England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval September 6, 2005

Warne admits the pressure is on

Cricinfo staff



Shane Warne is braced for a finale to remember © Getty Images
Never mind the fitness tests and psychological ploys that have been taking centre stage in the build-up to this week's Ashes decider. The best indicator yet as to the mindset of the two teams has been revealed by Shane Warne. For perhaps the first time in the series, he has admitted that it is Australia with all the problems.

"I thought the pressure was on England in the last Test match because they knew all we had to do was win one of the last two," Warne told reporters at The Oval. "If we won that last Test match it was all over. But now the pressure is on us, as far as I can see. If we don't play well, for the first time in nearly 20 years we've lost the Ashes."

Warne, however, was confident that adversity would bring the best out of his team-mates, who have not really fired as a unit all series. "The pressure is on us but hopefully that will make us respond and the guys will soak it up and see it as a challenge rather than fear it. There is a bit of calmness in the group and the guys are looking forward to it.

"It is a huge game," Warne said. "It's uncharted waters for both sides. England have never been in this situation against Australia, where they've come into the last Test knowing they only have to draw it to regain the Ashes, and for us every time we've come here, the Ashes has been over.

"In 1993 and 1997, we lost chasing small totals and in 2001 we won comfortably and it didn't matter. This is the first time The Oval Test counts for something in my time, and this is my fourth tour. That's a good thing. If it gets down to the last Test match, that's good in any series. No-one wants to see easy cricket being played in against any country."

Warne has been fighting a lonely battle for Australia this series, leading the averages with 28 wickets at 19.67 and propping up the tail with 249 runs at 31.12. "For me personally I think this has been the best series I've played in with the bat, and the numbers have been pretty good with the ball. I'm proud of the way I've played. It's been tough.

"But it's now down to five days and what's happened before doesn't matter. This is it. These sort of situations I thrive on. This is where the real good players stand out." Warne also hinted that a watershed had been reached in the Australian camp. "I'm not going to be coming back in four years time, and this will be the last time a few of us are going to be together which is quite sad, but also quite exciting, given what's at the end of the Test match if we play well."

One major doubt that still hangs over the Aussies is the fitness of their fast bowler, Glenn McGrath. He missed both defeats, at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, after sustaining ankle and elbow injuries respectively, and was still not certain of recovering in time.

"Everybody would like to know where they stand and what the side is as early as possible. But when it's Glenn McGrath, arguably the best fast bowler in the world, you want to give him every chance to play. If that means it's a last-minute decision, it's a last-minute decision. Hopefully he'll be okay but I'm not sure."