Peter Roebuck: Old masters discover a new lease of life
Wednesday 06 December 2006
At the end of an extraordinary day that had seen the Australians romp to a stunning victory, the elders of the side ran around the field like spring chickens. Against all the odds, Ricky Ponting's side had secured a great victory. So much for Dad's Army. Australia overwhelmed an opponent alarmed into inactivity. Although it was a magnificent team effort, the victory owed most to the side's ageing champions. Seldom have two masters raged as strongly against the dying of their light as did Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath against England in their second innings. They turned an apparently lost cause into a triumph.
Shane Warne's contribution counts amongst the mightiest of his career. Pounded by the batsmen and berated by the critics after a lacklustre showing in the first innings, he produced a stirring performance. A drawn match had been universally predicted. Only the sight of the Englishmen arriving with glum faces suggested otherwise. And the fact that Australia had a magician in its ranks.
Anyone seeking to convey the greatness of this fascinating operator need only show footage of this display. It was not merely the skill summoned throughout an unyielding stint. Certainly the craftsmanship shown was superb, the way the ball dipped and turned, the unexpected googly and most of all, the accuracy that caused almost every ball to land on the spot.
But it was not only about skill. Greatness is a state of mind. Warne had taken 1 for 167 in the first innings and had been exposed by a confident young batsman. A lesser man might have wilted. Not Warne. Instead, he wanted to make amends and convinced himself it could be done. Maybe he had seen his opponents walk into the ground with long faces. He knows that the scared sportsman is vulnerable. Now his arm was higher and he changed his line, aiming more often at middle stump, using the leg-side delivery sparingly. Astute fields were also set so that batsmen could not easily escape. And so the great competitor went to work. His first strike owed something to fortune. Bad luck stalks the timid. Next came the most crucial blow. Warne left the leg-side temptingly open and sent a ball behind Pietersen's legs. Accepting the bait, his recent tormentor swept and lost his off stump. Warne had nailed his man.
Meanwhile McGrath watched. Not so long ago he had been thrown the ball when the game was afoot. Now he did not try his arm till late afternoon. At last the ball was tossed to him. He ran in hard, bowled purposefully and took the last two scalps.
Then the old champions walked back to the pavilion and watched the batsmen knock off the runs. Finally they ran on to the field like excited youngsters. It had been a wonderful fightback, and the old warriors had led the way.
Petr Cech demands talks over Chelsea future as Thibaut Courtois begs him to stay – as mentor
Angel Di Maria: Manchester United to push ahead with £50m move for Real Madrid winger
Marcos Rojo to Manchester United: Sporting Lisbon confirm deal with Nani heading back to Portugal on loan
Arsenal player ratings vs Besiktas
Besiktas vs Arsenal player ratings: Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Calum Chambers - who was the Gunners star man?
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermesiter and vodka
- 4 Here’s the damning letter Robin Williams wrote to his Mrs Doubtfire co-star's principal after they expelled her
- 5 Ferguson protests: 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein ‘arrested’ by police during St Louis demonstrations
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK