November 28, 1996
Wacko pitch turns nicely for Warne
By MALCOLM KNOX
Michael Jackson fans have left an indelible mark on the second Test
between Australia and the West Indies - a patchy, worn strip of
turf that will encourage Shane Warne's quest for a first Test win
on the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Curator Peter Leroy was left with little time to prepare a pitch
after the two Jackson concerts, in which 16,000 spectators were
sitting on seats digging into the playing surface without the
protection of mats or boards.
Warne's first remark on seeing the pitch yesterday was: "Is this
it?" His reaction implied not dismay but the difficulty of
distinguishing a prepared strip on the grizzled centre square. The
outfield, too, is badly damaged.
Noting that he had yet to play in a winning Australian team in five
Tests in Sydney, Warne said: "It usually turns here a bit at the
end, but sometimes it's a bit slow. Sometimes it's hard to predict
what'll happen in a wicket. You look at it and think, "It doesn't
look too good, it's going to turn and do crazy things', but
generally it plays pretty well, so we'll have to wait and see.
"I don't think it's the best place to bowl spin anymore," he said,
nominating Melbourne and Brisbane as his favoured tracks. "This
wicket hopefully might be different, but I'm not sure.
"Here it used to be really, really good to bowl spin, but now
sometimes you're not sure what you're going to get."
Warne and Mark Waugh both agreed the wicket had considerably less
grass than the one they played on in the Sheffield Shield match
between NSW and Victoria earlier this month.
"I think it's going to turn a little bit more than what the Shield
wicket did," Warne said.
Waugh was more upbeat: "It looks like it might turn a bit ... I
think it'll definitely favour the spinners the longer the game goes
on, even on the first day if it starts a bit damp.
"The Shield pitch had a lot more grass on it. It had quite good
pace and carry to it for the quick bowlers. This one's different.
It's a lot barer ... it's definitely going to favour the spinners.
It always does here."
The SCG's reputation as a sacrificial altar to spin bowling has
declined in recent years. Warne has taken 23 wickets in his five
Tests at an average of 28 and strike rate of 72, compared to career
figures of 24 and 63. Yet he took 12-128 against the South Africans
here in 1994 and 8-121 against Pakistan last year.
Mushtaq Ahmed also took nine wickets in that match. Sydney still
favours spin bowling when it is of the highest quality.
Waugh insisted Warne's return of 4-170 in Brisbane was as good a
comeback as could be expected.
"He's obviously not bowling at his top, because he hasn't bowled
for a while," said Waugh. "You can't expect him to whiz the ball
past the bat all the time. Opposing teams are going to work him out
a bit better as well.
"He probably bowled more short balls than I've ever seen him bowl,
but even that wasn't that many. You expect such high quality that
when he does bowl the odd loose one you think he's bowling badly,
but he's not compared to other spinners."
Wicketkeeper Ian Healy said Warne's only problem at this stage was
a lack of mental conditioning, resulting in concentration lapses.
"There was probably some impatience there ... that's why he was
trying too many balls at certain times, especially in the first
innings, and not landing them exactly where he wanted to. But
generally everything was pretty good for a return," he said.
Warne reflected: "I think I got better as the game went on. The
second innings I bowled pretty well. I created a few chances but
didn't have much luck."
Warn's wizardry strikes against cricket's spell of banality
By JEFF WELLS
SHANE WARNE may not yet be gripping it and ripping it back to his
best, but his influence on the game remains extraordinary.
If his hand and body hold together he will go into the new
millenium as the most influential figure in the development of
In the latest Spectator, English sportswriter Simon Barnes even
talks about Warne possibly being "the athlete who became the most
significant figure in the making of post-modern Australia".
He gets to this via a biography of Sir Donald Bradman which paints
the Don as a pivotal figure in Australia "feeling her way gradually
towards something that the world would recognise as nationhood".
Well, that was the usual smug condescension of an English academic
(Charles Williams), and Barnes indulges in a little pompousness of
his own. Warne, he writes, is the most gifted Australian cricketer
since Bradman and "the first since him to capture the national
imagination so completely".
Oh, right. Who were those guys Lillee and Thomson? Barnes also
describes Warne as "perhaps the first Australian hero with claims
to being a truly international figure". Do we really need these
people? Can't we just bring on the republic? He thinks Australia
has a "national preoccupation" with Shane's spinning finger. A
return to form could make "national history". A failure could make
him a "nearly was".
But, he said, it would be difficult to find the man behind "his own
posturing and the myth-making of both media and audience".
Gee, it must be sour over in the post-Atlanta English sporting
backwater in the winter. And it has been some time since England,
which packs its team with mercenaries but still can't play, had a
poser like Shane Warne to fawn on - maybe Ian Botham was the last.
Perhaps Barnes should get down here for some sunshine and
cosmopolitan wining and dining and find out that, at least in the
Olympic city, Shane Warne is not the only reason for us to exist.
Or get on the blower to Barry Humphries - he was the Spectator's
guest diarist this week.
Meanwhile, however, we can coolly celebrate Warne's contribution to
the game. For one thing, he is prodding it to live by its own
rules. He has reminded the sport that its essence is the hitting of
the ball with the bat - not the pad.
