CRICKET: Warne will delay return

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The Independent Online
THERE WAS good news for England yesterday when Shane Warne backed the assessment of the selector Allan Border that he is unlikely to return to Australia's side until the third Test in the Ashes series.

Speculation had been linking the leg-spinner, who has claimed 85 wickets in 17 Tests against England, with a possible return for the start of the series at Brisbane on 20 November after he had made the first tentative steps on the comeback trail following a shoulder operation seven months ago.

On Wednesday, Border, the former Australian captain, had pleaded for patience and claimed the third Test at Adelaide on 15 December was a more likely return date. Border stressed: "Even given an incident-free comeback to first- class cricket and a spotless report from the specialist, the best case scenario is for Warne to return for the third Test."

After stepping up his rehabilitation programme yesterday with another work-out programme in the nets at the MCG, Warne agreed. "All I've been thinking about is getting my shoulder right. I think we've always said from day one we won't be rushing it, so whatever Test, whenever it is, it will be when my shoulder is right. I won't be rushing back. I think the selectors are on the same wavelength that I'm on. At least we're going in one direction - it makes sense," he said.

Warne is hoping to be fit enough to make his return for Victoria in the Mercantile Mutual Cup against New South Wales in Melbourne on Sunday and, if that is successful, he will make his Sheffield Shield comeback against Western Australia in Perth on 13 November - just a week before the first Test.

In the England party, Mark Butcher announced that he will not let his injury worries allow him to be intimidated when he faces two of the fastest bowlers on the Australian stage at the Adelaide Oval this weekend.

The Surrey left-hander unwittingly provided England with living proof of the uncompromising force they must overcome if they are to regain the Ashes this winter by marking the WACA pitch in Perth with his blood, having been hit above the right eye on Sunday after ducking into a Matt Nicholson delivery.

He needed 10 stitches in the wound, returning to fielding drills only yesterday when he collided with Peter Such and ended with a matching cut above his left eye. But neither of the injuries will shake Butcher, and it is with that attitude he prepares to tackle Mark Harrity and Jason Gillespie as England build-up to the first Test with a four- day game against South Australia starting this weekend.

"I like playing fast bowling - it suits my game," Butcher said. "I would have thought they will test me out after the way I got my injury, but I'm sure they would have done that anyway."

Butcher is expected to take his place at the top of the order, while Mike Atherton has recovered from the bruised right hip which forced his withdrawal from last week's draw against Western Australia. The captain, Alec Stewart, another late withdrawal in Perth with a stiff back, should stiffen the batting order.

ENGLAND: M A Butcher, M A Atherton, J P Crawley, *A J Stewart, G P Thorpe, M R Ramprakash, D G Cork, D W Headley, A R C Fraser, A J Tudor, P M Such.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA (from): *G S Blewett, M P Faull, C J Davies, G R Parker, N T Adcock, T J Nielsen, M A Harrity, A Crook, E Arnold, P Wilson, B A Johnson, J N Gillespie.