Warne first became a fan of Pietersen’s when the two faced off playing county cricket, with the leg-spinner quick to lure the right-hander to his own club. “I’d played against KP in 2004, Hampshire vs Notts, and at the end of that season I remember Ian Botham who I think was looking after KP at that stage, rung me and said that KP wanted to come and play under my captaincy at Hampshire,” Warne said on a Sky Sports Watchalong of the Edgbaston Test in the 2005 Ashes.
“I remember having a lunch with [Hampshire director of cricket] Tim Tremlett and [Hampshire chairman] Rod Bransgrove with KP and we saw what a talent he was [and we said] ‘Come and play with us at Hampshire before this Ashes series’.”
Having seen him in action close up, Warne vocally supported Pietersen’s case for an England Test call.
“I was one of KP’s leading voices. I said England would be silly not to pick KP, watching him bat. I remember one particular game against Sussex maybe we needed 350  to win, KP got a great hundred [a 51-ball 61] and we nearly got home. I remember coming out and saying, ‘Right, come on, England have got to pick Kevin Pietersen’. And I was lucky enough that they did, not because of what I said but it was lucky enough that they picked KP, that he showed what he could do in the one-dayers.”
The closeness meant Warne didn’t try and sledge Pietersen when they pair crossed swords, and he confessed to feeling “proud” after the batsman’s Ashes-sealing 158 at The Oval. “I never really sledged KP because I wanted him to do well. I saw him as one of my players at Hampshire so I wanted him to do well. I never really sledged him at all.
“For me, I was proud because I’d seen KP, I was captain at Hampshire, I’d watched first-hand how good he was and how destructive he could be, and I was glad the world got to see that after a period of time how wonderful a batsman KP was and how good he made cricket to watch. It was a lot more entertaining when he was doing well.”
Pietersen concurred that his England teammates copped far worse abuse from Warne than he did, with Ian Bell, nicknamed ‘the Sherminator’ for his supposed likeness to a character from the film American Pie, coming under particularly heavy fire.
“[It was] nothing compared to the Sherminator, oh my gosh. As he walked out to bat, he wasn’t even at the wicket yet, and Warnie was on him,” Pietersen said. “I went to Hampshire and spent a bit of time with Warney leading into the series, and that’s what made the camaraderie and the relationship between us a lot easier than If we were absolute foes playing against each other.”