Matches (14)
West Indies v India T20I Series (1)
CWG 2022 (2)
Men's Hundred (1)
BDESH-A in WI (1)
RL Cup (8)

Return of the Blond Bombshell

Despite a public roasting from their coach, Rod Marsh, England A crashed to their third tour defeat in a row, as India A overwhelmed them by 55 runs in Bangalore

Shane Warne: good to be back
© Getty Images

It was cricket's most eagerly-awaited comeback since Ian "Who Writes Your Scripts" Botham in 1986, and in sport, arguably, since Muhammad Ali's three-year exile from the boxing ring ended in 1970. One Melbourne newspaper has been carrying a millennium-style countdown - "Warnie: eight days to go" etc - and hardly anyone in Australia can have been unaware of Shane Warne's recent movements, or the cunning plan to parachute him into a 2nd XI match for Victoria the moment his 12-month drug ban ended today.
In the past week there has been a golf pro-am with Greg Norman, and some high-profile public net practice, while on the first day of the match against the Queensland Academy of Sport Warne relaxed elsewhere with a spot of yoga. That first day was attended by the proverbial three men and a dingo, but this second one drew probably the largest crowd for any 2nd XI game, anywhere. Hundreds of spectators and even more media types descended upon the Junction Oval at St Kilda in Melbourne - by coincidence, Warne's home club and near to the home where he still parks his chunky gleaming silver BMW.
The media melee sweated on parking places near the ground - as its name suggests, the Junction Oval nestles between several busy main roads, and the spots usually available in nearby Albert Park have been suspended as preparations gear up for the Australian Grand Prix. The bloke from ABC Radio said the gate steward was a well-known media-hater, and swore he'd been tipping off the traffic wardens about illegally parked pressmen's cars.
Warne was duly included in the side on the second day, at the expense of Jason Arnberger. The crowd raised a cheer when the blond bombshell ambled out for a pre-match kickabout, braving the first of the day's showers. He had a brief bowl in the nets, too: was that arm a bit lower than usual? Whatever, the ball was still gripping and turning.

The public's welcome
© Getty Images

His first actual involvement in the match itself was as a batsman. He made 11, with a couple of rusty hooks and a thin edge to the keeper. After a lunchtime declaration at 379 for 6, out he trotted, looking as fit and fined-down as at any time in his career. There was a smart catch face-high at first slip ... and then it rained, before he could mark out that familiar five-pace shuffle-up. A damp squib indeed: they never did get back on. The umpires - one of whom was Warne's old Test team-mate Paul Reiffel - called play off at around 5pm. All those cameras wanting to capture the comeback wicket will have to traipse back tomorrow and ward off the wicked wardens.
The one big grandstand at the Junction Oval is named after two old St Kilda spinners, Don Blackie and Bert Ironmonger. "Old" is the right word, actually, as both of them were well into their forties when they were first called up by Australia in the 1920s. "Dainty" Ironmonger, who was past 50 when he played in the Bodyline series, spun the ball off the stumps of two fingers he'd lost in a buzzsaw accident as a youngster, and one story has it that he missed out on a tour of England because his table manners weren't up to scratch. These days Shane Warne's various misdemeanours - from sending sexy text messages to scoffing slimming pills from his mum - are unlikely to be held against him when the team for Australia's Tests in Sri Lanka is announced shortly. One day he might get a stand named after him here, too.
Meanwhile, as all this hoop-la was going on near the beach in St Kilda, up the road at an equally soggy MCG Victoria's 1st XI were consolidating their place on top of the Pura Cup table ... in front of three men and a builder. Locals recall that the last time Victoria won the trophy - then the good old Sheffield Shield - back in 1990-91, they did so in front of a building site, as the Great Southern Stand was under construction. It's therefore thought to be a very good sign that the demolition men are in again, levelling the old pavilion.
Steven Lynch is the editor of Wisden Cricinfo.