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26 Sep 2006 11:38
Shane Warne believes that Australia’s defeat in England last year has proved the ideal catalyst for coach John Buchanan’s ageing side ahead of the latest edition of the Ashes.
Warne returns to his Melbourne home this week after a season in English county cricket as captain of Hampshire, and will build up to November’s first Test in Brisbane by playing for Victoria in Australian first-class cricket.
But the legendary leg-spinner, 37 earlier this month, admits he can hardly wait until then to face Andrew Flintoff’s youthful England team.
“Ever since we lost the Ashes we have all been looking to improve our games and to win them back,” Warne said.
“Some of us are not getting any younger and this may be the last chance to get them back in our playing time,” added Warne, one of 16 active Australia internationals on the “wrong” side of 30.
Warne, Test cricket’s most successful bowler with a current tally of 685 wickets, admitted: “I think losing the Ashes had the desired effect. We won back-to-back series against South Africa and winning 3-0 in South Africa was a great achievement.
“I am really looking forward to the [southern] summer.
There should be some great cricket.
“I know England have had some injury problems with Flintoff, Ashley Giles and Steve Harmison but there are six weeks to the first Test and I am sure they will be fit for that.”
Warne reckons that not being involved in next month’s ICC Champions Trophy or the 2007 World Cup, having retired from limited overs cricket, will help him now that he has reached the veteran stage.
“I will play three or four games for Victoria early on and then again after the last Test in Sydney so I will be ticking over.”
Warne plans to return to Hampshire for the 2007 season, the final year of his contract, and to bring an Australian teammate with him as the other permitted overseas player.
“I have spoken to Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Simon Katich, who have all played for Hampshire, before and they all want to come back if they can.
“I will speak to them again over the summer and see what can be done.
Under Warne’s captaincy, twice interrupted by visits home, including one for Buchanan’s controversial Test squad “boot camp”, southern side Hampshire finished third in the county championship and were promoted to the first division of the limited overs Pro40 competition.
“My plans are to go back in 2007. I thoroughly enjoy playing for Hampshire. We have a lot of young players and I like to think I have helped them and done what I can for the club,” Warne explained.
“I treat the players as adults and as professionals in the way I like being treated myself. Everyone knows where they stand with me and I am proud of the way we have performed.”
Warne was no stranger to controversy in England this year, with more than one row with Hampshire’s neighbours and eventual champions Sussex, and most recently fell out with Mark Chilton, the captain of runners-up Lancashire.
The Hampshire skipper threatened to forfeit their final championship match of the season at the Rose Bowl at tea on Saturday’s last day, alternatively bowling off a 20-yard run up or lofting the ball skywards from the crease when Chilton, whose side were already assured of second place, refused to declare.
But Warne said: “I don’t want to talk about that any more. It was all a bit unnecessary, but that is it.”
Warne led Australia’s bowling averages during the 2005 Ashes with 40 wickets at an average of under 20 apiece.
But his impressive haul was not enough to prevent England taking the series 2-1 as they beat Australia in a Test campaign for the first time in 19 years.—Sapa-AFP
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