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Master spinner, master player of spin, bribery allegations in the background - it's all too thick for decorum
December 27, 2009
This was the first meeting between Saleem Malik and Shane Warne after the Pakistani had been accused of trying to bribe the legspinner and a couple of his team-mates for match-fixing information. How dare he try to implicate those honest Australians! At the time the suggestion was outrageous, but three summers after their brief on-field meeting the anger would redirect to Warne when his involvement with an Indian bookmaker was revealed.
I was off to the Gabba with my dad, who thought he had tickets in the members' for the fourth day. We dressed up only to find we were out in the sun in the normal stands, feeling as uncomfortable as Malik, who had split the webbing in his hand while taking a diving catch to remove Mark Taylor. He hadn't batted in the first innings, when Warne grabbed 7 for 23 in Pakistan's 97, and we weren't sure whether he would ever walk out.
Back then I was a struggling legspinner and was desperate to see Warne against a master of slow bowling like Malik, but as Glenn McGrath started chipping into the order there was no sign of Malik. Each time a wicket fell the huddled Australians were drawn to the dressing room to see if he was coming through the door. Finally, with Wasim Akram's dismissal, Malik emerged at No. 8 and the booing from the crowd started, continuing until he took guard.
Looking up, Malik saw an angry Warne, lips moving up and down as the ball was twirled in anticipation. The Australians called him "The Rat" for his moustache and dirty tricks, a nickname that made me laugh at the time but is now cringeworthy.
Unsurprisingly the batsman was never comfortable, his hand throbbing and his ears ringing in a foreign language, and on the fourth ball he skewed a horrible shot to Craig McDermott at mid-off. Warne whooped in angry justification. After the match, with overall figures of 11 for 77, he said the dismissal showed "there is justice in the game". It was great fun for a teenager to watch, but was an early indication that Warne's view didn't always match reality.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo.
This article was first published in the Wisden Cricketer
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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