OLIVER HOLT: Watching Shane Warne live, you were in the presence of greatness


OLIVER HOLT: Watching Shane Warne live, you were in the presence of GREATNESS… his genius was making opponents shrink before him, and it made him one of the greatest cricketers who ever lived

  • Watching Shane Warne in the Ashes in 2006 is a memory I will always cherish
  • Watching him live, you instinctively knew you were in the presence of greatness
  • Warne’s genius came in his ability to make his opponents shrink before him 
  • England were in control, and then Warne came alive to take control of Tests 
  • Warne could still seize control of the game, even when he was well past his peak
  • It is one of the traits that made him one of the greatest cricketers who ever lived











I watched the Ball of the Century on television, open-mouthed in wonder like most who saw it as it dipped and swerved and veered in the air, and then spun viciously away from Mike Gatting on the way towards his off stump. 

But memories of greatness in sport are sweeter when you are there to see them live and the memory I will always cherish of Shane Warne was from the second Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval in December 2006. 

There were other memories. I was in the media lunch room at Edgbaston a few years ago, talking to Michael Vaughan and Charles Sale, a popular Daily Mail columnist who had a talent for rubbing players up the wrong way. 

When watching Shane Warne live, you knew you were in the presence of cricket greatness

Warne bounded over and berated Charlie for several moments, teaching me a few swear words I didn’t know. 

There may have been plenty of artifice about his bowling, but there was no artifice about him. 

Those five days in Adelaide were the best, though. His friend Michael Atherton recalled in a beautiful tribute to Warne on Saturday that Kevin Pietersen attacked Warne in England’s first innings and, for the first time Atherton could remember, forced Warne to accept a kind of defeat. 

KP scored 158 in that innings. Warne returned figures of 1-167. England declared on 551-6 and looked set for victory. 

Kevin Pietersen's (left) 158 in Adelaide in 2006 forced Warne (right) to accept a kind of defeat

Kevin Pietersen’s (left) 158 in Adelaide in 2006 forced Warne (right) to accept a kind of defeat

What had stuck in my mind was England’s second innings, and the way Warne seized control of the game. 

He could do that. Even when he was past the peak of his career. That was part of what made him one of the greatest cricketers who ever lived. 

I could not appreciate all the secrets of Warne’s genius but I knew instinctively when I was watching him live that I was in the presence of greatness. I could tell by the way his opponents shrunk before him. 

There was a reason there was always a hum of expectation around a ground when Warne held the ball in his hand. 

When the final day of that Adelaide Test dawned, England were becalmed on 69-1 in their second innings and the match seemed to be meandering towards a draw. But then Warne came alive. 

Warne came alive, taking 4-49 in the second innings to claim an unlikely Australia victory

Warne came alive, taking 4-49 in the second innings to claim an unlikely Australia victory

His intensity won a dubious decision to dismiss Andrew Strauss, and then he ran out Ian Bell. Soon after Pietersen came to the wicket, Warne bowled him behind his legs. 

You could feel the panic spreading in England. Warne’s self-belief was destroying them. 

He got Ashley Giles for a duck and Matthew Hoggard for four. England were all out for 129, Warne had figures of 4-49 and Australia conjured an improbable six-wicket victory. 

Days like that are priceless in sport. They give you a rare glimpse of genius at work. 

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