Third Test, Perth December 18, 2006

Breathtaking Warne-O-Scope

I so enjoy watching Warne bowl that it’s almost a shame to spoil it by writing: it’s like explaining a magic trick.

When you’ve as many Test wickets as Shane Warne, I suppose you can afford to be philosophical. But if ever a bowler deserved more for his dedication, it was Warne yesterday, who ended the day with 1 for 100 for 31 fierce, feisty and fun overs.

Great as he is on days like the last at Adelaide, where his self-belief fuels an entire XI, I somehow relish him more in situations like this, where he shows the depth of his character, competitiveness, obstinacy and optimism. I’ve tried to convey some of those depths in a couple of pieces for the Guardian today, although I so enjoy watching Warne bowl that it’s almost a shame to spoil it by writing: it’s like explaining a magic trick.

Warne simply never lets a ball go without expecting a wicket. When some do not, he is obstupefied. He reminds me of a story that John Rutherford told me about that ornery all-rounder Cec Pepper, who some will know as a pioneer of the flipper.

Pepper was bowling one day to Frank Worrell, and released a delivery with a cry of: ‘That’s it!’ It was: Worrell was bowled. When team-mates gathered excitedly round Pepper and asked about the ejaculation, he explained simply: ‘As soon as I let it go, I knew there wasn’t a man alive who could play that ball.’

At the press conference after yesterday’s plan, Glenn McGrath paid Warne pointed treatment: his late wickets were Warne's as much as his own. Standing at the back of the presser as I usually do, I also saw a nice moment as Cook left, McGrath entered and most of the crowd were fussing over their tape recorders. As they passed, McGrath shook Cook’s hand warmly: ‘Well batted. Great effort.’ It could have been two blokes from rival clubs after a Saturday game; the Australians' magnanimity where opponents are concerned is one of their most endearing qualities.

Maybe I should have asked McGrath what he thinks of Rudi Koertzen, seeing he was another batsman who received a distinctly speculative decision from him on the first day. Or Michael Clarke whom he fired at Lord’s, and at Sydney during the Super Test. Or...well, I could go on. Just so we’re clear: there’s nothing partisan in my low opinion of Koertzen’s umpiring. Nor am I rushing to judgement. Yes, umpires do make mistakes: replays showed that Steve Bucknor sawed Strauss off in Adelaide, but Bucknor's umpiring this summer has otherwise been excellent so criticism would be unwarranted. Umpires, though, are also open to criticism. The whole idea of the ICC Elite Panel is that some umpires are better than others. How else are we to know this than by critical evaluation of their performances? For the record, I think the best umpires in the world at the moment are Mark Benson and Simon Taufel. What a shame neither will umpire an Ashes Test.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on December 23, 2006, 13:48 GMT

    Raj - WOW - Loved the response - full of passion!! Dude - let me clear one thing up - firstly -this is not a pro Aussie post - I hope that I'm not one of those who beat ones own drum - far from it. In fact - due to the failures the Aussie Cricket Team continually went through in the 1980's - I hope I am not one to gloat. I am merely emphasising a point - one that neutral umpires have alleviated - 'the home officiating bias'. It is a known FACT that Javed Miandad was NEVER given out for a LBW decision in Pakistan - this is not Sub continental bashing dude - his name was used to emphasise the point - that neutral umpires are more likely to have less 'bias' propoganda placed on them. In restrospect, I believe that there is as much 'home ground advantage' for home based teams in regards to umpiring due to range of reasons 1. local teams usually play their own conditions better - and this could cause umpires to be more influenced 2. Home crowd advantage - through crowd pressure - along with pressure on the field can influence an umpires decision 3. Others Im sure could be included - just cant think of some right now!! Cricket is a great game and some of the levellers of the games makes it soo interesting. Hey - Im even one to cringe at some of the decisions made - some of the worst being to a Sub-Continental player - Sachin Tendulkar - every time he bats in Oz. But you know that is the game - and I would say that in the long run- man - if you have the better players - your team will win more games than lose! Cheers P.S Have a great Christmas

  • testli5504537 on December 21, 2006, 12:05 GMT

    It is a pity that such a fine writer like Gideon Haigh has jumped on the bandwagon of jingoism that has been prevailing in Australian cricket for some time and reached its peak with the shameful defense of Daryl Hair in the ball tampering affair during the English summer.

    Haigh, instead of criticising the deplorable appealing of Warne on the fourth day of the Perth test, finds fault with Rudi Koertzen and the umpiring in general during the series so far. He then seems to think that the remedy is to allow Benson and Taufel to umpire in the current series.

    Koertzen and the other umpires, though not infallible but very human, have done a fine job in the series. Their shortcoming has been to allow Warne to get off with his shocking over appealing. If a visiting bowler appealed half as much as Warne, not to talk of the histrionics that went with it, they would be hung drawn and quartered by the local media. It would be interesting to see how much pressure Benson and Taufel can withstand from Warne.

