England racked up 407 at over five runs an over on day one, setting the stage for one of the greatest Test matches of all time, which the hosts won by two runs. For Warne, one of the key contributing factors to the loss came before play started. “This was a road and the ball did nothing so Punter’s decision to bowl first was just the worst decision ever by any captain,” he said.
Warne felt the conditions at Edgbaston would support spinners, a theory borne out as the game went on with the leg-spinner claiming 10 wickets, and England left-arm spinner Ashley Giles claiming five. “The other thing about why that toss was so bad was, what’s so ridiculous is you just look at the pitch, and the pitch was absolutely bone dry,” said Warne on a Sky Sports Watchalong of the Edgbaston finale. “I’d been playing a few years of county cricket and played at Edgbaston, and the ball at Edgbaston absolutely turned miles. If you posted a big score first innings then it was going to be tough to bat last.”
By now well into his stride, Warne added that the arc of the series also made batting first “the obvious thing to do”, rating Ponting as “not understanding…the game”. “Smash England in the first Test match, go 1-0 up, win the toss and bat first, and have the psychological advantage of posting a big score and the wicket’s going to turn miles. It was the obvious thing to do even if it did a little bit in the first session.
“[If you] understand the game dynamics and the intensity of the series, you just had to bat no matter what the wicket was like to post a big score so that the last innings was going to be so difficult. It was just not an understanding of the game and the situation and what a big score in that first innings meant if you won the toss.”
The obvious question for his Watchalong partners was why Warne didn’t step in at the time.
“Why didn’t you tell him?” asked Kevin Pietersen.
“You don’t think I did Kevin? On numerous occasions! And then McGrath went down and I said, ‘Is there any chance now?” replied Warne.