Shane Warne has many gifts but as his career enters its twilight zone it is the less obvious ones that are becoming more apparent, and one of the benefactors of that switch in focus may just turn out to be England.
If the bowling has lost some of its fizz as he moves into his 40s then it is the art of his leadership and ability to extract the very best out of seemingly modest players that has come to the fore. If Michael Lumb is today named in England's 15-strong squad for the World Twenty20 next month then the great Australian might expect to receive a thankyou text, if that's still his favoured form of communication.
Lumb is on the verge of becoming an international newcomer at the age of 30 – an overnight success 10 years in the making – and it is since he came under the influence of Warne following his move from Yorkshire to Hampshire three years ago that his career has enjoyed a late blossoming.
Warne obviously saw something in the left-hander's game during his time on the county circuit and as most of England's established players were studiously ignored during the auction for this season's Indian Premier League, Lumb was recruited by the Rajasthan Royals, captained by one SK Warne. It was a move that may have surprised the wider game, but not those at the Rose Bowl. "When he first moved down here," said Tim Tremlett, Hampshire's director of cricket, "he was a bit intimidated by Warne – but he soon got used to Shane. He has really benefited from working under Shane and learnt a lot under him."
Michael Carberry, who made his Test debut against Bangladesh this winter aged 29, is another to have gained from playing under Warne on the south coast. "Shane has this ability to bring out the best in players," said Tremlett. "He was a tremendous influence at Hampshire."
From the moment he linked up with Warne in India, Lumb, who is earning £33,000 for his six weeks in the IPL, has lapped up the experience. "It is all about the opportunity," he said at the start of the tournament.
A first-baller in his second game has been followed by scores of 41 off 30 balls, 45 from 32 and 30 from 16 as he has shown the striking power, and speed between the wickets, that has confirmed the growing suspicion among the England selectors that here is the ideal horse for the Twenty20 course. "He has a good all-round game," said Tremlett. "Last year he was fantastic in the Twenty20. He hit a real purple patch and has not looked back. He picks up the length extremely quickly, has a free flow of the bat. He puts everything into the shot, is a fantastic timer of the ball and has a quick eye."
England have had a distant eye on Lumb for a year – he was in the expanded squad for the Champions Trophy in South Africa, but missed the final cut. Last season he scored 442 runs in 11 Twenty20 games for Hampshire and also played a key role in the county's success in the Friends Provident Trophy. That earned him a place in the England Lions squad and a one-day century against Pakistan A and a match-clinching contribution in a warm-up T20 game against the full England side in Abu Dhabi in February – he hit 14 off the game's final over bowled by Luke Wright – has ushered him to the fore.
If he does make the cut as the squad is trimmed down to 15 for next month's trip to the Caribbean, it will mean yet another South African-born player pulling on an England sweater. Born in Johannesburg, he played for South Africa at under-19 level before moving to England to join Yorkshire, his father's county.
Lumb is being considered to open alongside Craig Kieswetter, also born in Johannesburg, as England seek to solve a long-term problem at the top of the order. Kevin Pietersen's looming fatherhood – his first child is due in May – may also see an extra batsman included, which can only increase Lumb's prospects of making a belated beginning to his international career.
Horses for courses: T20 connoisseurs
Specialist selections for the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean:
Juan Theron (SA)
Seamer, 24, who has never played an international. Was man of the match on his IPL debut for Kings XI Punjab.
Dan Christian (Aus)
26-year-old all-rounder with Aboriginal heritage. Twenty20 strike rate of 148.
David Warner (Aus)
Explosive opener who scored an IPL century for Delhi on Monday.
Vinay Kumar (Ind)
Outswing bowler, 26, who has been in the IPL wickets for Bangalore.Reuse content