Any England supporter asked to refer to their side's darkest hour in the last few years will point to Adelaide 2006 when Shane Warne conjured up some magic to inspire a collapse to demoralise the losers to such an extent that the series ended up as a 5-0 whitewash. Ponting may have been captain in name on that day, but have no doubt it was Warne who bowled, cajoled and marshalled the Australians to victory.
Having watched some of Rajasthan's games this year, Warne the bowler looked a shadow of his former self and his shoulder appears to be close to completely falling out of its socket. That is hardly surprising as Warne is now a part-time cricketer and full-time poker player and underwear salesman with his Spinners brand. Indeed, like Mike Brearley before him it seemed that Warne was only in the side as a specialist captain. Until last night that is.
Defending 159, Warne looked in trouble as his fellow Australian and part-time cricketer Adam Gilchrist got the Deccan Chargers off to a lightning start. But Warne does not have a reputation as the best test captain Australia never had for nothing and he was not prepared for Rajasthan to lose their record of always successfully defending a score of 150 or more in the IPL.
Warne delayed his introduction until Deccan needed only 68 from 54 balls with seven Chargers still in the hutch and proceeded to roll back the years with a tremendous exhibition of legspin. First, he produced a slider to take Anirudh Singh's outside edge. Then knowing that he had to attack to have any chance of stealing a win, he put a slip and silly point in place and was rewarded with the wicket of the dangerous Dwayne Smith.
The Wizard of Oz was now in his element and despite Deccan needing only 23 off the last 18 balls with five wickets remaining, Warne applied more pressure in his final over (the 18th) by taking out Azhar Bilakhia and Ryan Harris to produce his best T20 bowling figures of four for 21. Deccan still looked strong favourites though with Rohit Sharma going well and when 13 were taken off the penultimate over from Morne Morkel to leave six required off the last six balls, Warne's heroics looked in vain.
But as so often in the past, Warne's magic rubbed off on others and with the pressure reaching boiling point Siddharth Trivedi proved his mettle whilst Sharma and Deccan disintegrated before everyone's eyes just like the English batsmen at Adelaide. Sharma took a single off the first ball and with Trivedi penalised for a bouncer with the next the equation was down to four off five. RP Singh then swished and missed before miscuing the next to Morkel at mid-on. Sharma then attempted a suicidal second to run out Harmeet Singh and then completed his woe slicing a lofted drive to Abhishek Raut.
Warne had done it again and no doubt he also made some extra cash into the bargain as the shattered Sharma and many of his team-mates will have probably required some new underwear judging by the way they choked.