    As Haigh should know, there in no major international sport that allows neutral umpires. Human nature being what it is, and with umpires having to make a split second decisions, it is only logical to have neutral umpires.

    If Haigh wants a reason for the continuation of neutral umpires then he should think back to the test matches that were umpired by Australian umpires in the late 80’s and for most of the 90’s. Some of the decisions that went against the visiting teams made even a patriotic Bill Lawry cringe with embarrassment. I am sure Haigh has mates in the studios of Channel 9 that would provide him access to some of those tapes.

  • testli5504537 on December 21, 2006, 8:45 GMT

    Ashish - in relation to Murali and your obviously completely tunnel-vision view of the game, yes he is a very effective bowler. But he has only been a bowler for a couple of years. Prior to the changing of the game's laws to accomodate him, he was a chucker. An out and out chucker, javelin thrower, cheat, whatever you want to call it. the law allowed 5 degrees of flex and he measured, repeatedly, upwards of 12 degrees. Lets check his record again, but only include the matches since the game was changed to prevent the embarassment of throwing out a player who had been bowling illegally since his debut, without anybody in Sri Lankan cricket having the intelligence, or perhaps honesty, to do anything about it. Let's face it, he's a match winner and they don't have any others. Of course they'll fight for him.

    And just to add a personal opinion, his action when he bowls the doosra still deteriorates from time to time and the degree of flex appears to increase. If you want to look for it, it seems to happen more often the mroe desperate he and Sri Lanka are for a wicket.

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2006, 17:18 GMT

    scott, yes, minandad will be given out in pakistan. But not Ponting in Australia. GO and count the thousand instances of Ponting benefitting from umpiring decisions in the last few years. You Aussies sure know how to blame others but ignore your own flaws. The way you talk, it is as if all ills are in Sub-continent and you are all descendants of St.Peter. P.S: Sorry St. Peter, please dont get offended. I didnt mean it!

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2006, 13:30 GMT

    Chris, you're kidding - right? "A high proportion of Warne's wickets are tailenders". Gee think? How many spinners do YOU know are given the new ball and bowl at the top order? The less said about Ahmed's rant the better - what a disgrace. What's the matter boys, Warney been texting your girlfriends? It's the only reason I can fathom for such ill-informed garbage.

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2006, 12:30 GMT

    Geez - reckon I could spell his name right - phew!! Pieterson

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2006, 11:55 GMT

    Warne has always been the great entertainer - love him or loathe him - his input in the game can never be measured. I believe that Kevin Peterson will become the next great entertainer of the game - for this man is truely special. Despite the negativity surronding the English team - not enough praise has been lavished on him. He has demonstrated a rare English philosophy - that is to protect his wicket like few around him have. Lets hail the king - but with the king ending his career - Peterson will become the great entertainer. And please - this debate on umpires is ridiculous!! The ICC has - finally- got it right - neutral umpires do form the best type of umpire - even Miandad would be given out in Pakistan today!! The standards are as good today as ever before - it is the scutiny they are under that has changed the way we see the game. Use technology - but the greatest part of our game is the unexpected Enjoy all Scott

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2006, 8:13 GMT

    Doug Point taken. I reckon the initial reaction of nine out of ten cricket watchers was that the lbw was out. (ie without the benefit of tv replays) Perhaps we must rename batsmen such as Strauss to padsmen?

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2006, 7:13 GMT

    Quote from alsch

    My favourite moment this series has been Warne uttering "What happened?" because he missed Jones being run-out due to his immediate excessive appealing!


    Excessive, ay?

    Yes you could look at it that way if you are bloody minded, or one could see it differently (read more intelligently) and realise that so ingrained in Warne's theatrics as he was, Jones was spellbound into forgetting to get behind his crease. Warne 'took' that wicket. That's what sets him apart from the rest. He makes things happen. That World Cup Semi Final against South Africa was the same. Long live the great Shane Warne. May his every day be a Christmas, and every night a New Years Eve.

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2006, 6:54 GMT

    The umpiring decisions even out in the end. Immature people don't understand the significance of that fact. In a word: It doesn't matter.

    Provided of course, there is a continued enforcement of neutral umpires in India and Pakistan. (Case in point: backflip on the Nandralone cheats and Afridi doing the twist on a good length). Great bowlers: Using straight bowling arms as the prerequisite for greatness, the three greatest bowlers of recent times are Warne; DK Lillee & MD Marshall. All things considered.

    One more point - I think the way Australian's score is the philosophy behind their dominance in cricket. Wickets are the key to winning a Test match, therefore they carry a greater importance and should be noted first. Other teams need to learn that. To me this is clearly evident.

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