That lbw decision against Jimmy "Padams" Adams by umpire Steve
Randell was fascinating. It probably wasn't out because Adams was
well forward and the ball turned a little. But it was an indication
that, at last, umpires may be getting fed up with batsmen who stick
the pad forward, with the bat tucked behind it, and expect
Warne's variety, especially his flipper and other hurry-on balls,
have earned him the right to lbw decisions. If the forward thrust
of the pad is said to create a doubt about the ball hitting the
stumps, Warne has created an equal doubt about the ball not hitting
Meanwhile, while Warne can't get lbw decisions by pitching outside
the leg stump to right handers, in his battles with left-handers,
especially Brian Lara, he is also pecking away with his lbw appeals
for balls that turn sharply from the off.
The law says that if the ball is pitched outside the off-stump the
batsman can be out lbw even if struck on the pad outside the line
of the stumps - if he offers no "genuine" shot and the ball would
have hit the wicket.
The reward for a prodigious turner of the ball - now the most
exciting phenomenon in cricket - should be wickets when batsmen are
clearly faking. They have been getting away with it for too long
and boring crowds witless.
Can there really be change for the better in cricket? Well, there
is also an essential law about chucking, and Australian umpires are
leading the way in trying to combat it. Maybe they can tackle the
"padsmen" as well.
During the first Test the West Indies were up to their old slow
over-rate tricks again. At one stage Carl Hooper, the off
non-spinner, took two minutes to set his field and the Windies were
six overs behind schedule.
The new ICC rule ensured that there were still 90 overs to be
bowled for the day, even after Australia took the field - that
Australia could not be robbed of a fair share of overs at the
opposition. The one pity was that the TV audience was robbed of a
lot of cricket after 6pm.
Some day a TV channel will pull the plug before a Test is decided
in extra time and there will be hell to pay. It may set up even
greater enforcement of the over-rate rule.
So, yes, there is possible change for the better and a lot of it is
due to the fall of the West Indies pace dy***. There was always
the feeling, while they were crushing the opposition, that moves to
force them to play within the spirit of the game would be seen as
"sour grapes" or "unfair" or even "racist".
Shane Warne has been a messiah. He has helped end the Windies
domination - a regime built on intimidation, time-wasting, and
restricting stroke play, as well as talent. Good luck to Clive
Lloyd for restoring pride to his people, but, for the good of
cricket, it had to end sometime.
Now Warne has helped restore spin to its rightful, crucial place in
the game. He has returned entertainment to the Test arena. And he
may have helped stiffen the spine of cricket, so that it can be
played in the most creative way.
And he doesn't have to bowl another ball. He is no "nearly was",
he's a "sure did" - sure did a lot more than the poms for one
Lara's theme: who will have the last word?
By PHIL WILKINS
THE SYDNEY Cricket ground is Brian Lara's idea of heaven, not
everyone's, but the West Indian champion's little piece of
He fell in love with it in the New Year Test of 1993 when he hit
his maiden century in his fifth Test match, continuing on with
diamond drill precision, piercing the field with his flawlessly
placed cover drives, cuts and pulls against Australia for 277, a
triple century denied through a brilliant run out.
The insatiable appetite for centuries remained. The following year,
with the West Indies' Test series locked up securely against
England, Lara was free to bat on endlessly at St John's in Antigua,
eclipsing Garry Sobers's Test record of 365 not out, set in
Kingston in 1958 when Conrad Hunte was reduced to also-ran status
with a score of 260 against Pakistan.
More immortality descended on Lara when he completed an innings of
501 for Warwickshire against Durham, walking from the field through
an avenue of upraised bats held by his county teammates.
Soon after the stress fractures of character began emerging: the
threat to retire, his open feud with former Test captain Richie
Richardson, the bitterness of the tour of England, his decision not
to accompany the West Indian team to Australia last summer, his vow
to miss the World Cup.
But, before the personal agony, the little genius was untroubled
enough on the Australians' Caribbean tour last year, cleaving a
limited-over century before a rapturous Queens Park Oval home
crowd,*** from the bearded samaan trees in Port-of-Spain,
Nevertheless, a second Test century against Australia, a hundred he
craved, eluded him.
In four Tests he struck three half-centuries, his last innings a
duck when trapped leg-before-wicket by Paul Reiffel on the Red
Heart of Sabina Park, a dismissal which preceded the West Indies'
presentation of the Frank Worrell Trophy to Mark Taylor and the
Now, he is back in Sydney, the city he fell in love with in 1993, a
place he cherished to the point he named his baby daughter in
honour of the city, declaring: "I chose Sydney because that was
where I had my best Test innings.
"It's a very, very unique name. The other, Taryne, is her mother's
Despite three centuries in successive Tests in England last year,
Lara's reputation as one of the three great batsmen of modern
cricket with Sachin Tendulkar and Steve Waugh is very much
dependent on his performances in this five-Test series.
At the Gabba, Lara made 26 and 44, caught at second slip by Mark
Waugh from the bowling of the pacemen, Glenn McGrath and Reiffel,
the same bowlers who tied him down in the West Indies last year,
frustrating him with their basic leg-cutters into the left-hander,
running deliveries in on the pads, on the stumps and then wider,
tempting him to attack, exhausting his patience, driving him mad
until he lashed out - and got out.
The trio will renew the battle tomorrow with Shane Warne aiding and
abetting the pacemen, as in the Caribbean. Patience will be the
name of the game.
Lara has played 13 Test innings without scoring another hundred
against Australia since his 277 at the SCG. It is not a theme of
which Lara is proud.
Champions are unique. He will want the last word.
Thanks: Sydney Morning Herald