Cricket: Shane's warning

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IF nothing else, the will-he-won't-he guessing game about Shane Warne's fitness for the Ashes series has added spice to England's arrival in Australia.

Two days ago the bulletins were favourable to England (Warne has no chance of making the First Test, wait until Christmas), yesterday the wind was altogether more chilly for the tourists, with Warne's state coach saying he expected the blond leg-spinner to be bowling normally within a fortnight.

Warne trained with Victoria at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday, and while his first nets outing the previous week had been a distinctly wary affair, this was rather more meaningful, as he began to go through the leg-spinning motions for the first time since his April shoulder operation.

The Victoria coach, John Scholes, was happy enough, certainly. "I'd say he was 70 or 80 per cent better than he was last week," he said. "He's gone from getting his arm over in a slow rotation to a genuine rotation - he's got a genuine chance to be bowling fairly normally in a week or so."

Warne, who is playing as a batsman for his club, St Kilda - he scored an unbeaten century yesterday - has been pencilled in to Victoria's squad for their next Sheffield Shield match on 4 November, just over a fortnight before the First Test.

Across Australia, in Perth, England's thoughts have turned to their own returnee from a lengthy injury, Graham Thorpe, who yesterday enjoyed his first England net session since the Old Trafford Test back in July. Not surprisingly, the Surrey batsman is not taking his place in the side for granted. "I'm a member of the squad here," he said. "I have got no right to just walk back into the side and I know I'm going to have to work bloody hard. I am taking it day to day and trying to play as well as I can.

"I have no problems with my movement, it's just a case of re-acquainting myself with the bat, making sure the body shape is right when I am playing the shots and getting the weight transfer right and doing that over and over again until it's perfect.

"In a way this is the re-start to my career because there is no definite place for me in the side to start with, but I have a track record and I'm pretty confident even if I wasn't scoring runs that I could go out there and score."

Meanwhile, the other England tour party, Adam Hollioake's boys in Bangladesh, start their bid for the Wills Cup against South Africa today. It promises to be a busy time for the nine teams, with eight day-night games in nine days

"Both ourselves and South Africa have slightly weakened sides which evens things up. It will depend on which of the inexperienced players puts their hands up to be counted," said Hollioake, who has just 12 fully fit players to pick from for the game. South Africa are without Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock.