August 1, 2006

An over with Warnie

Facing an over from Shane Warne and living to tell the tale

"Play him like KP, not Nass or MA" © Getty Images

Now that Michael Vaughan's crocked, now that the Ashes odds are tipping towards Australia, now that there are question marks over Simon Jones and Ashley Giles, England are in need of something of a boost. I'm more than happy, then, to step up to the plate and do my bit for their campaign to keep the urn later this year.

And if being hit all around the Rose Bowl by a girl dents Shane Warne's confidence a touch, then hurrah for that, I say. The fact that he was barefoot, bowling at less than half his normal speed, and wearing jeans, while I was just about getting the lolly dollies off the square is surely quite irrelevant.

A few days before the big day I had the good fortune to bump into Nasser Hussain in the Sky commentary box and so I took the chance to ask him for some hints on facing that legspin.

When I ask the question, Hussain raises his eyebrows and smiles, but only a little bit. "I'm probably not the best person to ask, as I got out to him 37 times," he says, deadpan, every one of those dismissals etched in his mind, like notches on the bedpost - er, perhaps that's not the right phrase.

He brightens. "Try to play like Kevin Pietersen!" He mimes a wristy flick. "Play him like KP, not like NH" - he nods at his Sky colleague Mike Atherton. "Nor like MA!" Atherton nods knowingly.

"What was that?!" I call out, still blinking. "The wrong `un," Warne gleams. Yes, gleams. See, even though it's only me, he does care (a little bit)

I pick up my air-bat and get ready to play. "You've got quite long legs," Hussain observes - although I'm wearing heels which will no doubt be kicked off when facing Warne. "So, take a big stride, and use your bat not your pads." Okay, with you so far. "Don't leave your crease - ever - or you'll be stumped." Gotcha. "Oh, and..." And? Here comes the biggie. "Get ready for his sledging." A-ha, of course. Cheers Nass, I'm ready.

The day dawns and I head to Southampton to meet Warne. The whole thing is part of a publicity session for his new gambling website When I arrive, I'm informed that the nets have been dismantled and so our over will now happen out in the middle. That's fine... but there's a smattering of a crowd, including the Hampshire and Nottinghamshire teams milling around on the balcony - it is the day before their Championship match. So this is what pressure is.

On the other hand a jaunty Warne, dressed in jeans and a white polo shirt, seems highly undaunted by the prospect of being shown up by a girl. We head down the steps and saunter onto the pitch, him smiling and at ease while I lift my bat and try to focus, Nasser's words echoing around my mind: "Don't leave your crease, don't leave your crease."

Miss Thompson prepares to put an almighty dent in Warne's confidence ahead of the 2006 Ashes © onEdition

So this is it. He takes a few steps, keeps his trademark tongue in his mouth, and lets rip with his first ball, a sighter which I push easily towards cover. Confident now, I get a headrush with the second and, oops, come down the track. Not very wise, sorry Nasser. But I did use my bat - just; a big inside edge. Not out! Um, the third ball may have done for me had there been any stumps (oh, did I not mention?) Even though it was just some poxy ball lobbed casually my way, it fizzed like a bad `un. "What was that?!" I call out, still blinking.

"The wrong `un," Warne gleams. Yes, gleams. See, even though it's only me, he does care (a little bit), and this ball said: "Don't you know who you're messing with?" I do, I do! Except I wasn't messing, I was deadly serious. He may have been messing. We'll skirt over that.

The next was a full-toss which I swatted through square leg, and then the fifth and sixth balls passed in a bit of a blur. I remember charging both times, eek, but I did connect.

We head back and Warne moves to the poker table, where he proves a dab hand at the game, all the while chatting warmly to all and sundry, including the promo girls. Everyone's happy, including me, because I've done my (tiny little) bit for mental disintegration. Get me Duncan Fletcher on the phone.

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on September 29, 2015, 6:43 GMT

    @LEONB I checked after posting. He bowled 2.2 overs in the England innings before "damaging an ankle so severely that he took no further part in the tour". With Jack Fingleton also unable to bat in either innings Australia were essentially helpless. Anyway, going back to Shane Warne, he was, like Muralitharan, a freak. That type of bowler appears once in a generation at most and to have two at once was extraordinary. A lot of people have tried to compare stats and decide who was better (as if that is actually possible when they played for different teams with different levels of support bowling). My own study, trying to compare like with like, just suggested that there was little to compare: both were pretty amazing.

  • Leon on September 29, 2015, 3:01 GMT

    @CRICKETINGSTARGAZER - I had not heard that, but would not be not surprised. However, Wally Hammond must have believed it as he reportedly refused to declare until he was certain that Bradman's injury would prevent him from batting at all.

    @Facebook - Idiot!

  • Mark on September 28, 2015, 14:24 GMT

    Didn't Bradman break a bone in his foot in a bad footmark bowling during England's 903-7d? It was said that, until that moment, he was determined to break back Len Hutton's Test record score of 364* set in the England innings.

  • Mark on September 28, 2015, 12:05 GMT

    @Stogster, I believe that she got married to an Australian and was playing Club cricket in Australia. Totally agree though: she has a very pleasant and human touch, which is missed.

  • DAVID on September 28, 2015, 10:26 GMT

    Don't apologise to the late Sir Don Bradman. He was actually very proud of his leg-spin, and would have loved this earlier reference. He did once get Wally Hammond out in a Test match, albeit with a ball which didn't touch the ground.

  • Albie on September 28, 2015, 8:05 GMT

    How is Jenny? I remember that she moved to Australia and then disappeared from the pages of Cricinfo. I do miss her commentary.

  • sam on September 28, 2015, 4:00 GMT

    @Facebook- Unfortunately for you,-whatever your so called 'opinion' on the legend-its not going to change hard cricketing facts and history.However you wish it may change-history that is.Warne-A world cricketing superstar,1 of the 5 legends of all time.

  • sam on September 28, 2015, 3:53 GMT

    Apologies. In my previous post I wrote'Sir Don the greatest spinner' . Make it 'Sir Don the greatest batsman' . Correction.

  • sam on September 28, 2015, 3:34 GMT

    @Facebook user-Get over it.The whole world knows that like Sir Don is the greatest spinner ever,Warne is the greatest spinner ever the game has,will ever see.Pls dont compare our dustbowl bullies Kumble,Bhajji to the Aussie legend!

  • Dummy4 on September 28, 2015, 2:10 GMT

    Shane Warne is no guru.....he is an average spinner who could best be described as a 'Home Track Bully'. His average in India is a shame. I have seen Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Javagal Srinath smashing him for consecutive sixes. He literally had no answer on Indian pitches which were actually conducive to his type of bowling. This goes to show that apart from constantly saying random inane stuff at batsmen in Australia, Shane Warne was a nothing bowler

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