Warne and McGrath wonderful in tandem

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Australia's batting grew stronger as this series progressed, in spite of that one blip at Headingley, although victory was made certain for them by the bowlers. While Shane Warne spun, twiddled and danced his way to 31 wickets, it was the devastating control and hostility of Glenn McGrath, who took 32, which almost invariably opened the door for the leg-spinner.

It is perhaps the rarity of top- class wrist spinners, which makes them so easy to appreciate, as opposed to the common-placed necessity of opening bowlers which makes them easy to accept and their skills harder to digest.

Although no longer capable of the variety of half a dozen or more years ago before his shoulder began to play him up, Warne is an astonishing performer. His accuracy, allied to the spin he imparts to his leg break, the control he has with his top spinner and his more occasionally used flipper, still gives batsmen nightmares.

He took 11 wickets at The Oval compared to McGrath's seven and yet one could only feel that a few years ago he would have finished England off in half the time and at considerably less expense. A bowler like Warne will always have to stand comparison with himself when he was at his best.

The new ball is given by right to McGrath – and has anyone in the history of the game had a much greater right to it? There is no messing around with him, no wasting time with looseners or warm-up balls. He is at you from the word go.

He purrs his way through that dead straight run up like a Rolls Royce at speed, but with more in the tank if need be. It is an incredibly smooth run-up with that slight correction to the steering at the end which enables him to let go of the ball from as near to the stumps as is possible to get.

His control, like Warne's, is exceptional. Every ball seems to be just short of a length around the off stump lifting and moving one way or the other and in the mid or upper 80s (mph).

Throughout this series McGrath has consistently made the early inroads into England's batting and softened up the underbelly for Warne. For many of the England batsmen he must have made the ball sound like the hiss of a deadly snake. Marcus Trescothick will never forget the last two balls he had from him in the second innings.

Warne would have found it harder work without McGrath, which is not to denigrate him or to be churlish about a fine performance from a great spinner. It is no coincidence that the only time that McGrath lost it was in the half-hour or so after lunch on the last day at Headingley, which was when Mark Butcher effectively won the fourth Test for England.

Comments