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Australia v West Indies, 3rd Test, Adelaide, 4th day

Warne at his magical best

Peter English

November 28, 2005

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Shane Warne was at his mesmerising best in the morning session © Getty Images
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Shane Warne ended his bowling participation in this series the way he started it. Showing his full range of deliveries, Warne bamboozled West Indies to better his Brisbane five-wicket haul with a brilliant 6 for 80, working unchanged throughout the day and handing his side a comfortable assignment to cleansweep the series.

Endurance has been a feature of Warne's spells and his career, and he probed through 29 overs today, spinning the ball as wickedly as in his prime, with a back aching so badly before the past two Tests that he did not confirm his fitness until the opening morning. The fast men are praised for their courage to bowl through injuries but until now Warne has usually been complimented only for his ability to recover from them.

As Warne left the field he admitted his back was "a bit stiff" and it was perhaps the threat of it worsening if he cooled down that meant he was not rested during the first two sessions. The main argument for his unbroken spell was he was performing sensationally; Ian Healy, his former wicketkeeper, believed it was the best he had bowled.

The way Warne keeps lifting himself is incredible and he has earned his two weeks' break while the one-day squad flies to New Zealand for the Chappell-Hadlee Series. When Warne turns up in Perth for the first Test against South Africa, which starts on December 16, he will be only one victim from equalling Dennis Lillee's 1981 record for wickets in a calendar year.

In a history-making match made famous by Brian Lara's new run-scoring mark, Warne finished with 84 victims in his 13th Test of 2005 and has two more against Graeme Smith's men to improve the etching. Wavell Hinds disappeared late on day three, when Warne was charged with Level 1 dissent in the final over of the day, and Daren Powell, the nightwatchman, followed this morning bowled around his legs.

Warne had 5 for 43 from 17 overs at lunch and West Indies were in danger of losing in four days on a heavily spinning pitch that was still comfortable for batting. Only Dwayne Bravo's half-century pushed the Test into a fifth day, and he escaped Warne's punishment through a mixture of composure, risky skill and luck. His team-mates, particularly Dwayne Smith who copped a poor lbw decision, were not as fortunate.

Brian Lara almost certainly waved goodbye to Australia as the victim of a spectacular reflex take at first slip by Matthew Hayden. Aiming a square drive off Warne, Lara's edge seemed to whip past Hayden, who held his position and thrust out his left hand to pouch a crucial catch. The dismissal of Shivnarine Chanderpaul relied on heavy top and legspin, the batsman edging to Brad Hodge at short leg via his thigh, and Warne's sixth victim fell to the sort of luck that depends on the side you follow. Denesh Ramdin attempted a legside sweep, appeared to miss the ball and then felt it brush his glove after bouncing off the pitch and it popped to Adam Gilchrist.

Warne is still discovering ways to capture batsmen and in raising the ball for his 34th five-wicket haul, he picked up only his second on Adelaide Oval. West Indies have found no successful way to repel Warne during the series despite his back injury. They shouldn't worry too much. It's something the rest of the world has also struggled with this year.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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