates as the best English player of his era is still the man he encountered in his first Ashes series, Graham Gooch.

Warne, of course, could not be more of a missionary for Twenty20 cricket. He sees it as providing scope for both batsmen and bowlers to experiment, while fast bowlers can learn to bowl slow to stop being hit off the park.

But while he clearly exults in the role he has played in shaping the Rajasthan Royals team, this has not made him want to go into coaching let alone guide Australia.

And for all his love for this new form of the game, he remains the great traditionalist for whom the pinnacle of cricket is still Test cricket.

What is even more significant is that he does not share the talk among some in Australian cricket, that the Ashes is no longer the exclusive focus of the Australians. Since the age of four, says Warne, an Australian is brought up to believe that you must not let the "Poms" beat you in anything.

This summer Warne will hope to describe Aussie success rather than mastermind it, but he is certain the intensity of the struggle will not be any less.

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