Remembering Shane Warne and his landmark game against Scotland's cricketers
Australian leg spinner Warne’s death from a suspected heart attack on the Thai island of Koh Samui was announced on Friday and shocked the world of sport - and his bowling numbers will always stack up favourably against the best in men’s cricket.
Warne took 708 Test wickets, the second most of all time, in 145 matches between 1992 and 2007.
He also claimed 293 dismissals in 194 One Day Internationals between 1993 and 2005 - and three of those scalps came against Scotland 23 years ago.
It was a landmark game for Scotland, then skippered by Salmond, because it was their first ever official One Day International and it came in the opening group clash of the World Cup that May at Worcester’s New Road ground in England.
“I was shocked when I heard the news on Friday,” Salmond, now 52 and working at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh, said.
“Memories soon came flooding back about that World Cup game versus Australia, we were all excited to be playing against superstars like Glenn McGrath, the Waugh brothers [Mark and Steve], Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting, but Shane Warne was the name of all of our lips, he was a kind of rockstar of cricket and someone that transcended our sport even then.
“In cricket at every level you are told from a young age as a batter ‘play the ball and not the man’. That is usually fine with most bowlers, but that pretty much goes out the window up against Shane Warne because, well, it is Shane Warne - he is not just any old bowler!
“He was a genius when he had that ball in hand, he had us bamboozled and in a spin that day, but then many greater players than us also found themselves in the same situation thanks to Shane Warne.
“When I came into bat [at number five with Scotland 52-3 batting first] in the game I joined Mike Smith at the wicket and I had an easy start to life out there… Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were bowling!
“Early on I managed to negotiate two balls at the end of an over from Warne and then Mike had to deal with some real pace in the next over from the very quick and accurate McGrath.
“When we came together for a quick chat after that over, we just looked at each other and smirked because this bowling was at a different level than anything we had ever faced before.
“We said to each other ‘we may as well try and play some shots and take some chances here’ and it was just great as a batter to be able to test myself against such quality, at the time it might have been daunting, but now I look back on it with such great fondness.”
The Scots scored respectable 181-7 from their 50 overs against the best team in the world in that format at the time.
Warne, then 29-years-old, took the wickets of Mike Allingham, Gavin Hamilton and James Brinkley as the almost unplayable leg spinner recorded figures of 3-39 from his 10 overs.
The Scots had got up to 181 thanks to 34 from Hamilton, 31 from Salmond and 23 from James Brinkley.
Brinkley said: “It’s an honour to say that we were on the same field as the great man. The news on Friday was incredibly sad.
“In that game I came in at number seven in the batting order and while I dug in for a few runs, facing Warne as a middle order batter was very tricky, he was a magician and every ball he bowled was a different challenge.”
In the end Australia won by six wickets - Mark Waugh leading the way with 67 - and Warne was unstoppable throughout the tournament as they were crowned champions with him being joint leading wicket taker - alongside Geoff Allott of New Zealand - with 20.
“Shane Warne was a big, big name at that time, but I’ll never forget just how humble he and his team mates were after we played against them and they spent time talking to us at New Road and were genuinely interested about the growth of cricket in Scotland at the time,” Salmond recounts.
“We then saw them again at Buckingham Palace at a reception later in the tournament and we chatted away again.
“The really sad thing about Shane Warne’s passing is that he still had so much to offer the game of cricket.
“He had a great cricket brain and his analysis when he was commentating on the modern game was way above the level of some. He just knew the game inside out, was always wanting to help young players get better and thought outside the box.
“Sometimes you need straight talking and that is what he brought to things, but you goy the feeling that he was a very good coach and mentor who really connected with young players when he was given the chance.
“Indeed, it is likely that every leg spin bowler across the world over the last 25 or so years took up bowling that way because they wanted to be like Shane Warne.
“I count myself very lucky to have had the privilege of playing against a true legend.
“My sincere condolences to his family, friends, ex-team mates and all involved with cricket in Australia.”
And current Scotland leg spinner Chris Greaves tweeted: “I can’t believe this news about Shane Warne, the world has lost one of the greatest.”
It certainly has…
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