Footwear deal makes Warne a chance for 2009 Ashes

Shane Warne is expected to confirm a four-year footwear sponsorship deal that hints at him avoiding retirement until after the 2009 Ashes. A report in Brisbane's The Courier-Mail said the agreement with Mitre, a British-based sports goods manufacturer, would be sealed next week, leaving Warne to play past 40.

Warne has refused to set a retirement date from the international game, but he has spoken about bowing out with a long English county stint at Hampshire, which would suit the company specialising in football gear. The paper reported that it is believed to be the first sporting-based endorsement Warne has signed since his off-field controversies during the 2005 Ashes tour, which included the separation from his wife Simone.

"I don't like putting time things on," Warne said during the summer about retirement. "Every time people ask me about time I try to answer honestly. Some people think I take the limelight away from others by answering those things so I'd rather not. I've got no immediate plans to retire, I'm enjoying my cricket, it's as simple as that."

Warne will be 40 in September 2009 and Richie Benaud has said he could continue bowling effectively and figure on a fifth Ashes tour. "Forty wickets in the recent Ashes battle, some superb bowling against West Indies this summer and I pose the question again," he wrote in Inside Cricket's February edition. "Is it totally out of the question that Warne, who won't have turned 40 when the next Ashes battle is fought in England, will be a starter?"

Warne has a handful of precedents as old and great Australian legspinners, but the three most famous men retired from Tests more than half a century ago. Clarrie Grimmett and Bill O'Reilly appeared in their forties while Bert Ironmonger made his debut as a 46-year-old and played in the Bodyline series when he was 50.