When there's a Warne, there's a way
Once again Shane Warne won a match with his aura and never-say-die spirit - two traits even his rival captain and one-time Australian team-mate Adam Gilchrist admits he is envious of. From a seemingly hopeless situation at the chase, Warne brought himself on, and with every one of his allotted four overs he pulled the momentum towards Rajasthan.
Like all of Warne's spectacles this was nothing short of drama. It was a low score to defend. So it was futile wasting time, fussing about how many runs Rajasthan fell short of an ideal target. Instead, he loaded the team with hope: apparently each time Rajasthan have scored a minimum of 160 they have won the game. If they were 10-15 runs shorter, the team had to throw themselves at everything. That was the only way Rajasthan could win.
But Gilchrist punched his weight straightway to put Deccan in a comfortable position before he vanished to an awful shot. Deccan were still on course for a victory, needing 74 off the final ten overs with eight wickets still in hand. But Warne had not yet bowled. Finally, he arrived in the 12th over but was pulled for six by Rohit Sharma. In his usual fashion, Warne spat into his hands, rubbed his palms on the turf and returned to his mark. Next over, after being pulled for a four by Anirudh Singh, he slipped in the quicker one, the slider, to induce an edge.
Warne had found his mojo. The big legbreaks returned, the pace was varied smartly. Like always Warne charmed his opponent with flight and tempted him equally. Dwayne Smith and Ryan Harris fell into the black hole created by Warne. It was not that Warne was bowling unplayable deliveries, but, just like on numerous occasions in the past, he had created a stage of his own where the batsmen were his marionettes and he was pulling the strings.
"It is all about the right ball at the right time," Warne said later during the media briefing. "It is not your best ball: no point trying to bowl big, ripping legbreaks and somebody nicks it and it goes down for four. It is all about setting him up: fast, fast, slower one up, trying and tempt one into it," he explained.
When Warne finished his quota, Deccan were still in a commanding position, needing 19 off the last two overs. But more than his bowling, it was his leadership that clinched the match for Rajasthan. All through the contest he kept cajoling, back-slapping, shouting, screaming and motivating his troops as he knew the enemy was ready to blink and they needed to be in the right position to pull the trigger.
But some nerves were tender. Especially Morne Morkel of South Africa, who failed to listen to his general's commands. Off the penultimate ball of the penultimate over of the match, Warne had set a field for a short ball and asked Morkel to aim for Rohit's head. Instead, Morkel delivered a lame, fuller-length delivery, which resulted in a straight six. Warne, the exhibitionist, showed his anger on the big screen. "I said knock his head off," Warne said. "I got everyone up this way (off side) and everyone back (on the leg side) and the plan was to bowl short, and he bowled a half volley."
But Warne walked up to the bowler and asked him a calm question. "I said to him 'what's the most important thing, mate?' The answer was "This ball." Warne agreed.
That skill to never allow his emotions to take of hold him has always seen Warne conquer the moment, conquer the batsman and turn matches and series on their heads. Considering there are only a few who possess that quality, Warne is hence part of cricket's pantheon. "It just can't be one person," Warne said. "[Even] If I believe, I still got other guys to believe [in themselves]."
But Gilchrist agrees the genius of Warne is possible only because the man has a big heart. "The aura, the spirt. I have had some pretty fun times standing behind the stumps, watching some startled rabbits in the headlights," Gilchrist said, in praise of his opposite number. "He bowled really well and led his team extremely well."