Peter Roebuck: Magician of the MCG at mesmeric best

Shane Warne's 20th delivery was a leg-break. Nothing too surprising about that. He has spent an entire career sending them down. Nothing in the delivery suggested that anything remarkable was about to happen.

Clouds hung heavy over Melbourne and a chill wind blew across the ground. Hardly the sort of weather to encourage a chap to play forward and give the ball a flick. Also the pitch was coated in grass and the ball had been darting around like a chased buck.

Warne must have wondered whether his services would even be required. England's decision to bat first on a holding track had been daring, some thought foolhardy. Andrew Flintoff must have hoped to lose the toss but as the sporting gods smile upon some so they frown upon others.

Surprisingly, the pacemen did not scatter the Poms. It was not for the want of trying. The batsmen had more close shaves than Kojak. Brett Lee took the first wicket but his opening stint was otherwise unproductive. Glenn McGrath could not have felt more at home had a couple of wild pigs pottered across the ground but it was not his day.

Accordingly, Warne found himself called into the attack. Previously he had teased the crowd by removing his hat, a gesture prompting a roar sufficient to awaken a tortoise. Now he was sincere. Again came the roar, this time building towards a crescendo. Not everyone has tickets for the entire match. Many present did not expect to see the magician bowl again. Or his like. Warne had begun his Ashes career with the perfect leg-break. Could he repeat the feat? His opening offering was a full toss.

No wonder the blighter was retiring. Nothing much changed in the next two overs. England staggered to 101 for 2. Having switched ends, Lee struck again. Suddenly England were in trouble. Warne sniffed an opening. He has seldom needed a second invitation.

And so Warne began his fourth over. By now his blood was flowing. Andrew Strauss was his opponent. Betrayed by luck earlier in the series, the left-hander had reached a streaky, dogged, deserved 50. He set his jaw and prepared to face the spinner's 20th delivery.

Except in the mind of an obdurate batsman, the ball did not perform any unusual manoeuvres, such as loop the loop. Instead it contented itself with landing on a length and turning. What possessed an established batsman to attempt to clip the ball past square leg cannot easily be imagined. Warne creates confusion, crowds, tantalises and torments.

Strauss missed his shot and the ball struck middle stump. Warne celebrated. He has always enjoyed taking wickets. Then he remembered this one was special whereupon he went on a rampage. A ground rose to salute him. Not just any ground either; his ground, the mighty MCG.

Thereafter Warne was at his mesmeric best. Not even another mistake by his gloveman could stop him. Need it be said that England wasted their best batsman and threw away precious wickets? Need it be said that Warne took five wickets? Need it be said that he held the ball aloft and led the team from the field? As a banner in the stands proclaimed, "You Can't Teach That".

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution