Johannesburg: Australia's champion spinner Shane Warne wants South Africa to reach the World Cup final - so that it makes it easier for his team to retain the title. "I don't think it is psychological warfare or anything like that," the blond leggie told South Africa's 'Sunday Times' newspaper. "But every time we play South Africa in a big game, we beat them...the close games we've played against them, they've never won.
"If we had to play South Africa in the final, that would be fantastic." Warne, who says he is jeered by fans every time he takes the field in South Africa, says he was delighted the World Cup was being played here. "I love it, the more they boo me, the more they heckle me, the more I want to nail them," he said. Warne, rated the greatest leg spinner of all time, appears to reserve his best for South Africa - even more than against old foe England.
He rates his best One-day delivery as the one that bowled Herschelle Gibbs with one that turned more than a foot from outside the leg-stump to hit the off during the 1999 World Cup semi-final. It was similar to the 'ball of the century' that bowled Mike Gatting in an earlier Ashes Test in 1993. Also, three of the five batsmen he has dismissed most in One-day cricket are South Africans. Leading the pack is old bunny Daryll Cullinan who has fallen to Warne eight times. The late Hansie Cronje was removed seven times and Jonty Rhodes six - the same number as Inzamam-ul-Haq of Pakistan and Craig McMillan of New Zealand.
Warne also has a lot of praise for South African cricketers. He rates Jacques Kallis as the world's best all-rounder, says the South Africans match Australia in aggression and reckons Brian McMillan is the best sledger he has every heard. Warne, who will quit One-day cricket after the World Cup, still hopes South African fans will give him a rousing farewell. "Hopefully they will be a bit more thoughtful and a bit nicer to me," he says. "Wherever my last game is - hopefully the final - they will clap and not heckle me."