Defeat is no disgrace, but England must put musketeers to sword

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The Independent Online

There is no reason to panic. England played well in patches, but dropped catches and lax spells undid them. Now they need to remain positive and could start by sustaining their aggression, forgetting about Graham Thorpe and ignoring the bilge spouted by Richard Bevan. They must play cricket in Karachi and anywhere else. The world has shrunk.

England were not disgraced. They were outplayed by a powerful side that has recovered its intensity. Although they managed to eject Gilchrist cheaply twice, they could not stop the Antipodean scalp-hunters, who used the slope superbly.

McGrath contributed a towering spell on that crucial first afternoon. To their credit, England's openers kept him out in the second innings but this shooter of wild pigs returned to take another four wickets. England must stop talking and start playing.

Inevitably, the third of the musketeers made his mark. On Saturday Warne produced one of his most compelling performances. Even in his pomp he could not have bowled better. During a long stint from the Nursery End he produced every word in the leg-spinning vocabulary and added several of his own creation. It was mesmerising, entertaining and destructive.

Warne crowds the bat, backs himself to cause such confusion and to land the ball with such precision that batsmen feel creasebound. Only Kevin Pietersen called his bluff. Indeed, the South African forced his chum to bowl into the rough from around the wicket.

As usual Warne's first delivery landed on the intended spot. Without his control, he would be just another leg-spinner. Arthur Mailey admitted he may have bowled a few maiden overs, but none intentionally. Warne prefers to work batsmen over.

Warne broke the back of the England innings. Marcus Trescothick was first to depart. Already the leg-spinner had suffered the death of a thousand rejected appeals. Over the years he has been expert at extracting favourable decisions from the white coats. Lately the knack seems to have deserted him. Persevering, he pushed a leg-break across the left-hander and rejoiced as the edge was snaffled.

After drinks he struck again as Ian Bell ignored a ball that skidded through. Previously, Bell had been stepping down the pitch but drinks breaks have a way of disturbing a man's train of thought. Warne did not give him a second chance. Clever through the air, he is deadly off the pitch.

Warne's third wicket was predictable. He is a master of mind games. Against most types of bowling Andrew Flintoff resembles Hagar the Horrible. Facing the leg-spinner he is more like Bristow. On another day the Victorian might have inflicted even more damage. His first ball to Geraint Jones was one of his finest, a leg-break sent down from a high arm that rose, faded, dipped, turned sharply and bounced steeply. He is not supposed to be able to bowl like that these days.

Yesterday Warne took his fourth wicket and then the slip catch that ended the match and stopped him adding his name to the board in the visitors' room. He has always played without resentment. Warne has a remarkable ability to forget all distractions when he steps on to the field. He is a wonderful cricketer and will be missed.