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Bowling, Shane…

by Wisden Staff 15 minute read

For English Ashes watchers of a certain age – okay, pretty much any age – these were the two most terrifying words from that era when The Blond reigned supreme. Shane Warne took 195 Ashes wickets – more than any other man – while featuring in seven series wins from 1993 to 2007. “My record stands up better than anyone’s,” he tells Phil Walker. You don’t say, Shane, you don’t say…

Tell us what the Ashes means to you…

Oh, jeez! Yeah, well I’ve been very lucky to have played in so many wonderful series, you know? I only lost the one series, in 2005 when England were fantastic and deserved to win. That was an unbelievable series for so many reasons but what stands out even now was the spirit of cricket, and the camaraderie – I think that’s why it really captured the public’s imagination, because of the camaraderie, and the sportsmanship and skill that was on display. So yeah, that one was a great series to be involved in.

It’s funny that you think of that series first, despite it being the only one you were on the wrong end of! It could even be considered your defining series – 40 wickets and all that – although it was the one you lost.

Yeah, but I don’t often think of it like that, I prefer to think back through every Ashes series as special in its own way. That ’93 series, my first one, that was special, but not especially from an individual point of view. I think of it more from the point of view of what we achieved as a team. That ’93 tour and the ’94 tour to South Africa were the two best tours I ever went on.

What else jumps out?

I also look back on the 2006/07 series and that Adelaide Test match when over 1,000 runs were scored over the first three days and after four days you didn’t think there was going to be a result, and suddenly – bang! We win from nowhere! That was an amazing Test match, definitely one of the greatest Ashes Tests that I ever played in.

But we don’t like to talk about that…

Oh yeah, of course, the Forgotten Ashes Series when we won 5-0! Yeah, no one talks about it…

You say that no one thought there would be a result at Adelaide but the story goes that if anybody did, it was you yourself. Did you truly believe you could pull it off?

Warnie after the dream/nightmare that was Adelaide

Warnie after the dream/nightmare that was Adelaide

On the fourth evening I had a pizza in my room with Michael Clarke and we were watching American Pie, and that’s how we came up with ‘The Sherminator’ for Ian Bell, because Pup said to me, ‘Christ, he looks like Ian Bell!’ And I thought, he does! So the next morning Bell was batting and he was standing at the non-striker’s end and I just started giggling. He looked at me and I just said, ‘G’day Sherminator…’ I think he said that he’d been called worse. I just said, ‘You haven’t, mate.’ But yeah, that night Pup had asked me how I thought the game would go and I said I thought we’d win. I said, look, they’re only 50 ahead, and England’s attitude won’t be to try and win the game – they could come out and whack 130 in a session and have two sessions to try and win the game, but they won’t do that. They’re 1-0 down, they’re just playing for a draw. But the pitch was taking spin and a bit of reverse swing, and I said that if we get a couple of early wickets, or worst case, they don’t score any runs, if we can get a roll on and then we get KP early, then we’ll win the game. And Clarkey said, ‘Christ! I hope we do, it’ll be a bloody hell of a Test match…’

This is painful…

So we’re in the dressing room the next morning talking about what we were gonna do and I said, ‘We’ll win!’ And I’m not trying to pump my own tyres up, but a lot of people who were in the dressing room said that I’d said it in their books. So as it turned out they didn’t score any runs. I got Andrew Strauss out bat-pad, even though he hadn’t hit it, so we had that one that went our way, then we ran the Sherminator out, and then I got KP quickly, all within about half an hour, and suddenly everyone else started to believe. And then the batters went out and chased down 160-odd. What a Test match.

Okay, we’ve spoken far too long about this already.

We can keep going if you want…

Reckon that’ll do for now. Let’s move it on a couple of weeks, to the fourth Test at Melbourne, your home crowd, and your 700th Test wicket in front of a Boxing Day full house. One of those ‘who writes your scripts’ moments?

