Shane Warne's long cherished dream of rattling an Indian batting line-up was realised in the Adelaide test on Sunday, the third day of the match. The leg-spinner consumed the cream of the Indian batting and Australia after taking a first innings lead of 156 runs, finished the day at 71 for two. Warne, one of the game's greatest spinners, had never done anything extraordinary against India.
When he came to India in early 1998 he did take four wickets in the first test in Chepauk. But India won the match eventually. Moreover during that three-test series, Warne was also suffering from a swollen shoulder and just could not exhibit his wares. So Warne has been nurturing an ambition to excel against India. The cricket world believes that Indians are the best players of spin bowling. Warne believes it too. Hence the ambition.
Now, in the Adelaide test, the first of the three-test series, Warne dismissed India's three top class players - Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly - to pave a smooth path for his team. He got one more wicket - MSK Prasad in this innings. Warne had gotten rid of Rahul Dravid on Saturday itself. On Sunday, it was he who came to Australia's rescue when the fifth wicket pair of Tendulkar and Ganguly was going great guns.
Tendulkar and Ganguly treated the holiday crowd to a grand batting exhibition. The supple wrist that effected the magical flicks to the on-side and the lilting foot-work that produced delectable off-side strokes thrilled the audience as never before. The famous (or is it notorious) Warne-Tendulkar battle was becoming intense and the little Indian master seemed well set to collect the spoils for this Sunday.
But then, Warne caught Tendulkar on the defensive and won a "bat-pad" catch verdict. The TV replays would not have satisfied many a student of the game. Tendulkar made 61 and added 108 runs for the fifth wicket with Ganguly. India was on 223 for five at lunch. Warne struck twice soon after the interval. First he lured Ganguly with a beauty and then bemused MSK Prasad with a leg-break that hit the stumps around the batsman's leg.
Ganguly danced down the crease to deal with one from Warne. The wily bowler changed the pace and flight of the ball. The ball pitched in front of Ganguly and turned the other way. Wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist effected a lightning stumping. Ganguly left at 229 and MSK Prasad at 240. Agarkar (19), Srinath (11) and Kumble (17 not out) delayed the end thorugh some brief but gritty knocks. Warne (4), Fleming (3)and McGrath (2) were the wicket takers. Interestingly enough Australia too fielded only four bowlers in this match. The other bowler Kasprowicz failed to take any wicket. But then, the Australian attack's amazing skill to apply sustained pressure made all the difference to the first innings.