When Warnie met Nemesis
A few days ago, Shane Warne was dismissing England’s batting – in the middle at the Gabba, and in the papers afterwards. England still can’t play me, he said. Only Pietersen played me well, Collingwood was lucky, I’m all over Bell. Warne is usually a better read than most players because he isn’t bland, but this was cheap stuff. It was what the players call mind games. And what the ancient Greeks called Hubris.
Hubris, in tragedy, is followed inexorably by Nemesis – the goddess of retribution, whose job it is to take mortals down a peg. In Adelaide, she paid Warne a visit. First she rendered him wicketless on a dry, turning pitch. Then she put an idea into his head: if he couldn’t get wickets by attacking, he could go right on the defensive and bore Kevin Pietersen out.
This was an eventuality more shaming than any bowling figures. Australia had to break that partnership, and all the biggest wicket-taker in history had to offer was leg-side filth. Warne was not himself: he was reduced to Ashley Giles – another man he had been disparaging a few days ago.
Warne has often made a fool of himself off the field. Here, for the first time in Ashes cricket, he was humiliated on it.
Pietersen’s patience was formidable, a bonus to add to his exceptional talent. And Paul Collingwood played a monumental innings for someone who was heading for the 12th-man slot a month ago. When Collingwood started his international career with a few unsuccessful one-dayers in 2001, Steve Waugh said he saw something in him. Maybe what he saw was something of himself: the ability to know your game, stick to your strengths, survive on a bad day and and cash in on a good one.
Yesterday I wondered if England had built enough of a platform. O me of little faith. Today they were superb. Flintoff, who could well have flopped after an interminable wait, eased back into the runs, and then wisely yielded to the chorus calling for him to take the new ball himself. They may not win the match, but they have made a powerful point.