The Ashes, First Test, Day Four: Warne's Whopper

I've been watching England play cricket for 28 years and I've got the mental scars to prove it. Never have I seen an opening pair crush an Australian bowling attack with such ruthless efficiency..
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I've been watching England play cricket for 28 years and I've got the mental scars to prove it. Never have I seen an opening pair crush an Australian bowling attack with such ruthless efficiency..

As an analyst, Shane Warne is about as subtle as a lump hammer to the back of the head. The master of minute changes of line, length, turn and drift as a bowler is not one for gilding the lily in the commentary box. Michael Atherton, however, is as coy as they come. If you had to give an Alien a portrait of an Englishman and an Australian then you would need to go no further than sit it down in the 3rd man position in the Sky commentary box and tell him to listen.

Athers was chuntering on about the foibles of the ICC early doors. He wasn't so much not saying anything but taking his time when Shane butted in…

"So what you're saying Athers is that they haven't got a clue what they're doing?"

For different reasons, this pair remain my favourite two cricketers. Warne for the obvious and Athers because of his sheer bloody mindedness in the face of adversity. Allan Donald and Glenn McGrath cherished his wicket more than any other in the 90s, and that'll do for me.

If I'm honest, I expected to see an Athers-like backs-to-the-wall effort from the English batsmen. What I did not expect to see was that. And I'm not talking about the monstrous Warne/McDonalds advert that loomed over Ricky Ponting. With every cut, drive and sweep from Strauss and Cook, Ponting's face got more like a meat pie that has just been sat on by David Boon and Warne's huge, smiling head glowed from behind a packet of McBites. And only Warne, by the way, would be so proud, actually proud, that he is sponsored by McDonald's. If you weren't aware, Shane Warne only eats cheese toasties, burgers and Hawaiian Pizza. Last week he told Elizabeth Hurley, via Twitter, that her son would love the  Legend Chicken Burger which he 'designed'. He’s actively trying to push ‘Maccas’, as he calls it, from the other side of the world. Imagine what he could do with a pistol and a kilo of uncut marching powder. In fact, just watch Underbelly

"What's that Belly? You don't fancy it? I've just had cancer pulled out of my head, get fucking on with it."

This is new territory for the current England team. They have shown a lot of admirable qualities since the Pietersen and Moores cluster-fuck, but this was the best yet. Strauss, not one for soaring Churchillian rhetoric, obviously decided that the need to bat all day wasn't going to be at the expense of poking his fingers into the eye of all the Australian bowlers and Cook's technique, so long resembling that of the one, faulty wheeble that leans only to the left, was spot on. Head in line, bat in line, have some of that.

I like dogs, love them in fact, but I would prefer to sit in the front row for the ritual slaughter of 101 Dalmatians than watch Shane Watson bowl. His run-up reminds me of a roid-addled surfer loping back across the beach, shaking his hair and flexing his chest before throwing his gloves gently onto a towel.

Credit for England's dominance has to start with Andy Flower. To be the best batsman in the world while playing for Zimbabwe is one thing, to have a cancerous melanoma cut out of your cheek and then return to the dressing room the next day is another entirely. Who needs speeches after that? "What's that Belly? You don't fancy it? I've just had cancer pulled out of my head, get fucking on with it."

Someone else who clearly doesn't fancy it is Mitchell Johnson. More enema than enigma at present, he's been reduced to the role of fourth seamer and, to borrow a phrase from the late, great, Freddie Trueman, 'couldn't bowl a hoop down a hill.' And, after a bit of a tweet off with a few of you last night, it was decided that he looks like the spiv from Dad's Army, who in turn looks like the pisshead that the Fat Slags from Viz used to end up with. So he's a thief who fucks fat birds. Allegedly.

I feel quite relaxed about it all this morning and this is when Test cricket is at its most dangerous. Anything can still happen, two quick wickets and it’s game on again rather than a stonewall draw. What I’d love to see is England go mental for a session and a half tomorrow, preferably with KP at the crease, pile up a lead of about 350-400 and then have a pop at the Aussies in the evening. That or bat all day, destroy the confidence of their attack and watch Ricky Ponting’s head start spinning around as Warne gurns a toothy chicken grin at him from above.

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