Manchester pitch expected to be dry and turning for all-important clash.
Shane Warne was in typically bullish mood after advising Australia’s spinners ahead of a make or break Ashes Test against England at Old Trafford – where the leg-spin legend delivered the ‘ball of the century’ 20 years ago.
Warne, at the request of Australia coach Darren Lehmann, spoke to 19-year-old left-armer Ashton Agar and off-spinner Nathan Lyon, as well as captain Michael Clarke, ahead of a match Australia, 2-0 down in the five-match series, must win to keep their Ashes hopes alive.
Agar went wicketless on a helpful pitch during Australia’s crushing 347-run defeat by England in the second Test at Lord’s.
Meanwhile Lyon, having seemingly established himself as Australia’s premier spinner, has yet to play in this Ashes after being left out for the first two Tests in favour of the teenager.
Both sides could yet field two spinners at Old Trafford, with England adding left-armer Monty Panesar to a squad already containing off-spinner Graeme Swann, as the Manchester ground has a reputation for taking turn.
After bowling at Clarke, the 43-year-old Warne, who retired in 2007 with a then world-record 708 Test wickets, insisted an Australia side who have lost their last six Tests (they were beaten 4-0 in India) could upset the odds and regain the Ashes.
“I think they can (win the series),” Warne, in England as a television commentator, said. “I think they will go into this Test match like they think they can too.
“I think Australia have a good chance and if it is 2-1 going to Durham, where anything can happen up there, they’re back in the series.
“If everyone thinks they have no chance then they have every chance. Hopefully you guys (the British media) keep laughing and keep thinking Australia have no chance because then they might win.”
Clarke, a world-class batsman and a renowned player of spin, has been nowhere near his best form of late, with Australia still looking for their first individual century of the series.
“I was just bowling and talking to him about the way he was batting against the spinners,” Warne said of Clarke.
“He’s one of the best players in the world; if not the best player of spin in the world. I don’t think I could teach him anything about playing spin.
“It was more or less reassuring him and telling him he looks good.”
Another Australia great, Glenn McGrath, spoke to the side before their defeat at Lord’s and Warne said he was happy to help.
“As an ex-Australia cricketer all of us want to see the Australian team do well. We all support them and if we are asked to come and help we will.”
It was at Old Trafford in 1993 where Warne, making his Ashes debut, saw his first ball pitch outside leg-stump and then spin viciously across Mike Gatting to clip the top of the England batsman’s off-bail.
The delivery was soon labelled ‘the ball of the century’.
“When you see it in a compilation of sporting moments, that is pretty cool and it makes me feel humble and think how lucky I was to be there and how lucky it was to happen,” Warne said.