John Benaud: Warne's highlights turn back the years

Legendary leg-spinner can still set off England's nervous twitch in absence of their mind guru

"Ho, ho, ho." Depending on your sense of humour, that's either an Aussie gloating or he's just celebrating an early Christmas Down Under, the good cheer distributed not by your usual roundish, red-suited chap but one in a cream suit with grass stains, the one and only Shane Warne.

Or Shorn Wayne, as the Benaud matriarch Irene likes to call the blond bomber. She recently turned a glorious 102 but don't think she's spent too much time at silly leg. Truth is she was sharp enough to note that Warney was gelling and tipping his hair to appear more youthful than his 37 years.

"Is he back with his wife?" she likes to ask. Just about anywhere in the world the rhyming slang for wife is "trouble and strife", and that still seems to dog England whenever the great leg-spinner is around, or over the wicket.

Believe it or not, until England's second-innings batting twitch in Adelaide, there was a hint emerging that maybe, just maybe, the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, had a point when he said after the Gabba Test: "The boys are playing Warne well."

There's an interesting statistical trend emerging with Warne: before this Ashes series began he played three inter-state matches and took 10 wickets at a strike-rate of 82 balls a wicket. His career strike-rate in domestic cricket is 73. In his Test career it's 57, but in the two Tests this summer it has been 85 balls a wicket.

Ian Healy, who respected Warne's explosive talent so much he would sometimes keep wicket in a helmet, made this point during the first innings at Adelaide when Warne was still wicketless: "You know he's bowling at his best when in his follow-through his right leg, the trailing leg, swings through high and the foot kicks up to about thigh height." Healy thought it lower. Still, even if the body is tiring, the one skill that is not eluding Warne is his ability to bend a batsman's mind.

Adelaide messed with many minds. One observer ignored the adage "engage brain before opening mouth" and suggested that the ball which got Kevin Pietersen in the second innings was better than the one that got Mike Gatting in 1993.

That in itself reminds us just how long Warne has been rampant - but what rubbish! Gatting missed the perfect leg-break, Pietersen missed a full toss and was guilty of poor shot selection, and very probably hubris, having dominated Warne in the first innings.

The Pietersen moment, or the Bell and Flintoff kamikaze moments, were all proof perfect of one of coaching's most common signposts: "You learn the most about people when they're thrown out of gear, when they're under pressure." So, stand by to learn more about Fletcher now his 2005 winning team balance has failed Down Under and he has to press the Back to the Drawing Board key on his computer.

The real danger for England is that Warne will re-establish his old mastery over their batsmen. Evidence of Warne's intent came the day after the Test when he said, with not a sign of tongue in bulging cheek, that his four-wicket haul was the best of his career. Who'd believe that but a befuddled English batsman?

Not only English minds were in turmoil. Damien Martyn's decision to quit before the Perth Test rather than risk being tapped on the shoulder by the selectors after it was more sensible than much of his recent batting.

On his arrival against West Indies 15 years ago, as a controversial replacement for the equally cocky Dean Jones, Martyn's elegant strokemaking, his grand timing and uncanny split-second manipulation of the bat face to find gaps in the field, impressed mightily. He was just 22, and so obviously a future champion that not even Jones's record could deny him. Of late, that talent had gone, along with his concentration. This early in the current series, Matthew Hayden's concentration seems patchy, too.

The choice of Adam Voges, aged 27, as Martyn's replacement is either smart thinking with the World Cup around the corner or more evidence that there is a dearth of middle-order batting talent in Australia. His opponents say he's "got something"; he's "got a good head on his shoulders"; that "he's always in when the games are won", and accolades from adversaries don't slip out easily down here.

The case for Voges playing in Perth is confused by the re-emergence of Andrew Symonds, who is hardly a Test all-rounder. That can only be an insurance job if Glenn McGrath's heel is still wonky.

These days the once bouncy, fast Perth pitch is more like the old Sydney Cricket Ground pitch of the Nineties: slow, low and grey. Probably not the ideal platform for England to try to get one back in a series slipping away.

The Shane Gain: Left in a daze on the last days

England's Bane: Going into the final day at Brisbane in 1994 on 211 for 2, Hick and Thorpe both had fifties and were well placed for the draw. But Warne grabbed his Test best of 8 for 71 and England crashed, losing by 184 runs. It couldn't get any worse.

Terribly Tricky: Yes, it could. In the next Test in Melbourne, Warne took a hat-trick to send England rushing to defeat by 295 runs. He had 20 wickets in two Tests.

Windies Blown Away: West Indies, chasing 327 at Melbourne in 1992, reached 143 for 1. But Warne, in only his fifth Test, took 7 for 52 and they were skittled out for 219.

Galling Demise: Despite a first-innings lead of 161 in Galle in 2004, Sri Lanka capitulated for 154 on day five. The old master opened the bowling and snatched 5 for 43.

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game