Warne works his magic
For all that cricket is consumed by statistics, they can be awfully misleading.
Shane Warne took just one wicket and conceded 100 runs on the fourth day of the third Ashes Test in Perth, but his impact could not be measured in mere numbers.
On a day that saw Ian Bell continue his flowering as a batsman of the highest class, Alastair Cook make a maiden Ashes hundred and Glenn McGrath produce one of the best overs in Ashes history, one could not look beyond Warne as the leading character.
Whether it be sending down dipping, fizzing leg-breaks, dishing out verbals to the England batsmen, pleading with the umpire, tinkering with the field or yelling encouragement to team-mates, Warne was never far from the action.
One hesitates to use the word ‘histrionics’ - even the most outlandish of appeals somehow seem plausible when delivered by Warne - but there was no question that he was wearing his performer’s hat today.
Turn down the volume and he could almost be a character in a silent movie: all exaggerated mannerisms and facial expressions of which even the most skilled of actors would be proud.
He ran through his full repertoire through the course of 31 overs, 24 of which came in one marathon spell split only by the lunch interval.
There were pursed lips aplenty, countless gasps of exasperation and more than the occasional glance to the heavens as Warne strove to puncture England’s resilience.
It is all part of the show, of course, another valuable weapon in his vast bowling armoury and one of the many reasons why he is loved the world over.
He tried leg-spinners, sliders, zooters, top-spinners and googlies. He went over the wicket and round. He tossed the ball up and pushed it through. But Ian Bell and Alastair Cook could not be separated until more than halfway through the day.
Face plastered with sun block and hair billowing wildly in the wind, Warne resembled a mad professor as he pondered how to solve the mystery of the two troublesome Englishman.
It was not only the batsmen who had to stand firm in the face of Warne’s pressure: when he did not get his way he turned on the officials, and a weaker-willed umpire than Rudi Koertzen would surely have upheld at least one of his increasingly aggressive appeals.
One scream went on so long that Warne needed to draw a second breath, and he was so disgusted Kevin Pietersen was, correctly, not given caught behind in the penultimate over of the day that he even shouted at Koertzen, stomping off in the manner of a child banished to his bedroom.
Warne, by that time, had taken his solitary wicket for the day, breaking a 170-run partnership between Cook and Bell that spanned 56 overs when he had the latter beaten in the flight and caught at short extra cover.
As well as Bell played Warne in making a fine 87, to expect arguably the greatest bowler the game has seen to go wicketless on a wearing pitch with the prospect of the Ashes being won was perhaps beyond the realms of possibility.
It is a measure of the man that even when Australia enjoyed one of their most frustrating days of the series - at least until McGrath struck twice in three balls moments late on - Warne still made his mark, whatever the scorecard says.