English reaction to Australian cricket great’s death

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He was the showman English cricket loved to berate, but Joe Root’s fond tribute demonstrates how much the old enemy really adored Shane Warne.

The news of the great Australian’s death on Friday left England shell-shocked, dominating the sporting headlines in a country where, like so many of his generation, England captain Root grew up being mesmerised by a unique talent.

Speaking from the West Indies where he’s leading England on tour, Root could have been speaking for the rest of the English game when he said the news had left all the players stunned.

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“It’s hit everyone quite hard if I’m being brutally honest,” he said.

“As a kid growing up he was a massive idol of mine and someone you wanted to emulate. 

“The way he could win a game on his own, his skill levels were incredible. I’d have been 14 when the 2005 Ashes was on, and in many ways that series was a massive influence on my career.”

That was one of the great series in cricket history which England won. Yet Warne’s magnificent efforts in defeat won him new-found admiration from the home fans, with whom he’d always loved the spiky banter.

After losing the series 2-1 at the Oval, Warne was given the ultimate and wholly unexpected honour of being serenaded with, “Wish you were English, we only wish you were English!” to the astonishment of his teammates.


It was very different to the grief home fans gave him after Warne swayed around with a ludicrous dance brandishing a stump on the Trent Bridge balcony after Australia had secured the 1997 Ashes.

Even then, somehow, he was easy to forgive.

“He was always a joy to be around, he gave so much energy to the sport,” said Root.

Andrew Strauss was one of those who knew how it felt to be embarrassed by Warne’s brilliance, having been bamboozled and bowled by him in that 2005 series in a similar manner to the way Mike Gatting fell to the ‘ball of the century’ 12 years earlier.

“He literally was the greatest showman,” Strauss told BBC Five Live.

“There were other great cricketers, who when you look at their record would potentially equal Shane’s or maybe even better them – but there was no greater star in cricket than Shane Warne.

“It is just so hard to believe he is not with us anymore. He was one of those characters who had so much vibrancy and energy about him, you never thought his time was anywhere near up.”

Gatting, victim of that ball at Old Trafford that catapulted Warne to stardom and the first of his 195 Ashes scalps, couldn’t believe the news either.

“He is the number one ever,” said Gatting.

“He had all the things a cricketer needed, a lot of self-confidence, a lot of ability, the discipline, passion and desire.

“But above all he had time to enjoy it. He had great fun playing cricket and resonated with a lot of youngsters. The inspirational leg-spin he bowled inspired many, many guys to take up leg-spin bowling.”

Michael Vaughan, captain of the victorious 2005 England team, offered the thought: “One thing is for sure. 

“Heaven will be a lively place now the King has arrived.”

Former England captain Michael Atherton hailed Warne as one of the all-time greats.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Atherton said: “Up until that first Ashes Test at Old Trafford in 1993 we had not seen much of him.

“He came under the radar, but not after he bowled Mike Gatting and then for the next 15 years he was the superstar of the game.

Shane Warne (Photo by Getty Images).

Shane Warne (Photo by Getty Images).

“He is the greatest leg spinner the game has seen. You are talking about a cricketer who stands tall with (Don) Bradman and (Garfield) Sobers and the absolute giants of the game.

“What a dreadful week for Australian cricket losing two giants like Rod Marsh and Shane Warne.”

Warn spent a lot of time in England as a player and media personality. Nick Hoult, who ghosted a UK newspaper column with Warne gave this insight into the Australian.

“When Shane Warne picked up the phone for one of his columns for Telegraph Sport he always made you feel that at that point there was no other person in the world he would rather speak to,” Hoult wrote.

“Ah, G’day Houlty,” he would say, then every couple of minutes he would take a drag on a cigarette then resume talking cricket. “How many words do the office want?” Whatever you said to Warne, he would always give you three times more than you needed.

“He would then assiduously read his copy, make small changes and tweaks as if he were working out a batsman at the other end.

“But always, like Sir Geoffrey Boycott, he would take responsibility for his copy and never blame the ghost if it attracted criticism. “It’s my name on it mate, don’t worry.” He would also always want to be reassured his copy was good. ”Did the office like it?” he would ask; endearing that one of game’s greatest always wanted to please.”

“There really was only one Shane Warne. And that was the case from the moment he announced himself with that ball, the delivery to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993 that made the international cricketing world stand up and take notice,” he wrote

“It was the very first ball this peroxide blonde larrikin who did not exactly look like a modern Test cricketer, not even in the less professional era of the 1990s, had delivered in a Test in England. And it was the first of many, many times he tormented an England batter.

“The cricketing public, in the main, loved him for that. They loved his style. They loved his bravado and his aura. And, interestingly, he was loved just as much outside Australia as in a homeland that could be a little prudish about his many indiscretions.

“Above all, they loved the bowler, even English audiences who could treat him as a bit of a pantomime villain but always respected the opponent he was, one that, with the other members of that great Australian side, dominated England time and again.”

Widen editor Lawrence Booth added: “He did more, though, than help turn Australia into one of the great Test teams. By breathing fresh life into a dying art, he did all of cricket a favour.

“West Indies had spent the previous decade terrorising batsmen with pace, and others had tried to follow suit. Machismo was in the air. Now Warne – along with Muralitharan and India’s Anil Kumble – ushered in a golden age of slow bowling. It was gentler, but in its own way just as lethal.

“Leg-spin is the hardest of all cricket’s skills, yet the simplicity of Warne’s routine appeared to invite imitation, and youngsters everywhere tried to copy him.”

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