You cannot teach an old dog new tricks! Shane Warne knows only one way to bowl, attack, attack and attack further. On Monday, more than a year after he had announced his retirement from international cricket, the man called 'Hollywood' by his teammates for his theatrics, and 'agent provocateur' by others for his shenanigans, turned back the clock in virtuoso style to inspire Rajasthan to a six-wicket win over Punjab.
His namesake, Shane Watson, was his perfect partner in success as he played a brilliant innings of stand-up brilliance and chisel-jawed impudence to score an unbeaten 76 off a mere 49 balls, with five fours and five clean sixes punctuating his innings. He was ably supported by Ravinder Jadeja, who scored a fluent unbeaten 36 as Rajasthan coasted to win with almost two overs to spare.
Earlier, in a format more suited for youth - and on a wicket tailor-made for bats - Warne beguiled and enchanted the capacity crowd at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, and produced a performance so faultless that it would be hard to emulate during the course of the tournament by a spinner.
In his stipulated four overs, he gave away a mere 19 runs and snared three crucial wickets of Yuvraj Singh, Kumar Sangakkara and James Hopes, an achievement as astounding as it was vital for Rajasthan.
Coming on to bowl at a time when Sangakkara was on the rampage, Warne immediately bowled a slider that the Sri Lankan hit straight back to him. From then on, he mixed his leg-spinners, googlies, flippers, and zooters with aplomb, as runs became rare gems off his bowling.
In fact, the Punjab bats looked as feckless as a cat on a hot tin roof as they were only able to steal a mere 11 runs from his first three overs, without even managing a boundary. If it had not been for a Darren Lehmann howler, who spooned a simple catch at extra cover, Warne would have also gotten Yuvraj for 15 during his first spell in which he claimed two.
He eventually did get his man when he came on to bowl later on - at a time when Yuvraj was going gung-ho and had raced to 57 off 34 deliveries. Yuvraj misjudged Warne's slider with the innocence of a club tailender and was caught plumb in front. It said a lot about Warne's tactical acuity and sense of responsibility when he took himself off after bowling three overs and brought himself on in the 17th over when the innings was in its pomp.