The young leg-spinner took the ball midway through day two of the New Year’s Test at the famous Sydney Cricket Ground.
He handed his cap to the umpire and marked out his run, his heart beating twice as fast, as he prepared to deliver his maiden ball in Test cricket.
Waiting patiently down the other end was a well-set batsman ready to pounce on anything short or over-pitched. In the field one slip and a short leg, plus some scouts on the boundary.
The bowler ran in, dragged it down short and the batsman easily rocked back and pulled the ball to deep midwicket. A single and the Test career of a young leg spinner had begun.
The above is describing not 20-year-old English leggie Mason Crane who bowled his first ball in Test cricket on Friday in the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney. It’s actually describing then 22-year-old Shane Warne, the greatest leg-spinner in history, who made his Test debut almost 26 years to the day in the same city.
The debut of a leg-spinner in Test cricket is something to be celebrated as leg spin bowling is without doubt the most difficult of all bowling arts.
There are two key questions with a leg spinner: 1. Can they spin it? 2. Can they control it?
A few can answer the first question positively but very few can answer the second in the affirmative.
Hence it so rarely happens that a leggie reaches Test standard and of those who are lucky enough to make their debut, very few are able to forge a lasting career at Test level, especially English leg-spinners.
In the last fifty years England have only picked five leg-spinners – Robin Hobbs, Ian Salisbury, Chris Schofield, Scott Borthwick and the unlucky Adil Rashid.
Of those only Salisbury reached the 15 Test mark and Rashid’s 38 wickets were the most taken.
Warne’s debut was one to forget – 45 overs, seven maidens, one wicket for 150.
But the legendary Australian’s one wicket was one to savour – man of the match Ravi Shastri – who on 206 went for one too many lofted cover drives and skied one to Dean Jones at deep cover.
And here’s the rub – although Warne was carted in that first Test – he stuck to his guns, kept tossing the ball up and eventually got his man. He would go on to take 707 more wickets in a career that lasted a decade and a half.
Crane ended his first day with 17 overs, no maidens, no wickets for 58 and he’s already talked about hoping for better figures in his first Test than Warne.
But to do that Crane must also stick to his guns.
Already, as Warne himself pointed out in commentary, Crane was tightening up, burying the ball in the palm of his hand reducing spin and drift.
The perfect leg-spin delivery floats out of the back of the hand, drifts in towards a right hand batsman, then bites off the pitch spinning back across the batsman to take the edge or the off stump – as was so perfectly displayed in Warne’s ball of the century which accounted for Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993.
But as Crane conceded some boundaries he began to flatten his delivery arc, resulting in zero drift and precious little spin.
It might have meant less runs but it also meant less chance of a wicket.
So if Crane is to follow Warne’s path and play 50, 100 – or even 20 Tests – then he needs to keep following the advice of his coach, former Aussie leggie, Stuart MacGill, and toss it up. MacGill was never one to bowl safely.
Yes the roof of young Crane’s mouth may end up getting sunburnt as he looks skywards to watch sixes disappear into the crowd, especially with Mitch Marsh soon to bat, but with this Australian batting line-up, on this wicket, in the end Crane will get wickets – and not just one. Maybe two, three, four, even five.
And for Crane, the great Hampshire hope, at the start of his test career – two for 200 is much better than none for 90. Just ask Shane Warne.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar took four wickets including three in his first three overs as India’s bowlers gained the ascendancy on the first day of the first Test against South Africa at Newlands on Friday.
South Africa were struggling at 230 for seven at tea despite half-centuries from AB de Villiers and captain Faf du Plessis. Kumar had figures of four for 68.
Du Plessis said batting first on a well-grassed pitch was a tricky decision and a disastrous start must have reinforced his misgivings.
Kumar gained appreciable movement off a well-grassed pitch to plunge the South African innings into disarray at 12 for three.
After some spirited batting by South Africa, Kumar took another wicket shortly before tea to put the world’s top-ranked Test team in a strong position against their second-placed opponents.
De Villiers and Du Plessis put on 114 for the fourth wicket, with De Villiers in sparkling form as he hit 65 off 84 balls with 11 fours.
He showed intent from the start of his innings, hitting four fours off Kumar?s fifth over to launch a South African counter-attack.
De Villiers missed a drive against new cap Jasprit Bumrah and was bowled. Du Plessis went on to make 62 off 104 balls with 12 fours before he was caught behind off Hardik Pandya.
Quinton de Kock (43) and Vernon Philander (23) put on a rapid 60 for the sixth wicket before De Kock was caught behind by Kumar and Philander was bowled by Mohammed Shami.
Both the batsmen were the top retentions for their respective franchises when the announcements were made on Thursday.
David Warner was Sunrisers Hyderabad’s top-pick after leading the side to the title in 2016. The southpaw is the highest-scoring overseas player in the decade long competition with over 4,000 runs under his belt.
Smith was the only player to be retained by the Rajasthan Royals who return to the fray after serving their two-year suspension. He had plied his trade for the Rising Pune Super Giants during their absence.
Both the Aussies are now set to pocket a handsome $2.4million each courtesy of being the top retentions for their teams. This is twice the salary they had received in the previous edition as is now more than what they earn through their central contracts with Cricket Australia.
Smith and Warner are currently on $2m and $1.4m base retainers respectively for their national team. The due now become the highest paid Aussies in the history of the competition.
With the retained players now announced, all eyes will now be on the IPL auction set to take place on the January 27 and 28 where the rest of the lineups for the 10 franchises will be completed.
The likes of England star Ben Stokes, Glenn Maxwell, Chris Gayle and Colin Munro will all be among the attractions in the auctions.