48 Hours: Australia's biggest embarrassment is doing it once again

By Richard Boock

You get the feeling that if Shane Warne hadn't been able to prove himself as the world's greatest cricketer, he certainly would have confirmed himself as the world's dumbest.

Hardly a week goes by when Australia's biggest embarrassment doesn't find himself in the news for all the wrong reasons and it will come as no surprise to learn that the past 48 hours have been no different.

The only slight novelty this time is that Warne has managed to make a horse's rear-end of himself without the help of any semi-naked women, bondage equipment or latex thongs.

His latest circus act came during the final round of the English County Championship on Saturday when he vented his spleen at Lancashire for not declaring their second innings closed in the interests of creating an exciting finish.

The Hampshire import was so incensed that he began bowling donkey-drops and other apparently ridiculous deliveries; at one point sending down a stream of bouncers and being no-balled for throwing.

Lancashire by that stage had no chance of snatching the title from eventual champions Sussex and had cemented their runners-up position earlier in the game when Warne's side failed to claim enough bonus points.

They finished third.

"It got to the stage where they [Lancashire] were 430 ahead with 60 overs left and still didn't declare," Warne said afterwards. "It was ridiculous. I started throwing some lob-ups to see if they wanted any more runs but that didn't work."

His explanation might have gained some sympathy but for the fact he combusted in a similar fashion at the end of the previous championship season, on that occasion for the complete opposite reason.

This time last year the Adjudicator of All Things Right was emptying his (admittedly limited) vocabulary on Kent skipper David Fulton for daring to enter into an agreement with Nottinghamshire captain Stephen Fleming.

The upshot was that Notts received by far the better of the deal and won the match and the title, to the extreme annoyance of Warne, whose Hampshire side was left marooned in second place.

"I think that is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen," Warne said at the time. "I thought Fulton actually understood the game, but he must dislike us totally to go and hand someone the championship like that.

"It came from a guy who is meant to know a little bit about the game. He showed everyone that it is just bravado, because he has absolutely no idea what is going on."

Is Warne for real or is he just the invention of a couple of mad scientists, presumably a pair that fitted their project with the combined DNA of Clarrie Grimmett and Barney Rubble?

This is a person who doesn't know the meaning of lying low for a while and letting the bullets fly overhead.

Wasn't it enough last week when he very deliberately attempted to trample over the reputation of Australian coach John Buchanan, the bloke who questioned his weight and fitness during the 2001 tour of India?

Wasn't it enough when (still smarting over being forced to attend a boot-camp in Australia) he accused the Australian boss of lacking common sense, of over-complicating issues and of being irrelevant to the team?

Warne reportedly told Buchanan that he "wanted to go home", that he "hated his guts", and that he was a "dickhead", remarks that have fuelled suggestions that Australia could be a divided team when the Ashes re-match rolls around.

The latest controversy only confirms what we've probably always suspected about Warne, although the frequency and scale of his gaffes are still managing to raise eyebrows all around the world.

He is a walking, talking example of what the late, great West Indian author C.L.R. James meant when he wrote - many decades ago - "what do they know of cricket, who only cricket know".


High Point

Manchester United's Christiano Ronaldo, for his fabulous running strike against Reading in the second half of yesterday morning's premiership match, a goal that salvaged his side a 1-1 draw.

Low Point

Manchester United's Christiano Ronaldo, for his self-serving, blinkered arrogance; for his reluctance to pass without first employing at least three step-overs, and for his inability to stay on his feet when confronted by a slight breeze.

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