Ever since Mike Gatting had his off-stump trimmed by the perfect leg-break at Old Trafford 12 years ago, England have been attempting to come up with a plan to counteract the brilliance of Shane Warne. Graham Gooch, Michael Atherton, Robin Smith and Alec Stewart, four of England's finest batsmen, have all tried to get the better of the Australian legend, but sadly each failed.
But yesterday in a totesport league First Division match in Southampton Gloucestershire came up with a novel idea. The cunning plan is unlikely to catch on in Test cricket but it involved sending a tail-ender - John Lewis - up the batting order with the clear instructions to have an enormous slog at Warne.
And for 33 minutes it seemed to work. Lewis entered the fray when Matt Windows limped off with a hamstring injury, and immediately struck Alan Mullally for two fours. He then turned his attention to Test cricket's highest wicket-taker who he smashed for one huge six and two boundaries.
The benefits of Lewis' 28-ball innings of 40 were three-fold for Gloucestershire. The right-handers powerful strokeplay took the initiative away from Hampshire, angered Warne - the leg-spinner resorted to bowling Lewis a bouncer which he upper-cut for four - and stung Philip Weston into action.
Before the arrival of Lewis, Weston was struggling to get the ball away but the sight of his team-mate swinging his bat so freely at the Australian legend seemed to loosen him up. But the left-handed opener continued to show Warne respect and decided to get after the off-spin of Shaun Udal, which he twice struck down the ground for six.
The pair took 51 runs off six overs of spin before Warne gained his revenge by bowing Lewis. Gloucestershire continued to adopt their ultra-positive approach until Upul Chandana and Weston were stumped in consecutive overs from Warne and Udal.
The loss of these two was a set-back, but with 12 overs of their innings remaining Gloucestershire, on 150 for 4, were in a good position on a pitch where anything above 200 is difficult to chase. Chris Taylor and Steve Adshead scored useful runs, while Sean Ervine and Chris Tremlett took five cheap wickets.
Warne's captaincy has made Hampshire an exciting side to watch, but when he arrived home last night he must have questioned his decision to bowl 17 overs of spin. Tremlett and Ervine both went for less than four runs an over, as did Richard Logan, who bowled only six of his nine-over allocation.
Lewis did not allow his success with the bat affect the jon he is paid to to - bow - and in an excellent opening spell he dismissed two of Hampshire's most dangerous players. The Australian, Simon Katich, was trapped in front attempting to work one to leg and Sean Ervine edged a loose waft through to the keeper.
This brought Kevin Pietersen to the crease, and once again he failed to thrill an expectant crowd.
Batting here is sure to test the skill and patience of the England one-day star, but he will consider himself slightly unfortunate to have hit a full blooded cut-cum-drive straight to Chandana at deep gully.Reuse content