Warne bowling better than at any time in his career

Published: Monday, April 11, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Southampton:Shane Warne arrived in England for the start of the new County season with Hampshire convinced he is bowling better than at any time in his career at the age of 35.

Warne leads Hampshire in the first division of the County championship after helping them to promotion last season before joining Australia's Ashes squad in July.

Warne has taken more than 150 first class wickets since his year's exile for taking a banned drug ended and, with his 36th birthday in September, is eager to make the most of his second chance.

"The best I ever bowled was in 1993 and 1998 before my operations but in the last three or four years I have been bowling with a far greater variety of deliveries," he said.

"Sometimes I even outsmart myself but if you look at my statistics the last 30 Tests have been the most successful of my career.

"I got 26 wickets in Sri Lanka and another 13 or 14 in India where I normally get smashed around and I am on a bit of a roll at the moment.

"Either the opposition is getting worse or I am getting better. I leave you to decide."

Warne should play 11 first class matches for Hampshire before linking with the Australians for what he concedes will be something of a last stand for the dominant old guard.

"This is the most anticipated Ashes series since I started playing in them and this is my fourth.

"In four years time when Australia next come to England there will only be three or four of the present players in the side. This is definitely my last series because I will be pushing 40 next time around.

"But at the moment we are still number one and that is because we have three or four players who would be outstanding in any era. Put them in the same team and you have a formidable side.

"The pressure is on England. Everyone expects them to compete or to have a good Ashes and there are those who say they can win. I am sure England are up for the battle and we are looking forward to the competition.

"The game needs a good series. Over the years the opposition to us has got weaker but that is probably because we do not allow them to play."

Warne's huge array of deliveries are stored away but the great spinner admitted there was no new weapon for England to worry about.

"I know people would like me to say I'm keeping a new variation up my sleeve for the Ashes but there is nothing at the moment."

Warne's arrival in England and a new home on Southampton's seafront coincided with the conclusion of the US Masters golf which he watched with England new discovery Kevin Pietersen.

Pietersen, a South African-born new signing from Nottinghamshire, will be a Hampshire teammate and possible Ashes opponent.

Warne is looking forward to the challenge of getting the best out of Pietersen at Hampshire and dismissing him as cheaply as possible in the Tests.

"Kevin has been on the phone regularly over the last six months since we signed him and I have just spent the weekend with him.

"He is a wonderful player with a good head on his shoulders and is an exciting cricketer. I think he is a great signing for the club.

"I played against him last season when he was at Nottinghamshire and after he got 40 or 50 in the first innings, I got him out second ball in the second. So it's one-one.

"Overall I think it is going to be a great season and I am really looking forward to it all. There is going to be some exciting cricket and I am pleased to be part of it."

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