The Ashes 2005 July 28, 2005

Warne's bunny offers England advice

Cricinfo staff

Shane Warne gives the thumbs-up to his 400th wicket: Alec Stewart at The Oval in 2001 © Cricinfo Ltd

Alec Stewart, the batsman Shane Warne dismissed 14 times in Tests, has stepped in to help England by warning them not to play the legspinner's reputation. Warne collected six wickets in the first Test at Lord's in a performance Adam Gilchrist said confirmed his "mental stranglehold".

A veteran of 23 Ashes Tests, Stewart told AAP England should learn from Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman, who played Warne aggressively and stifled his accuracy. "You don't say, 'It's Shane Warne bowling, the greatest legspinner to have ever played the game'," Stewart said. "You say, 'There's an Australian bowler who bowls legspin', you don't even think of the blond hair. You're playing the ball, not the man and not the reputation."

Warne is now 11 wickets from becoming the first player to reach 600 after quickly adding to his list of English victims. "It's obviously pretty tough - he got me out 14 times - so it's easier said than done," Stewart said. "[They've got to] play their natural game. It's a lot easier to do if you've got 25 runs against your name instead of coming out to bat and you've already got three or four fielders around."

While Stewart tops Warne's list, the retired England batsmen Nasser Hussain [11 times], Mike Atherton [10] and Graham Thorpe [9] also rank highly. Warne made some inroads into the current line-up with the second-innings wickets of Trescothick, Bell and Flintoff.

Gilchrist told the Courier-Mail Warne was already exploiting Ian Bell by getting inside his head. "You would have to think so," Gilchrist said. "We've all seen it ourselves, particularly against the spinning ball. It feels as if it is a lottery when are you are playing it."

When facing that situation Gilchrist said batsmen hoped to survive the initial stages and become familiar with the surroundings. "Bell wasn't able to do that," he said. "I can't comment on his mindset, but you would have to think there is a mental stranglehold thrown on there on probably everyone."

Bell said in the paper he did not feel out of his depth against Warne or Glenn McGrath. "It was only my fourth England cap," he said, "and I had never experienced anything like it before."