Warne looks for extra turn
On Tuesday, England's most valuable bowler underwent an emergency tutorial behind closed doors at the Adelaide Oval, in a desperate bid to rectify his wonky action. Two days later, Australia's main man did exactly the same, with one subtle difference. Far from shielding his flaws from public consumption, Shane Warne's back-to-basics bowling stint took place in the full gaze of several TV crews, eavesdropping reporters and gobsmacked fans.
It was typical Warne. No sooner had Duncan Fletcher gone on record to congratulate his batsmen for the positive manner in which they played him at Brisbane, he was back in the nets, working with his personal spin doctor, Terry Jenner, to add some extra bite to his bowling. As a rule, Warne has little time for coaches. He has been famously scathing of Australia's out-of-the-box thinker, John Buchanan, almost from the moment he took office in 1999. But as with all rules there are exceptions and in Jenner, Warne has a guru he trusts with his livelihood.
Warne describes his regular sessions with Jenner as a "grease and an oil change", but his contemplative demeanour as he listened to the advice and acted accordingly, was proof that, even at the age of 37 and with 689 Test wickets under his belt, he's never too old to learn new tricks.
Today's lesson was designed to impart an extra rip on the ball, something that - with the exception of one big-turning delivery to Alastair Cook in the second innings - was noticeably lacking in Warne's Brisbane performance. Jenner had him following through between two white bowling markers, an exercise designed to twist his body into such a position that his arm couldn't help but impart that extra side spin. To judge by the number of times the off stump was pegged back in the brief session, something was going right.
Warne and Jenner's partnership dates back to 1990, when Shane was a tubby but talented surf-bum and Terry was rebuilding his life after a two-year jail term for embezzlement. He was invited to assess the intake at the newly established Australian Cricket Academy, having been described by Ian Chappell as the best thinking legspinner in the country, and immediately found himself bewitched by the talent he saw before him. "I know his action better than he does," Jenner told The Daily Telegraph, "and sometimes having watched him on telly I'll just ring and leave a message like 'TJ here. Front leg. Bye.'"
The fine-tuning has come at an opportune moment for Australia, especially given the doubts surrounding Glenn McGrath's fitness, but Ricky Ponting scoffed at Fletcher's claims that England had got the better of Warne in the first Test. "A couple of their guys played Shane okay, but I'm not sure they played him well," he said, recalling in particular the over-spinning tempter that had Paul Collingwood stumped for 96. "That's how Warney reads batsmen. That wasn't an accident, that was classy bowling."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo