Australia v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Sydney, 4th day January 5, 2005

Living in harmony

MacGill's successful return to the side brought back cobweb-covered memories © Getty Images

Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill gave the final day of the series a misty-eyed feel. Two legspinners snapping their wrists and biting into the wicket was a glorious sight for purists and learning newbies. But there was more to their bowling than aesthetics as they slowly dismantled Pakistan's firmer resistance.

Every couple of overs a wanderer would wonder about the partnership of Bill O'Reilly and Clarrie Grimmett and the era 70 years earlier when the concept of two tweakers was a snug fit. The 1930s combination lasted four years; the modern incarnation has combined for only nine Tests and there is a sense of injustice similar to Grimmett's omission from the 1938 Ashes Tour.

Both sides have used attacks of dual leggies in this match and Australia opened with their two controversial figures, both showmen employing two slips on a coarse sandpaper surface. While O'Reilly and Grimmett were great friends, Warne and MacGill have been built into uncomfortable rivals as they fight for matches, wickets and attention.

Competition for prizes is intense and some discomfort from Warne whenever MacGill marks his seven-step run is understandable. Understudies aren't supposed to be so capable of upstaging the Prima Donna, as MacGill did in the first innings with 5 for 87. Like current partners and ex-girlfriends, the selectors feel it's best to keep them apart.

When they meet they are inevitably matched for comparison. Their styles are as different as their career paths. Rather than expanding his fearsome strike-bowler reputation, Warne, the world record-holder, has become a clever pressure builder as he ties up an end and waits for bites. MacGill casts for wickets every ball, whether hunting in the Pura Cup or bouncing into a Test call-up on his home ground, and worries more about corked wine than boundaries.

The duet turned and shouted together for the first 59 minutes as the ball turned heavily and Ricky Ponting set aggressive fields. While the danger was immense, Pakistan's first five batsmen survived the early raids today as each bowler tried to urge mishaps. Yasir Hameed became the first to slip when Warne trapped him lbw with the help of David Shepherd's decision. MacGill bowled Yousuf Youhana behind his legs while Warne was resting, but when they were reunited after lunch the collapse arrived swiftly and Pakistan lost 5 for 32.

Asim Kamal's spray of late and bright boundaries delayed the end and Warne's plan to match MacGill's five-wicket haul. But as Australia sealed a series clean sweep and their fifth Test of the summer the legspinners, who collected a combined 13 wickets, showed it was again possible to co-exist.

Peter English is Australasian editor of Cricinfo