Big Bash League 2011-12 December 20, 2011

Talk us through it Shane

Alex Malcolm
Shane Warne is back on the cricket field and back demonstrating his mastery

The 29,241 who made the journey to the Gabba to see the 42-year-old Shane Warne in action had an experience they will not soon forget. Much like those who saw Sir Donald Bradman play after the Second World War, it will be something they can tell their grandchildren about.

But for those "less" fortunate, those who had to settle for watching him on television, they were treated to an experience money cannot buy.

Part of Shane Warne's agreement to play for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League was underpinned by a deal with television rights holders Fox Sports. Warne would wear a microphone throughout every match and commentate as he played. It is not a new concept. He has done this before in charity matches and exhibition games, as well as for training master-classes and memorabilia DVD's.

But tonight it was different. This was a competitive match, the most competitive and intense of the Big Bash so far. And what Warne delivered was truly spectacular.

Art lovers have pondered what it would be like to listen to Michelangelo talk as he painted the Sistine Chapel, and what tennis fans would give to have Roger Federer talk them through a service game against Rafael Nadal. Cricket fans got their equivalent tonight as Warne describe how he was going to bowl, and why he was bowling to that plan, before executing it in real time, in a competitive environment.

He had three old mates in his ear throughout. Former teammates Brendan Julian, Allan Border and Andrew Symonds were commentating with him but for the most part they left Warne to do his thing.

Warne's first over was accompanied by self-deprecation, anxiety and then relief that he landed the first delivery where he intended it. He felt his way through it, keen not to make any bold predictions or plans in case the execution was awry. Brisbane batsmen Brendan McCullum and Peter Forrest were kind to him, taking just four off the over, a luxury they could afford at 2 for 70 after eight overs.

Warne's second began with an assertion. "I reckon McCullum might attack me here. This would be the over. He's had a look, now he'll go. I'll toss high and wide first ball." Warne said. Sure enough, on cue, McCullum did exactly as Warne predicted, he charged at the first one. Warne's pre-planned response was executed perfectly. McCullum was beaten in flight, reached out and swiped a lofted drive, it ballooned high, and landed safely between cover and backward point.

The crowd rose as one as it went up. So did the commentators and undoubtedly the viewers at home, only for McCullum's miscue to escape to the waiting hands of a Melbourne Stars fieldsman.

Warne smirked. The commentators were aghast at the fact that the plan nearly worked. The glint in Warne's eye suggested, like a champion chess player, he knew he had McCullum's measure. He was one-step ahead.

A Forrest single brought McCullum back on strike. "Right," Warne said. "I reckon he's trying to go inside out [over cover] but given what just happened he may try to sweep this, so I'll slide this through him a bit quicker."

McCullum shaped to sweep, Warne slipped it through quicker behind his front pad. The ball pitched, turned, and hit middle. McCullum was bowled around his legs. We've seen Warne do it before. It was reminiscent of how he removed Kevin Pietersen in Adelaide on a dramatic last day in 2006. But the magic of this was that Warne predicted it and executed it perfectly.

For anyone who has ever bowled a ball in their life, to watch what Warne did would have left them breathless in amazement.

What followed was a bonus, but it was equally as special. Warne spoke of Dan Christian's preference to hit beyond long on and mid-wicket, so Warne brought both men up, "just to let him know there's no one out there". His confidence was so great he had slip placed in permanently.

Christian did get him. It was only one of three mistakes Warne made in 24 balls. The margins were so negligible that only Warne's admissions revealed his errors.

Third ball of his third over: Warne to Christian. "I think to Dan I'm going to take a risk here. A bit slower." Christian jumped down and hit him back over his head into the stands.

"The delivery wasn't too bad but the skill was pretty good. He got away with that mate." Julian said to Warne.

"Yeah just didn't get it wide enough. Good shot, good striker." Warne admonished himself for the mistake.

"I'm going again. Slower again. Let's see if he can do two." Warne's gambling instincts were on full display. He tossed the next very high, with lovely shape and drift. Christian defended. "Nice shape on that one." Julian said.

"Yeah that was where the first one should have been. Muppet, Shane." Warne turned, smiled. "Slow again." He said with that glint in his eye.

