Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day December 17, 2006

Warne burnout a real threat

"The pleading and appealing grew louder the longer he operated" © Getty Images

Terry Jenner fears the over-bowling of Shane Warne could cut short his career and as Australia's drive for the Ashes was interrupted it was easy to see why. Warne bowled unchanged for 24 overs from the first session until tea and despite high-quality output he was unable to find the trance to tame England.

The pleading and appealing grew louder the longer he operated and his methods became familiar to the batsman. Ricky Ponting didn't recognise the need for change until the end of the second session when a re-working of tactics was devised during the break. Warne got a short rest and came back for two smaller spells.

In Adelaide Warne delivered 85 overs for the game, driving Australia to a 2-0 victory with his second-innings revival, and Jenner, the bowler's long-term consultant, was concerned with the load and requested shorter spells. Ponting has not listened to Jenner's advice, which is the captain's right, but he seems unsure how to rotate his leading bowler. Once Warne's string is pulled Ponting is happy to let him go until his energy stocks are critical.

Winning the ball out of Warne's hands is notoriously difficult, especially when he is closing on 700 wickets, but a strong leader has to direct his underlings for the benefit of his outfit. During Warne's marathon stint his shock value was lost even though his threat remained. There was no switch of ends and no extended breather at slip on another baking day.

At the other end Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee were worked around Stuart Clark while Andrew Symonds waited until four minutes before tea for his opportunity. Symonds had earned 2 for 8 in the first innings and neither his medium pace or offspin was called to assist Warne or add variety in almost four hours. When he was employed his slow offerings were dangerous and he was unlucky not to pick up another victim.

Warne finished with 1 for 100 off 31 overs and faces more toil as the match heads to its conclusion. He knows what it is like to operate tired, with aching shoulder, fingers, back and legs, and it is not an impediment to success. However, managing Warne, 37, has become more important as he has grown older.

During the series he has dropped slightly shorter and, understandably, it has become a more regular tendency when he is weary. Control was not a major concern today - he forced numerous plays, misses and appeals - but he wasn't able to contain totally when Ian Bell and Alastair Cook were concentrating on their 170-run stand.

Only two maidens were delivered by Warne in his long spell and it was a sign of his levels of control. Heavily attacking fields were applied, but even he finds it difficult to increase the demands on the batsmen when they are swapping ends. The turn was significant but not severe and they were able to avoid the extreme discomfort of previous meetings.

"It was a lot of work for one wicket" © Getty Images

Bell began strongly and was using his feet to Warne, which allowed him to collect mid-on boundaries to full tosses. It is unusual for Warne to be lofted down the ground but Bell managed it enough times for it to be disregarded as fluke. On one occasion the batsman misjudged Warne's width and was able to change his shot. The aggressive swing achieved a cover-driven boundary and showed his courageous intent.

Warne kept going and was encouraged by the number of close calls from both batsmen. He cried "catch it" a lot and orchestrated elongated appeals. When Cook offered no shot at 72 and was struck on the thigh Warne wrapped his hands behind the back of his head and crouched forward in disbelief at the refusal. Rudi Koertzen was not being swayed today.

On 87 Warne gained his only reward when Bell opened up and found Justin Langer at short cover. Warne roared and the Australians converged in the belief it was the first stage of the collapse. It was supposed to be the day they regained the Ashes, but Warne was unable to fulfil Ponting's wicket-taking faith. Australia entered the game with five bowling options for a situation like this and Warne remained over-burdened. It was a lot of work for one wicket.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo