Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Warne's Fresh Spin Offers Hants Hope

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Warne's Fresh Spin Offers Hants Hope

Article excerpt


SHANE WARNE knows a thing or two about comebacks ... from injury, from suspension, from the controversial front-page headlines that have dogged his career.

But even for a player who has long employed Ian Botham's old scriptwriter, his return to international cricket in February after a year's drugs ban was fairytale stuff.

The brilliant leg-spinner propelled Australia to a 3-0 Test series win in the heat and humidity of Sri Lanka with a magnificent haul of 26 wickets at 20.03 apiece.

He took his tally of Test victims to 517, within two of Courtney Walsh's world record of 519, edging ahead of Muttiah Muralitharan, his only serious rival as the greatest spin bowler of all time.

Warne says: "I couldn't have asked for a better series. I think the 12 months away gave a rest to my shoulder and my finger.

I'm back spinning the ball big-time."

Having so sensationally shrugged off doubts about his enduring effectiveness at the highest level, albeit on pitches that gave him some assistance, Warne's newest challenge is slightly more prosaic.

On Friday, in the cosy surroundings of Southampton's Rose Bowl ground, he returns to county cricket as skipper of Hampshire, whom he served in 2000.

His brief is to reinvigorate a team that slumped to second-bottom in Division Two of last season's County Championship and enjoyed only moderate success in the one-day competitions.

That Warne will be up for the challenge is in little doubt. He regards Hampshire as his second home and was desperate to rejoin the county this season after his return last year was postponed when he tested positive for a banned diuretic.

The 34-year-old Australian also feels he owes the county for standing by him last year when the furore over his drugs ban was at its highest.

For an experienced player who has made no secret of his desire to be in charge, Warne has little leadership experience. He was Australia's vice-captain under Steve Waugh until he lost the job after a series of misdemeanours. His only other experience of captaincy has been with Victoria.

Hampshire view Warne's appointment - both as player and skipper - as a calculated gamble. …

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