CAPE TOWN - Shane Warne's vast test experience has been well utilised by the Australian squad in the lead-up to the series-deciding third test against South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday. Captain Michael Clarke says the veteran of 145 test matches and arguably the greatest leg-spinner of all time has played a leading role in mentoring the team in his role as a consultant.
Clarke believes Warne's cricketing brain and infectious personality will help lift the squad after the demoralising 231-run loss in the second test in Port Elizabeth last Sunday. "It's been fantastic having him around and great for me personally," Clarke told reporters on Friday. "I have a wonderful relationship with Warney and it's always nice to have him around, especially for those players that have not spent a lot of time with him, they have had their eyes opened.
"The spinners really enjoyed the work he did with them yesterday (Thursday). He will do whatever it takes to get the players to bring the best out of themselves. I have said for a long time he is probably the best captain I have played under and his knowledge is like no other, He played 145 test matches and knows the game very well."
Clarke admits he is at a loss to explain why his bowlers failed to get the same reverse-swing as South Africa in the second test and expects it to be a factor again in Cape Town. After claiming a 281-run win in the first test, Australia were on track for success in the second before paceman Dale Steyn took advantage of the conditions to fire his side to victory.
"Our bowlers have been very good at getting the ball to reverse, that did not happen last time. The wicket looks quite dry so that means there should be reverse-swing again." Although his position in the side is not under threat, Clarke said the fact he has not scored more than 25 in his last 11 test innings is weighing heavily on him. "Any time I am not leading from the front it is disappointing for me. My first job in the team is to score runs. It's the Australian way, you are first picked on form and then made captain later."
Clarke had earlier in the week suggested the third test would be one of the most important of his career, not least given the fact that Australia's recent form away from home has been poor. They have not won an overseas test series since beating the West Indies in April 2012. "It's a really important test match, a special one for us. We achieved what we wanted in Australia through the summer, but we have not had success away for a long time.
"Even sitting where we are with level series going into the final game against the number one test team in the world is a fantastic achievement for this group.
But having said that, we did not come here to lose. To win the series would be a great way to finish the summer and we will leave nothing in the tank."