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HE HAD THE LEG BREAK FROM HEAVEN

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KEN PIESSE’s tribute to Shane Warne:

A teenage Shane Warne was making his debut with the Victorian second XI at Melbourne’s Albert Ground. Lunch was called and instead of walking off with his teammates, he agreed to my request to have his photograph taken close up by our Sunday Press photographer.

He bowled two or three deliveries to me standing at the Fitzroy St. end. They dipped, curled and hummed at me and scuttled into my hands, leaving immediate large red intonations.

Even then he had the leg-break from heaven.

David Hookes once asked Warnie at a pre-season session how many days, or weeks, it took for him to feel like he was back in full flow and total control ‘About 20, maybe 21 balls,’ said Shane. He was a genius.

Warnie remains cricket’s ultimate matchwinner, responsible for more Australian Test wins than ever Don Bradman. By his own admission, he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed but boy, could he bowl.

I wrote three books about Warnie and he contributed forewords to two books of mine, one the life story of his coach Terry Jenner, who spent time in the Big House.

Like Shane, Terry was super sensitive and wanting to be liked at every turn.

They were introduced – Jenner out of jail on parole – and Terry immediately warmed to Shane’s firm handshake and warm, genuine smile.

‘Show me what you’ve got son,’ Jenner said as they trudged down to a side net at the Adelaide No 2.

Without any warm up, Warnie produced one of his signature leg breaks which spun a foot and bit into Jenner’s hands. ‘Gees @#$% Christ,’ said Jenner to himself.

Throwing the ball back to Warnie, he said: ‘Must have hit a stone son, bowl another.’

He did and the second one spun even further.

‘That’s enough for today, son,’ he said.

He was to become his long-time coach and mentor, refining a flipper first taught to him by Jack Potter at the Cricket Academy.

One of Jenner’s proudest moments was witnessing the Warne flipper which castled  the champion West Indian Richie Richardson and helped Australia win the Melbourne Test match of 1992-93.

When first shown the flipper by Potter, Warne couldn’t initially control it. ‘The square leg umpire would have been in danger, so wide did Warnie bowl it,’ said Potter. ‘Yet within a week, having practiced incessantly with a tennis ball down the corridor,  he had mastered it. It was extraordinary.’

The Richardson dismissal, which won a Test match, was the precursor to ‘that’ ball, the delicious leg break which zipped almost a right angles to defeat Mike Gatting in the opening Test of the 1993 Ashes at Old Trafford.

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Warnie was to take 700+ Test wickets. ‘And they were pure wickets too,’ said Jenner, reigniting the debate to the validity of his rival, the bent-armed Sri Lankan spinner Muthiah Muralidaran.

Off the field Warnie’s life was a soap opera, a script writer’s dream – so many twists and turns.  Rest in peace Shane.

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Author: Ken Piesse

KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. He has written, edited and published more than 70 sports books. His latest book, Favourite Cricket Yarns, is available from www.cricketbooks.com.au

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