Warne set for summer battles with Barmy Army

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The Independent Online

Shane Warne is expecting a fiery reception from England supporters during this summer's Ashes series.

Shane Warne is expecting a fiery reception from England supporters during this summer's Ashes series.

Australia's greatest leg-spinner, who was criticised earlier in the summer for sledging during a Frizzell County Championship match, is bracing himself after undergoing hair replacement therapy to help "re-grow" his hair.

However, the 35-year-old believes that the boisterous England fans are good for the sport and he enjoys the relationship with the crowd.

Warne, who is the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket, said: "The Barmy Army are an intelligent crowd and I'd be disappointed if they don't have a song ready for me for the start of the series.

"But it's good for cricket, the Barmy Army are great for cricket and add to hype surrounding the series."

Warne is expected to take his 600th wicket in the forthcoming series - he is on 583 and promises "something special" when he reaches the milestone - with Australia overwhelming favourites when play starts on 21 July.

However, he has noted the strides England have made since the previous Ashes series, and has also tipped his Hampshire team-mate Kevin Pietersen to make an impression on the tourists.

Pietersen made a stunning start to his international career last winter in South Africa, but he is yet to make a Test appearance.

He could get the chance to continue his sparkling one-day form in the NatWest series which precedes the first Test.

Warne said: "We're playing some really good cricket but England are, too - they've got some really good players. Some of their players haven't played against Australia before, so we'll see.

"We've played well in our own conditions and in their conditions, so it will be an excellent summer of cricket. It will be a great summer and the one-day series is a great starter for the main meal of the Tests."

Of South Africa-born Pietersen, Warne added: "He's done some wonderful things in one-day cricket in his career and has done really well so far. I'm sure he will play some part against us this summer."

The leg-spinner bowled at Pietersen during a warm-up game for Hampshire against England at the weekend, although Warne did not appear to be bowling with his usual venom.

"I just wanted to bowl a few when I saw KP at the crease," the Australian said.

"You'll have to ask him if it was at full tilt. I wanted a few overs so bowled a few loopy leggies - we'll wait for the serious stuff later in the summer."

Pietersen's attacking style has made him a crowd favourite, with suggestions that he could form a devastating middle-order partnership with Andrew Flintoff.

Warne is wary of Flintoff's deceptive pace as a bowler and believes that the Lancastrian has reached the standard the Australians have set.

"It's hard to fit everyone into an Ashes XI, but Freddie Flintoff would make most teams in the world," Warne said.

"His bowling means you can have extra balance to the team, maybe by adding another spinner or another batsman."

Warne has teamed up with Advanced Hair Studio to solve his hair loss, using laser therapy over the past two months to "re-grow" and strengthen his hair.

The treatment has also been used by rugby player Austin Healey.