Christian pressed forward, then went back, tried to work to leg, defended short on the leg-side. His partner Andrew Robinson, worried about two consecutive dots, charged down for the run. He was sent back. Wicketkeeper Matthew Wade nipped out, gathered, and ran Robinson out with a direct hit at the non-strikers end.

It was not Warne's wicket, but it might have well have been. Normal service resumed. The king was back on top.

Last ball of the over. "Are you going to be aggressive here and try and get him out?" Julian inquired.

"I'm going to try and get him LB here," Warne replied. "They've just lost a wicket so he might try and play a little bit safer and try and get a one or a two. So I'll try and get one fast and straight."

Warne approached with purpose, skipped one through to Christian who went back and kept it out. Warne had a giggle. "Didn't do what I meant to, but it was not a bad over."

Warne's last over was an encore. As if only to confirm whose show it really was. He showed his customary cheek as he bowled to Nick Buchanan, son of Warne's former Test coach John Buchanan. "I should probably bowl a big bumper to big Buchy to say 'say hello to your dad'," Warne said with a wry smile and that typically sharp tongue. Buchanan senior is obviously not on Warne's Christmas card list.

Michael Neser came on-strike two balls later. "Bear [Cameron White], apparently he slog- sweeps, this guy? Yeah? There you go. I did my homework and looked at the computer." Another cheeky comment from Warne, laced with sarcasm. He was in command now.

He even had the audacity to stop mid-approach to admonish Allan Border, his first ever Test captain, Australia's longest serving skipper at that, for speaking during his run-up.

Warne is the undisputed king of Australian cricket. His presence attracts crowds and interest wherever he goes. Fox Sports record viewership through the early part of this tournament can be largely attributed to Warne, justifying the money spent on securing his services.

His performance at the Gabba was truly special. Ironically, an experience money cannot buy.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Charindra on December 23, 2011, 7:15 GMT

    How typical of Warne's life, that on the day a team member gets 3 for 22 (Clint McKay), an article is written on Warne for figures of 1 for 22. He's a brilliant bowler, and a remarkable entertainer, but just can't understand the obsession Australia and England, and of late India, has had with him. Wonder if this would have been the case if he was from a small cricketing nation, without the chance to play in the Ashes, or play in one of the greatest teams in cricket history, or the privilege of having the MCG as his home ground. Oh well, either way, well done Warnie.

  • Andrew on December 23, 2011, 0:02 GMT

    Good article, but man the photo is FREAKY!!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on December 21, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    We have been watching him bowl in India during the IPL and it was amazing to see the champion in action. Having a great mind and working out a strategy for batsmen is fine, but at the age of 40 plus to have your body, fingers and wrist actually listen to what the great man says is something else altogether. He is not only a showman but easily the greatest spinner the world has seen . I can still remember the Gatting ball. I am sure greater balls have been bowled before and probably after but the way Warne has made that his own speaks of a person with not only phenomenal ability but also with the enormous capability to seize the moment. That is precisely what he has done and will continue to do during the big bash. Thanks warnie for all those moments sridhar

  • Bryn on December 21, 2011, 6:21 GMT

    im so glad i got home in time to watch this. it was truly an amazing television experience to be in the minds of two of the greatest, warne and hayden.

  • Dummy4 on December 21, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    Steve Waugh should have been there

  • Geoff on December 21, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    Always has been the greatest test captain that Australia never had- his performances as stand-in for the one day team when Waugh was injured were outstanding. Slip, short leg, even when he was bowling towards the death. Always attacked and backed his players. Brilliant.

  • Dummy4 on December 21, 2011, 0:42 GMT

    shane warne is a true master

  • Adrian on December 20, 2011, 23:00 GMT

    Great article! Pity that it was only available on Pay TV, so that most of us regular folk couldn't get to see it. It looks like Warne is back. But is he fit enough to be in the Boxing Day test? Nathan Lyon is on notice!

  • Peter on December 20, 2011, 22:46 GMT

    It was something I'll never forget. To hear what a great criketing mind was thinking and planning just showed me how switched on these guys are. His commentary is full of perspective and clever analysis, but this was something different. Not sure many would pull off something as good as this. I endorse the comments, "brilliant cricket mind".

  • Randolph on December 20, 2011, 22:10 GMT

    The greatest bowler of all time, no doubt.

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