There was some spin about, but it was not coming from Shane Warne, who went wicketless in Hampshire's win over Essex, a victory that owed most to a 120-run partnership between the captain, Robin Smith, with 56, and the wicket-keeper, Adrian Aymes, who top- scored with 63.
Warne, who arrived in England on Tuesday, is used to lording it over English batsmen. With the damp pitch more suited to seam than spin, the bafflement was absent and he instead suffered the indignity of being belted for six by Ronnie Irani, whose 50 helped Essex to 201 for 9 after they had been put in by Hampshire.
Voted as one of the five cricketers of the 20th century in a recent poll conducted by Wisden, you would have expected Warne's county debut to be well attended, particularly as the weather was set fair and rumours of his £750,000 earning capacity abound in the tabloid press. In the event, just under 3,000 showed up to see the Australian vice-captain, whose 10 overs cost 44 runs, outbowled by his less famous counterpart Shaun Udal, who took 2 for 27. If the idle tittle-tattle about the blond Aussie is to be believed, the irony is that Udal will earn some £710,000 less come September.
There is a theory, and not a far-fetched one, that Warne's fearsome reputation will mean that many county batsmen are dismissed long before he has bowled a ball at them, but Essex were clearly not cowed and their plan appeared to be one of aggression towards him rather than submission.
Even so, he could hardly have expected the reverse sweep for four that the 21-year-old Stephen Peters played with cheeky aplomb. Warne will log it in that elephantine memory of his and wait until the pitches dry out before showing off his full box of tricks.
Before play began the most anticipated duel was between Warne and the England captain, Nasser Hussain. The last time the pair met was 14 months ago during the second one-day final in Sydney. On that occasion Hussain was winning the match for England when Warne sledged his opponent into playing a rash shot. With the main threat back in the hutch, Warne then mopped up the England tail to win the series. Hussain is a wiser bird these days, though that did not prevent him from chopping on against Dimitri Mascarenhas. Generally the Essex batsmen struggled against the quicker bowlers and only Irani, and then Peters, managed to strike the ball with any certainty.
When Hampshire came to bat the pitch had received another four hours of sunshine and played far truer, but Mark Ilott pegged them back with two early wickets, including the bizarre dismissal of Derek Kenway, who succeeded in hitting the ball back to the bowler off his boot. But Smith, joining Aymes at the crease with his team at 11 for 2, steadied the early nerves with an array of leg-side clips and fearsome trademark cuts. Ashley Cowan should have caught Smith at slip when he was on 19 but the edge off Ricky Anderson was spilled. If that was not damage enough for the home side, Irani then slipped while fielding the ball, the damage to his knee bad enough to prevent him from finishing his allotted overs.
With 71 runs needed, Smith fell to the spin of Paul Grayson after attempting an expansive swat through the off side. But if the wicket offered slight optimism to Essex, Aymes eschewed his early caution to take the match away from them. By the time he was out, bowled slogging at Cowan, Essex knew the game was up, a fact duly confirmed when Mascarenhas finished in a flurry of boundaries, including 16 off Ilott's final over.Reuse content