Shane Warne is disappointed
© Getty Images
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Favourite Moments

Shane from the dead

The first of ten favourite moments in cricket: Adelaide 2006, a match that turned from dull to dazzling in an instant

Simon Barnes

It was an awful moment. Perhaps - at least in terms of pure sport - it was the most awful moment I've experienced watching cricket. That's why I've chosen it to kick off this collection of my ten favourite moments in cricket. It isn't on the list because it was jolly and joyful. It's there because it got to me really rather deeply. It was incomparably vivid, telling me all sorts of truths - some of them unwelcome - about cricket, sport, humankind and myself.

It happened in Adelaide in 2006 during the second Test match between Australia and England. A year earlier England had beaten Australia and won an Ashes series for the first time in 18 years, so the return series was always going to be pretty intense. The hero of 2005, Andrew Flintoff, was now England captain. And if England had been hammered by 277 runs in the first Test, in Brisbane, they were going great guns in the second.

Suddenly I felt sick. It can't really go wrong from here, can it? Not after England had declared on 551 for 6

Flintoff declared with England 551 for 6. Paul Collingwood made a double-century and Kevin Pietersen was unstoppable. Even Shane Warne was helpless against him, running up the white flag and bowling wide outside the leg stump. He finished on 167 for 1. It was going to be all right.

Australia's first innings had a dodgy start but they got back into it, which was a disappointment, but hey, the point had been made, the match was going to be a draw, and England would go into the third Test remade, restored and ready to battle back.

Then Warne took over.

It was an extraordinary demonstration of the way one man can, by an immense detonation of the will, change the course of events. England should have drawn this match, but Warne decided otherwise. The powerful overflow of his will affected everyone around him: team-mates, opposition, umpires, and all of us who were at the ground.

See you later,

See you later, "Shermanator": Ian Bell, having already endured a famous Ashes sledge, is run out by the man who coined the name © Getty Images

The match was going nowhere. The last day began with England 59 for 1, batting comfortably but without much purpose. Australia were bowling in much the same manner. The match, like the pitch, was flat: 1123 runs for 17 wickets. It was a situation that infuriated Warne. So he changed it. And won the match. In one single moment.

Mike Hussey held a looping catch off Andrew Strauss, and Warne, the one truly intense person on the pitch, appealed as if the future of the planet depended on the outcome. Strauss had missed it by a mile, all pad, no bat, but Steve Bucknor unfathomably and uncharacteristically raised his finger in that apologetic way of his. Warne had made him a co-conspirator.

The match, like the pitch, was flat: 1123 runs for 17 wickets. It was a situation that infuriated Warne. So he changed it

Suddenly I felt sick. As if the pilot had just announced: "There is absolutely no cause for alarm." It can't really go wrong from here, can it? Not after England had declared on 551 for 6. That first shiver of fear in my mind was an extension of what was happening in the hearts and minds of the England players.

So then a dozy run-out. Another wicket induced by Warne's intensity, aided by the sudden doubt that he had created in English minds. The ball went to Michael Clarke's left. Had they forgotten that this was his throwing arm? Not that it was a great throw, but Warne was somehow right behind it to relay the ball onto the stumps with a deadly underarm chuck.

Never mind. Here was Pietersen. Pietersen who had mastered Warne in the first innings. He'd put everything right, wouldn't he? He played a lavish sweep at Warne. Warne his dupe, Warne his fall guy, Warne the man he had mastered. It was the definitive confrontation in their long history as opponents.

Round two: Warne gets even with KP

Round two: Warne gets even with KP © Getty Images

The ball pitched outside leg stump, hit the footmarks, dived back in and clipped off stump. Just. Bowled behind his back. Humiliated. In this desperate passage of play England lost three wickets for four runs in three overs. And the match. And the series. Five-nil, as it happened.

England were bowled out for 129. Warne's figures of 4 for 49 look almost modest, so they gave the Man-of-the-Match award to Ricky Ponting. Why do the people who give out these awards lack all imagination?

A match that should have been drawn was won by Warne's overwhelming nature; by the powerful outpouring of his chi or life force. It was deeply distressing to me on the level of partisanship, but partisanship is only one way of understanding sport, and the coarsest of the lot. It was time to move beyond it and admire.

