The plain fact is that Shane Warne has once again risen as a spectre scarcely less alarming than he was in 1993. At Edgbaston he had looked a pale shadow of the bowler we knew but since then there have been clear signs that his form was returning.
He bowled a good spell right at the end of the Lord's Test and he followed this with some excellent bowling against Hampshire. As far as England were concerned the signs were ominous and it should have been essential for the batsmen to have come to Old Trafford as well versed as they could be in the art of understanding his wiles.
Preparation these days involves looking at endless videos of the opposition as well as listening to patriotic music in the dressing-room. Surely videos of Warne from every angle should have been compulsory viewing for all the batsmen in the days before this last match.
As it was, it appeared as if they had come into it as under-prepared as the pitch. Alec Stewart succumbed to Warne twice, admittedly to a pretty good one in the first innings, which spun sharply across him out of the rough. In the second, he left an enormous "gate" and was bowled.
Graham Thorpe was also out to Warne in both innings. In the first he played a wild sweep, in the second a fierce cut at a ball he could barely reach. It was interesting that in his two superb hundreds, Steve Waugh never once swept or hooked. On that Old Trafford pitch, with its uneven bounce, they were not safe strokes. Waugh understood; England did not.
Two other victims in Warne's spell of 5 for 19 in 70 minutes, which effectively won the match for Australia, were Nasser Hussain and John Crawley, who both played dreadful strokes. They received sharp leg-breaks which would have turned almost a foot past the off stump, but as the ball spun away both instinctively dabbed at it and were caught behind.
When England next face Warne it will be with a sizeable inferiority complex, but they should at least come prepared. A lot of thought and hard work must go into their preparation for they must not again look so dreadfully innocent against him. Even if they cannot read him they must work out a more satisfactory way of playing him than they managed at Old Trafford.Reuse content