Riches to abound on the Warne roadshow

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The Independent Online

At Precisely 6.56 yesterday morning South African Airways flight 234 touched down at London's Heathrow Airport bringing with it a special cricket cargo, someone who is guaranteed to pull more than one man and a dog to county grounds around the country this season. A player who will baffle batsmen and delight fans.

The Australian leg spinner Shane Warne emerged from the warmth of customs into the chill of an unseasonable English spring wearing a grin and a pair of open-toed sandals.

The grin was probably down to the fact that he will be earning some serious dosh in his six months with his adopted county Hampshire. The £150,000 the club will pay him is just a modest part of his estimated whole - what with various endorsements, a radio show, a national newspaper column and some television work he is expected to get his hands on anything from £500,000 to £750,000.

And if the rain which greeted him at Southampton yesterday keeps up, his first month's pay cheque may make playing for a living look even easier. He is not even worried about flogging around the counties from match to match with barely a break.

"If I thought the number of matches was going to be a problem I wouldn't have come to an agreement with Hampshire," he said. "I am raring to go. You need a rhythm to your cricket and playing all the time can sometimes help you.

"There's a lot of advantages to playing all the time. I suppose there are disadvantages. If you play a lot your chances of picking up an injury increase. But I am feeling really fit at the moment and ready to go."

He got over his first hurdle, meeting his team-mates, but confessed: "I was a bit nervous walking into the changing-room just now. It is a bit intimidating meeting for the first time guys who will be your team-mates for the next six months."

He even hinted that a return to Hampshire might be on the cards after next year's Ashes tour. "I'd love to come back if they will have me. We will have to weigh things up at the end of the year."

If he achieves his ambition with the bat the chances are that Hampshire will extend his contract on the spot. He may be Australia's leading Test wicket-taker with 365, but the 30-year-old Warne is still looking for his maiden first-class hundred.

He had twice gone close to a Test century in the winter, but he admitted: "I probably should have had two but I don't know how to get one I suppose. I gassed it, I guess. I choked. But all of us bowlers think we can bat a bit.

"And I would like to score a hundred. But there is a lot to achieve this season."

But it is his bowling for which he has been brought over and his success will depend to a large extent on the wicketkeeper Adrian Aymes. "It will be good to get a session going with him. At the moment the only one I have had with him was when I threw him an orange and asked him to show me the wrong 'un. I read that one all right." Aymes is likely to be in a privileged minority all summer as Warne weaves his magic.