One man's sporting fantasy had been turned into reality by all those around him, almost as if they were humouring him. Warne had all the skills, but skills are never quite enough on their own. They need a certain force behind them. One dodgy decision, one mad run-out, one moment of hubris - all induced by Warne. All a tribute to the force that lay behind his excellence, that underpinned it, that made him one of the greatest cricketers of them all.

Simon Barnes is a former chief sportswriter of the Times and the author of more than 20 books

 

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  • POSTED BY dunger.bob on | October 12, 2015, 22:58 GMT

    As far as I'm concerned Warne is second only to Bradman as our greatest ever player. When you google up the phrase 'The X Factor' it should take you directly to a photo of Warne at the top of his bowling crease. I can see him there absent mindedly tossing the ball to himself with his face set in a study of spaced out concentration, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth slightly and a big red stain down the front of his whites. Warne didn't fidget much. He was generally still as a tree apart from the incessant ball tossing. Just before he started his amble in he was quiet. Too quiet. Scary for the batsman and thrilling for the fans. .. I'm just happy I got to watch his entire career. I didn't see Bradman but I did see the next best thing. Cheers.

  • POSTED BY sidban4 on | October 12, 2015, 20:37 GMT

    Two instances in the match stand out for me - the first I remember was a Michael Clarke interview at the end of day 4 wherein he said that he felt that the Aussies could still win the match, and I recollect a lot of experts having a giggle at the very thought (Eng being 59/1 at the end of the day and no other result other than a draw being in sight for most) - just shows how champions think and the fact that you need some arrogance to be that good. The other one was when a batsman, probably Bell in the 2nd innings, pushed a drive through the vacant cover region for a 4 and Ponting wanted the gap covered. Warne literally chided him there and then, and got his way to keep the gap open because he wanted Bell to attempt that very shot and possibly nick to the slips. Just encapsulated the fact that Ponting was always a tactically defensive captain in charge of a great team, and also why Clarke turned out to be a fine captain because he felt that the team could win from almost any situation.

  • POSTED BY TheDoctor394 on | October 12, 2015, 4:28 GMT

    Warne certainly did his part here, but so did England with their dreadfully negative attitude on that last day. I hadn't even bothered watching it at first, before I checked soon after the start of play and was amazed that they'd hardly managed a run yet. They were just plodding along, as if asking a bowler to take it to them. And Warne obliged.

  • POSTED BY Mervo on | October 12, 2015, 0:00 GMT

    "Genius" is an overused word. In Warne's case it is not. He was an amazing cricketer who understood the psychological aspects of the game better than any player I can recall. he backed up that understanding with the ability to spin the ball on any surface and bowl so accurately. True genius, compared to the many trundlers posing as (legal) spinners these days.

  • POSTED BY EdwinD on | October 11, 2015, 14:35 GMT

    I still recall this match.....as the wickets were tumbling I was trying to work out how many Australia needed in x overs...and was thinking that if only England could get the rate to 8 an over e.g. Australia needing 200 off 25 they should be ok. They blocked and blocked and in the end it was a straightforward 4,67 (168 off 36)...

  • POSTED BY njr1330 on | October 11, 2015, 14:10 GMT

    I remember this match clearly; and I remember feeling angry and deflated when Flintoff declared. I was shouting at the TV screen 'No,No,No ...!' When you're batting like that, you have to grind them into the dust. Another 20 minutes would have put the game psychologically out of reach for the Aussies. I'm afraid, this was the defining [and dreadful] moment of Freddie's career; and I say that as a Lancastrian who [otherwise] adores Flintoff!!

  • POSTED BY muzika_tchaikovskogo on | October 11, 2015, 8:50 GMT

    Spot on. It was the sheer genius of Warne that caused the collapse. Two spells sealed that series for Australia: Warne's magic one at Adelaide and McGrath's sudden two wicket burst at the fag end of day 4 at Perth. But for those two spells, the 2006-07 ashes might have turned out differently- which just goes to show why Warne and McGrath were such champion bowlers, even at that stage of their respective careers.