Warne hits form with Ashes alert for England

Hampshire 275 & 304 v Middlesex 279 & 236, Hampshire win by 64 runs
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Dimitri Mascarenhas may have sealed Hampshire's 64-run victory over Middlesex when he ripped Paul Weekes' middle stump out of the ground with 16 overs of this First Division match remaining; and it was encouraging to watch England's latest fast-bowling prospect, Chris Tremlett, walk off with match figures of 7-100; but England need to beware - Shane Warne is warming up nicely for this summer's Ashes series.

Dimitri Mascarenhas may have sealed Hampshire's 64-run victory over Middlesex when he ripped Paul Weekes' middle stump out of the ground with 16 overs of this First Division match remaining; and it was encouraging to watch England's latest fast-bowling prospect, Chris Tremlett, walk off with match figures of 7-100; but England need to beware - Shane Warne is warming up nicely for this summer's Ashes series.

The champion Australian leg-spinner claimed seven wickets himself in Hampshire's second Championship win of the summer, and it took his tally in the competition to 19 in three games. But it is not only Warne's ability to take crucial wickets that makes him such a threat to England. The presence of the 35-year-old inspires those around him. Chasing a daunting target of 301 was always going to be difficult and Andrew Strauss became the first Middlesex casualty. Warne instructed his quicker bowlers to bowl round the wicket at the left-hander and positioned a man on the cover-point boundary to cut off his favourite run-scoring area.

The leggie also placed a fielder in this position when he came on to bowl and the experience will have given Strauss a good idea of what he will come up against when he faces the Australians in July. On a worn, surface Strauss was always going to have his hands full, and his desperation became apparent when he attempted to slog sweep and reverse sweep Warne.

Neither swish located the ball, as did the forward grope which crept under his bat and knocked out his off-stump. "This was the first time I have bowled at Strauss," Warne admitted. "I wanted to see how he played me and I was quite happy with what I saw, especially when he started moving across the stumps and attempted to play the reverse sweep. It was a sign that he was not sure what to do." Against Warne, Ben Hutton, the Middlesex captain, looked just as uncomfortable but his patience finally broke at the other end when he had a wild drive at a half volley from Mascarenhas and was caught by the wicketkeeper.

Ed Smith and Owais Shah offered resistance but Hampshire's victory became inevitable when Middlesex lost three wickets in three overs. Ed Joyce played Warne well in Middlesex's first innings but a slider - a ball that goes straight on - from the canny leggie found his outside edge and Kevin Pietersen took a good low catch at slip. In the next over Tremlett had Scott Styris caught at short-leg, and when Warne's persistence eventually breached Smith's defence Middlesex were history.

Comments