Warne takes guard amid Ashes hype and spin doctors

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It was rather apt that Shane Warne found himself in Bethnal Green yesterday having to size up to the bigger of two twins who used to be lords of his particular manor. Ronnie might even have liked Warnie's style.

"I wouldn't get too carried away by what Steve Waugh has to say," he said, referring to his former captain's claim that Australia's pally-pally act with the England team might have had something to do with them handing over the Ashes last year. "It's easy to sit back when you're not playing and say what we should be doing.

"But our defeat didn't have anything to do with what he says - if we'd only batted better we might have been OK. England outplayed us and all credit to them. As I've said about four million times."

If yesterday was anything to go by, then he will probably have to say it about four million times more before the summer is out. Because wherever the Hampshire captain goes, whatever he does, whoever's hotel room he may or may not be in, the conversation will always turn around to this winter's Ashes rematch. He has not even been back in this country a fortnight yet and already he seems punch-drunk with it all.

"I would say you're fairly obsessed with the Ashes, yeah," he said. "But you've got this summer to get through before the first Test on 23 November, with two series against two pretty good teams in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. So I wouldn't be getting too far ahead of myself if I was England." Ahead of ourselves? It might as well be 22 November.

Take yesterday. Warne fought his way through an hour and a half of London traffic to attend "Spin Idol" - the launch of a joint initiative between his sponsors, Mitre, and the charities The Lord's Taverners and Capital Kids Cricket to encourage interest in spin bowling in children - and what was he asked about? Apart from one question about his latest three-in-a-bed News Of The World scandal - never has his bat looked so straight in fending that one off - it was England this, England that.

Warne being Warne, however, he cannot help but spout forth. He pondered whether England's veering towards separate Test and one-day captains would be the right route to take, queried whether Shaun Udal might just have been a better selection than Monty Panesar for Thursday's first Test against Sri Lanka and even admitted to one cheeky kid that, yes, if he could be any other cricketer in the world it would be Andrew Flintoff.

But through it all he did it with his molars over his tongue and only when asked about Simon Jones did they threaten to break skin. "Look, he's only important to England if he bowls like he did last summer," said Warne about the seemingly perpetually injured paceman. "Seeing some of his other series - well, he hasn't gone very well at all. So can he ever regain that form, that he's only produced for one series in his career so far?"

The inference was clear. Warne, and by extension Australia, suspects he might have already witnessed Jones's one-off best and his acquaintances confirm that there are one or two other England regulars he sees glaring weaknesses in. But those revelations are for another day as yesterday he was determined to do what he had been paid for: spread his spinning gospel to the children of the East End.

It was a worthy place to start the hunt for the quality leggy he unashamedly believes England has needed for so long. Because Bethnal Green is not a traditional place to discover budding cricketers. In fact, local folklore has it they always preferred baseball bats round there.

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