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The Wisden Cricketer

Australia v England, second Test, Adelaide, 2006

The thrill, the magic, the horror

When Warne took a Test match from dullness to unimaginable menace

Rob Smyth

August 22, 2010

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A

Kevin Pietersen is bowled by Shane Warne around his legs, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, December 5, 2006
KP comes a cropper © Getty Images
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It was supposed to be a quiet day at work. Seven hours of watching the second Test drift to sleep while typing a few words for the Guardian over-by-over report. It turned into the most unforgettable day's play imaginable: a numbing, traumatic and downright magical defeat. The vivid sensation of the day was exacerbated by the fact that I was alone in a huge office in the mezzanine hours, bleary-eyed yet simultaneously manic on free coffee; wondering if my eyes were deceiving me; desperate to share the wonder of Warne with anyone.

Of course, the main reason the memory endures is because of the astonishing performance of that rogue psychiatrist Warne, who got England on the couch and drove them doolally with demons that didn't even exist. Warne only took four wickets, two of them lower-order batsmen, but he got inside England's heads, numbing them into submission. And he was responsible for the moment the day snapped viciously into the horror genre, like the scene in the film when the wide-eyed teenager walks round the corner and into a swinging pickaxe.

That occurred when Kevin Pietersen was bowled round his legs - having boasted in his autobiography that such a dismissal would never happen. Even after claiming Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell, you suspect Australia did not really believe they would win, but the symbolism of Pietersen's dismissal changed everything. England were four down and suddenly every single delivery crackled with unimaginable menace.

England held on grimly through the afternoon session, and Paul Collingwood's strokeless defiance brought a lump to the throat, but throughout it all there was the grisly awareness that there could be no happy ending for them here. A glorious era of English cricket died that day, and many fans can't even say the Macbethian word "Adelaide", referring instead to the "South Australian ground". Yet we should forget the parochial and marvel in one of the great days of sport, a heist that makes no more sense now than it did then.

Rob Smyth is the author of The Spirit of Cricket - What Makes Cricket the Greatest Game on Earth

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Posted by sonjjay on (August 25, 2010, 8:36 GMT)

Shane warne is clearly the best spinner the world has seen inspite of the fact that he did not do well against our indian team but i have never seen any1 spin the ball as much as shane, truly a classic of all times no one was as good as Shane, not even the sub continent tweakers...

Posted by RogerC on (August 25, 2010, 1:14 GMT)

If Warne had done it against India, then its called magic. In a similar context, if Viv Richards mauls the English bowlers of the 80s, its not magic.

Posted by OutdoorMiner on (August 24, 2010, 22:16 GMT)

@Charindra, funny how when they did clear him they created the 15 degree rule also

Posted by addiemanav on (August 24, 2010, 17:59 GMT)

congratulations to all those pissed off guys..now even cricinfo isnt publishing my comment...if someone cant be as passionate about their cricket and country as we indians are then thats none my problems..i started watching cricket in 98' when i was 10,and i can recall each and every test match that india has played till now..if u want to call me a fanboy,i wud graciously accept it!!everyone can talk about their team,but when we indians do,we are called india-centric posters!!i think their must be a better platform for us to argue..how about twitter??

Posted by MartinAmber on (August 24, 2010, 14:36 GMT)

I was having a difficult time in hospital for the entire duration of the 06/07 Ashes. I am English, so many might say 'lucky you'. Yet in spite of my own trauma, some things remain important to a person, and 25 years of following Ashes cricket was certainly one of them. I vividly remember checking Ceefax in the hospital common room that morning, expecting to read of a dull draw, and the actual result not sinking in for about an hour. I think it's the closest England have come in my lifetime to an Ashes experience as crippling as Australia's at Headingley in 1981. The best thing to come out of it, though, was Matthew Engel's peerless, wickedly funny match report for Wisden 2007. That remains - in spite of Haigh, Atherton, Martin Johnson and many other fine journalists and writers - the best single Test match summary I have ever read. I urge anyone who loves cricket and writing to seek it out.

Posted by Charindra on (August 24, 2010, 13:00 GMT)

@outdoorminer : I'm not going to get into that argument with you. Scientifically he has been proven to be legal, but of course, what is stupid science against the magic of your eyesight!!

Posted by CricketPissek on (August 24, 2010, 12:07 GMT)

haha @OutdoorMiner - them's fighting words! and @charindra.... you were asking for it machang. you're as bad as the other fanboys I was talking about. we couldn't read an article about Murali on his retirement without someone screaming he is not as good as warne.. and now we're not allowed to relive and appreciate some genuine magic from warne without some muppet saying he wasn't as good as murali! what a sad state of affairs that someone can't write an article appreciating a great player/team/match without some commentor(s) trying to play a weird trump card over it.. oh.. fyi and for what it's worth, i am Sri Lankan :)

Posted by RATNESH64 on (August 24, 2010, 11:49 GMT)

Dearest lessnar & EXRampage, How fools u r ? I m sure u don't know who bowled the first ball & whoo scored the first run ? It was 15-3-77 when A LFRED SAW BOWED THE FIRST BALL & Charls Barrenmen scored the first run in test match between Eng. & Aus. in Melbourn...Aus. won by 45 runs in 3 days...After 100 years again in 17-3-77 in Melbourn once again Aus. won by 45 runs...I have all details since 1971 of all cricket match, but which attack the most I published..Rohan1 might upset about tendulkar dismissal, but y he forget about Laxman's inning..Simply I m laughing about ur cricket knowledge ...Now how u feel lessnar & EXRamage. Pls comments just so as I will answer u must .

Posted by Mitcher on (August 24, 2010, 3:11 GMT)

Awesome summer!! Galavanting around the country avenging '05. I can only hope for something similar this time around though I suspect it may be a bit more of a grind. This was such a wonderfully unexpected result in Adelaide and really took the wind out of England's sails. Can't wait to get through 'warm ups' in India and get to the main course. As for India-centric posters, your bitterness truly nourishes me so keep up the good work!!

Posted by OutdoorMiner on (August 23, 2010, 22:29 GMT)

@Charindra, I don't include chuckers in my list of best bowlers

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