As the South African spinners geared up to counter a formidable Indian line-up, they had a pleasant surprise awaiting them at the net session when legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne came over to hand them tips ahead of the second semi-final of the ICC World Twenty20 on Friday.
“We were all surprised to find him at the nets. May be he was getting bored at the hotel and came over to have a bowl,” team’s senior batsman Hashim Amla would give nothing away.
Warne spent more than an hour at the Proteas nets offering his expertise to help the likes of Imran Tahir get their act right against the in-form Indian top-order comprising Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh.
The team’s media manager Lerato Malekutu said Warne’s visit was a surprise for the team. “We were all surprised to see him out here. He bowled six, seven balls. May be he was getting bored in his hotel room,” she said.
It was around quarter to 11 in the morning when Warne dropped in at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium and his first question was, “Mate, are the South Africans done with their batting and bowling?”
After being told that they were still doing their fielding drills, Warne retired to the VIP lounge of the stadium.
Once the net started, he stood behind the stumps watching the spinners with minute attention. He was seen speaking to Tahir especially but he also watched JP Duminy bowl his off-breaks and left-arm slow bowler Aaron Phangiso roll his arm over.
He had a long chat with his old mate and rival Allan Donald, who is the South African bowling coach.
There are rumours that Warne might have dropped in to guide Tahir on Donald’s insistence.
Later, Warne bowled a few deliveries to Quinton de Kock at the far nets. He flighted them and although De Kock was not troubled, he could not also get them away for big hits.
Twice he gave Warne the charge but checked his shot at the last moment to play copybook forward defensive strokes. By the time, he finished, the local media had arrived and Warne evaded any queries as to what he was doing and had to use his body feint to dodge one of the cameraman, who was taking his shots from the front.
“Hello”, Warne said and made sure that the cameraman knew that he was not amused.
Suddenly, the South African practice had become incidental. Amla did answer a few queries from a handful of scribes who were present.
“The preparation has been good. Obviously, we had some time before the semi-finals and got some time to rest after back to back games. It’s a good opportunity for us. We have played some good cricket, won some close games and that is as hard as our team has ever been,” Amla said of their performance so far.
He said the South African team is not worried about facing an in-form Team India in the semi-final.
“No, I think whatever you get drawn in, it’s out of your hand.”
“My game depends on what team needs at a particular time. The game has to be set up. Our job (partner Quinton de Kock) is to play positively upfront and give the team a good start. Some days it works, some days, it does not. But I am enjoying my role in T20’s. I am enjoying this period and the experience.
“I think it’s all about assessing situations of the game and playing according to it. It’s not only about scoring quicker upfront but you have to see what your partner is doing,” said South Africa’s most prolific batsman in longer version.
Amla was all praise for his opening partner De Kock, who he hoped would go big against the Indian team in the semifinal.
“Quiney (nickname) is a fearless cricketer and is working very hard to put in a big performance,” Amla said. But by the end of the training session, the limelight was stolen by someone who had taken 1001 international wickets in his 15-year career!