Yeah, I remember it was quite a chilly day or Boxing Day – the next four days was 35 degrees but on Boxing Day morning it was actually misty. It was just a weird morning. I’d gotten up at 5:30am for the Shane Warne Foundation Boxing Day Breakfast with 1,000 people, it was my last ever game at the MCG in front of 90,000 and I was on 699 Test wickets, so it was quite an emotional day for me, but to wake up to all that mist just added to the weirdness of it all. Then England got off to a flyer, they were 1-80 or something, and then I got Strauss for the 700th and after that it was one of those days. I got 5-30 and we wrapped it up soon after that. To get those wickets on a fairly unresponsive day one pitch – I was pretty happy with the way I was bowling, and to turn the match back to us in front of my home crowd in my last game there – yeah, that was pretty nice.

What about other standout Ashes moments?

I guess the ‘94/95 series sticks out. That first Test at Brisbane. We didn’t enforce the follow on, which was quite a big decision 20-odd years ago, and there was quite a bit of pressure on us as a team, with  and Hick going pretty well in their second innings. So to come out and get the job done with my best spell of eight-fer felt pretty good; I should have got a hat-trick there – I bowled a wrong ‘un to Phil Tufnell that bounced over middle stump, which was disappointing! And that was the game when I set Alec Stewart up with a flipper for one of my favourite dismissals.

Getting Stewie with the flipper

Getting Stewie with the flipper

Why was that one so special?

The way Stewie used to bat, he always used to put his back foot across, so I was trying to push him back and across all the time and bowl a few faster ones wide of off stump to set him up and get him into that position. I didn’t want him to cut me for four but that was the risk I was prepared to take if I didn’t get it right, and then once I’d got him into that position and he’d cut me a couple of times, I thought that now was the time to land a good flipper; landed a good one, and knocked him over, bowled, as he went to cut. That was one of the times when a plan worked; there were plenty of times when they didn’t…

And the 1997 series, when England went 1-0 up at Edgbaston after Nasser Hussain made a double hundred, and you lot came back to take the series with three wins on the bounce?

The 3-1 series? No, hold on! We’d won the series and then we lost at The Oval again! Yeah, that’s right, 3-2. We never could win that last game – we went through about five series when we never could win that last bloody Test match, which was annoying…

So that series doesn’t particularly stick out? Steve Waugh’s two hundreds at Old Trafford, you took nine wickets there to clinch it and then did that dance with the stump on the balcony?

Warnie doing his thing on the balcony

Warnie doing his thing on the balcony

Yeah right, the dance… For me, all the Ashes series contain special moments. I’m pretty happy with my Ashes record with the bat, the ball, the catches and all the rest of it, because it always brought out the best in me. Sure, I got a few noughts and dropped the odd catch – even the odd costly one, like with KP at The Oval, even though Gilly dropped him on nought off my bowling first, but no one likes to talk about that! But I’d like to think my record stands up better than anyone who’s played in Ashes cricket, because it just brought out the best in me. Every single series has got something special in there for me, and I was so lucky to have played in those great teams and watched so many players do such great things.

Give us some of your favourites…

Merv Hughes in ’93, hobbling off to fine leg with his bone on his knee and still charging in; Merv knocking over Mike Gatting to the last ball of the day at Lord’s; Goochie batting so well in ’94/95 in Australian conditions; Thorpey playing well at Perth in that series; Dean Headley coming in at Melbourne and blowing us away… [Pause] Some of Ian Healy’s stumpings! I bowled a wrong ‘un to Thorpe who was on a hundred at Perth and Heals took an unbelievable stumping there; I also remember Heals in the ’97 series taking a stumping off Michael Bevan against Mark Butcher down the leg side, that was one hell of a stumping; Mark Waugh’s catch at Leeds off Alec Stewart, the one-hander at slip; Michael Vaughan in 2005 making 170 and hitting a Simon Katich full toss to long on! There are millions of moments that make it so special. I still love watching Ashes cricket as much as ever, and I think this series is gonna be really close, and Australia are going to win.

Have Your Say

Comment (1)

  1. <a href='http://vidfoz.com/2017/02/04/cricket-word-cup-heros/' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>cricket worLd cup Heroes &#8211; Vidfoz</a> 1 year ago (Edit)

    […] to play the most important innings in Sri Lankan cricket’s history. Cutting, hooking, deflecting Warne (0-58) and driving those wrists through anything over-pitched, Aravinda was still there at the end, […]

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