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Sight Screen

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Warne special

Day one of the first Ashes Test was about Glenn McGrath. The last day could as easily have been about the same bloke, given his four wickets that closed out the game (what a stat -- his two breakthrough spells combined, as the Guardian points out here, involve nine wickets for five runs in the space of 54 balls; breathtaking is just about the only mot that is juste).
But if Glenn-mania opened the Test, Warne wah-wahs closed it down; every paper on both sides has a piece, sometimes two, devoted to the man who, having made headlines for off-field follies in the run-up to the Ashes, hit headlines again for his own special brand of on-field magic once the teams got down to business.
1. Gideon Haigh in the Guardian looks at Warne's main weapon in the Lord's Test -- the one going straight through.
2. Elsewhere in the same paper is Simon Hattenstone's lengthy -- and occasionally interesting -- Target=Top>interview-profile of the leggie.
2. Nick Townsend, in the Independent, focusses on Warne's appeals -- the ones Aleem Dar (not surprising -- he is by performance and reputation a 'not out' umpire when it comes to LBWs) turned down, and the one he gave. Elsewhere in the paper is this unsigned, and nicely written, profile of the master spinner. And, also in the Independent (that is almost as many pieces on him as wickets he took in the Test), this eulogy
Watching Warne, even at this late stage of his career, is to be overwhelmed by the sense of a sporting giant, a champion who, for all indiscretions off the field, has never mistaken mere celebrity for any adequate substitute for the awesome levels of performance that have always been attached to his name.

3. In the Telegraph, the tone is more dirge than eulogy, but the subtext remains the same: McGrath and Warne, Warne and McGrath. Two names England suggested were history, before this series began; two names that, they are finding out with four Tests still to play, are still alive, and kicking butt.
4. Simon Hughes, in his analysis in the Telegraph, suggests that the result owed -- more than any other factor -- to England's largesse in the field and with the ball, and even with the scheduling. Why, he asks, does England tend to spill easy chances when it comes to Ashes Tests?
It's a combination of factors. Tension must be one. Every time England sacrifice the little urn, there's more pressure on them to wrest the initiative next time. At crucial moments you sense their bodies tense up. Tight fingers make for terrible spillages.

Martin Johnson weighs in with his own analysis -- with humor predominating, and the game itself being the canvas on which he daubs his jibes.
Warne, to the relief not only of neutral cricket watchers but a fair few English ones too, may not be quite the bowler he was, but he is still bewitchingly good. If reports of all his extra-curricular activities are to be believed, he should scarcely have the strength to run up to the wicket, but only Pietersen appears able to remove himself from the hypnotist's chair when the ball is on the way down. And so, with the series only one match old, it already looks like another Australian Ashes, but at times like this it is good to know that there is one area in which they come a hopeless second.

5. Across the aisle, Peter Roebuck in the Sydney Morning Herald produces his own take on the Warne magic:
As usual, Warne's first delivery landed on exactly the intended spot. Without his extraordinary control, he would be just another leggie. Arthur Mailey admitted he may have bowled a few maiden overs, but none intentionally. Warne prefers to keep batsmen pinned down in a corner to work them over. His flippers, zooters, bosies, and sliders are effective because he has close fieldsmen to catch the edges, and umpires expecting a wicket at any moment. He cooks his victims slowly.

Roebuck, in the same paper, also looks at Brett Lee, the one man who has perhaps not had his fair share of ink, given the outsize aura of Warne and McGrath.
6. In The Age, Martin Blake looks at Warne's bowling from another angle
The great irony in Shane Warne's bowling is that he spins the ball so far and gets so many rotations on it, yet so many of his wickets come with balls that do precisely nothing.
The great American basketballer Bill Russell once said that even if he only blocked, say 5 per cent of his opponents' shots, "they don't know which 5 per cent", and so it is with Warne, the best leg spinner of all times. The fundamental problem for batsmen is that they don't know what is coming next.

And that about rounds off the more readable of the reams of Ashes content (The Times, London, for some reason doesn't seem to load..)
More, tomorrow. Till then, adios.

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