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|LEGENDS & VOTE
Profiles of eight of the best players in Ashes history
|SHANE WARNE (1969- )
Victoria, Hampshire & Australia
Shane Warne, dubbed ‘The Sultan of Spin’, has captured the imagination of the cricketing public worldwide.
After decades of tyrannical fast bowling pummelling sides into submission, a more insinuous way of relieving batsmen of their responsibilities at the crease once more came to the fore.
Quite simply, Warne made spin-bowling sexy.
It all started with a single ball in 1993 in the first Test at Old Trafford, England v Australia.
Warne’s opening delivery, which drifted far enough outside leg stump to register comfortably in the batsman’s safety zone, spun monstrously on pitching to hit the off-stump.
Mike Gatting, who had been bowled, walked away and then looked back in disbelief. Forever after, it was known as ‘That Ball’.
The dismissal was the first of 34 (ave: 25.79) in the Test series - a leg-spinning record in England.
Warne’s rise to fame had been spectacular: an Australian Youth tour of the West Indies in 1990, a term in the Australian Cricket Academy, a debut for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield in 1991 and selection for a tour of Zimbabwe by an Australian XI all in the same year.
Both representative matches were won by the tourists and in Harare, Warne took 7-49 in Zimbabwe’s second innings.
In his first Test match against India (the third of the series) at Sydney in 1992, reality struck. He took 1-150 off 45 overs and 0-78 in the next Test at Adelaide. He was dropped.
A regime, which produced improved fitness and tactical/ technical nous acquired from spin gurus Terry Jenner and Kerry O’Keeffe, left him better equipped.
Not that it was immediately obvious when he yielded 107 runs with no wicket in the first innings of the first Test against Sri Lanka at Colombo in the 1992/93 tour.
However, as a handy late-order batsman, he quickly redeemed himself with 35 runs in a valuable 10th wicket stand before taking 3-0 off 11 balls to help grab a close victory.
In 1993/94, series against New Zealand and South Africa produced 47 wickets and the following year three Tests against Pakistan brought a further 18.
In the 1994/95 Ashes series against England, Warne captured 27 wickets (ave: 20.33), including 8-71 in the first Test at Brisbane and a hat-trick in the second Test at Melbourne.
The strike rate continued on all surfaces and in Tests and limited-overs games.
When bowling, Warne becomes the central character in a piece of theatre.
He is a showman with all the tricks; challenging his opponents and confounding the audience, striving to give the ball magical propensities.
New names for his bowling drifted into cricket such as wrong-‘uns, top-spin, drifters, prodigious leg-spin, flippers and zooters... names to cause uncertainty and to bamboozle.
Constantly experimenting to improve his craft, he is one of he most aggressive slow bowlers there has been.
A cricketer of modern times, Warne is always involved, whether it be in controversy, scandal or triumph.
His roly-poly frame has impact and some of it has bruised himself.
A serious shoulder injury threatened his career, but he returned - perhaps too quickly.
A successful season in county cricket with Hampshire in 2000 (70 first class wickets, 109 in all games) was followed by a disappointing series against India (10 wickets at 50.5).
Is it the quiet before the storm? With 376 Test wickets (more than any other spinner) already in the bag, it would be foolish to think there could not be another revival in 2001.
Shane Keith Warne is that rare creature with substance as well as spin.