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Paul Coupar at Old Trafford
August 11, 2005
They say the way a man plays cricket reveals character and if the Old Trafford press conference is anything to go by they are right. The performances of Shane Warne and Michael Vaughan in the pavilion library pretty well matched what we had seen on the field earlier.
Warne came into the library and bewitched many of his audience. He began with the one that looked straightforward but kicked in an unexpected direction. Was taking his 600th Test wicket as good as he imagined? "Yeah. I think it's hard to wrap your head round your achievements until you actually finish playing. Terry Jenner [Warne's mentor] came out when I got 300 wickets and said I had a chance to get 600. I said: 'Has he been drinking all day? He probably had been as well.'"
Then the regulation legbreak. "It was a shame I couldn't get 603 or 604. I thought England played extremely well. I don't like using clichés. I like to make up my own but I'll bowl worse and get four or five wickets. We dropped too many catches."
Next Warne was faced with a tricky proposition, Kevin Pietersen in fine form perhaps. What was with the wristband, the one he kissed on reaching 600? "Ermm. The wristband's a pretty emotional one. When Simone and the three children went home Brooke my eldest daughter gave me it and said 'you've got to be strong daddy'. It just says 'Strength' on it and she wears one and the other kids wear one. I spoke to the three kids this morning and Brooke said I like your white wristband daddy, and I said if it happens today then it's for you. So that's what that it's about."
Next up a not-so-well-disguised swipe at Leeds. "I've got a special relationship with the Old Trafford crowd," he enthused. "I bowled my first ball here against England and tried to work out what Ashes cricket really meant. I don't know about them alternating the Tests between here and Leeds. The wicket here is a lot better than Leeds - that's a dodgy wicket. You've got a fantastic flat pitch here that's got something in it for everyone. I'm very surprised there's not a Test match here every year."
But you don't get to 600 Test wickets without being able to look after your own interests and Warne, having pleased his audience, ended with a plug. "As I've said in my columns for The Times, I think England have got match-winners for the first time."
Before Warne came the man who had spent most of the day padding him away, Michael Vaughan. Vaughan had got to his hundred without chancing his arm and he wasn't about to get reckless in the press conference. "Obviously I'm very delighted with the first day's play. I always talk of the first day against Australia as very important. You have to make sure you're in the game and I think we are in the game." So far so defensive.
On Ian Bell: "He showed today he's got the temperament to succeed at the top. To get 59 not out under that kind of gas, I think he was stuck on 18 for a number of balls against McGrath and Warne, two of the greats of the game, and for him to come through should do his confidence the world of good."
What were you saying to him? "Not a great deal," said Vaughan with his trademark faraway smile. Next he opened out slightly about Warne: "He's a true great. He can stop there now. He's got his 600 and that's about enough."
On his 166: "I can only control what I can do and that's what I tried to do. Really play on instinct and go out and enjoy my batting. That's what I tried all day and fortunately it paid off. I've said all along that the four innings I've had leading in to this game I felt three of them were good balls. I always believe a run of low scores has got to end somewhere. I tried to enjoy my batting and play on instinct."
But he certainly wasn't speaking on instinct. "We're delighted to be 341 for 5. Yes we lost two late wickets but if you look at the day it could have been a lot worse. With an Alec Stewart-like: "If we can get it reverse-swinging again then we can put their batsman under a lot of pressure," he was off, smiling in that far-off way of his, and comprehensively outpointed by Warne. But matches are not won in press conferences, as Vaughan well knows.
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