Warne vs. Tendulkar and 20 Great Cricket Duels and Rivalries of the Modern Era
The presence of both Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne in the recent Marylebone Cricket Club vs. Rest of the World XI clash at Lord's revived memories of the pair's famous on-field rivalry, despite the Australian suffering an injury courtesy of Brett Lee that prevented him from bowling to the Indian maestro.
Throughout their respective careers, the world's finest batsman and greatest-ever leg-spinner shared some compelling duels in both the Test and one-day international arenas, helping to add an even greater edge—if that was possible—to the showdowns between India and Australia.
But what are some of the other great on-field rivalries of the modern era?
Across the following slides, we look at 20 of the most notable player duels that have defined international cricket.
Allan Donald vs. Michael Atherton
As an opener for England during the nation's forgettable decade in the 1990s, Michael Atherton was dismissed by his fair share of fast-bowling greats.
In Test cricket, he fell to Glenn McGrath 19 times, also succumbing on 17 occasions to both Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.
Yet, none of those showdowns came close to the Englishman's clash with South Africa's Allan Donald (a bowler who dismissed him 11 times) at Trent Bridge in 1998.
Refusing to walk after edging a delivery from "White Lightning," Atherton was on the receiving end of one of the most hostile overs in the game's history, somehow surviving a six-ball onslaught from Donald; the bowler himself describing as "Test cricket at its best," according to the BBC.
The pair then resumed hostilities in 1999-00 when England travelled to South Africa for a five-Test series, a showdown in which Donald claimed Atherton's wicket twice and the Englishman reached a defiant hundred at Port Elizabeth.
Shane Warne vs. Kevin Pietersen
There was a mutual admiration between Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen that was perfectly understandable: Each man saw a part of himself in the other, with both men being among the most notable mavericks and renegades in the sport.
That respect, however, didn't prevent their encounters from being truly enthralling.
After playing together at Hampshire, Pietersen's Test debut against Australia at Lord's in the classic Ashes contest of 2005 marked the beginning of the pair's rivalry, with the Englishman's cocky swagger matching up to that of Warne.
The Australian leg-spinner claimed the batsman's wicket in his maiden innings, but it was not before Pietersen had compiled a team-best 57.
The pair's contests then simmered throughout the summer, before Warne's famous drop of the Englishman at The Oval allowed the flamboyant right-hander to crunch a series-clinching hundred.
But their duels heated up further when the Ashes returned to Australia in 2006-07, with the most notable moment coming when Warne bowled Pietersen around his legs at Adelaide to kick-start the most unfathomable victory for the home side.
Brian Lara vs. Muttiah Muralitharan
There are few players in the history of the game who have both successfully and consistently dealt with Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan quite like Brian Lara.
Possessing the most magical hands, the West Indian seemed almost at ease when facing the champion spinner, reading his variations and playing accordingly with such a serene sense of confidence.
Although the Sri Lankan did dismiss him on five occasions, the left-hander's incredible achievement of scoring 221 and 130 across two innings in Colombo in 2001 still stands as one of the finest performances in Test history.
What makes Lara's feat more impressive is that his 351 runs in the Test outscored the rest of his teammates combined (267) across both innings.
By the end of his career, and after playing eight Tests against Muralitharan, Lara finished with an average of 56.80 against Test cricket's all-time leading wicket-taker, per ESPN Cricinfo.
Shane Warne vs. Daryll Cullinan
Daryll Cullinan was a fine batsman at Test level for South Africa, a graceful right-hander who accumulated 4,554 runs at an average of 44.21 with 14 centuries.
But there's one stat that has lamentably defined Cullinan above all others: An average of 2.75 against the mesmerising mid-1990s bowling of Shane Warne, per ESPN Cricinfo.
According to Russell Jackson of ESPN Cricinfo, the superstar leg-spinner often spoke of his "authority" over the South African, which had started when Warne began to bamboozle Cullinan in 1993-94—a series in which the talented batsman arrived with a big reputation, but he quickly made enemies with the Australians through his sledging.
Prone to Warne's flipper, the pair's rivalry—a rather one-sided affair—took on legendary status in 1997-98.
After the batsman had sought help from a sports psychologist to overcome his issues with the Australian, the story goes, according to Jackson, Warne greeted Cullinan to the crease by "enquiring as to the colour of the therapist's couch."
At the other end, Gary Kirsten watched on, recalling, per Jackson, that Warne continued: "I've been waiting ten months to bowl at you again, Daryll." Cullinan replied, "You look as if you've spent all that time eating."
And a legend was born.
Ricky Ponting vs. Harbhajan Singh
There was no batsman Harbhajan Singh dismissed more in Test cricket than Australian great Ricky Ponting.
Supreme against pace but less certain against the turning ball, Ponting's nightmare against the Indian started during his team's visit to the subcontinent in 2001, when the on-fire off-spinner claimed his wicket five times in one series for a grand tally of 17 runs, per ESPN Cricinfo.
But it wasn't just Harbhajan's hold over the Australian great that defined their rivalry.
Extravagant, boisterous and irritating like few others in the sport, the spinner developed genuine animosity with Ponting, getting under the skin of the prolific right-hander on several occasions.
Tensions reached the boiling point in Sydney in 2008, when the Indian's celebrations after capturing Ponting's wicket left the hosts irate, seeing the Test played amid simmering feuds between players, with the Australian captain reporting the bowler to the match referee for what he believed was a racist jibe toward Andrew Symonds.
It was a fierce rivalry if ever there was one.
Imran Khan vs. Ian Botham
Just one ball in the video above almost encapsulates the rivalry between Imran Khan and Sir Ian Botham, two of the greatest all-rounders Test cricket has ever seen.
Khan's run-up was rhythmic, his gather and delivery stride simply flowing, while Botham's shot—as technically horrible as it was—was daring, flamboyant and cavalier.
Rather neatly, that piece of footage is symbolic of the flair and charisma that the pair of all-rounders possessed, at a time in the game when the concept of the complete all-rounder was soaring amid the performances of Imran, Botham, Sir Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev.
The pair's clashes were enthralling, like the one at Headingley in 1982.
But the rivalry became sour after their playing days, with Imran winning the most expensive libel case in cricketing history against Botham and Allan Lamb in 1996, amid accusations of labelling Botham a ball tamperer and making racist remarks regarding the England pair.
Arjuna Ranatunga vs. the Whole of Australia
Strangely, Arjuna Ranatunga's main rivalry didn't involve a player but, instead, a whole country—none other than Australia.
The Sri Lankan captain's fight against an entire nation blew up in 1995-96 when his team toured Australia for a Test and one-day international series.
According to Shane Warne in My Autobiography, as relayed by the Daily Mail, Ranatunga and his squad had adopted a siege mentality from the moment they touched down in Australia.
They were rubbed up the wrong way at the airport by the enthusiasm of the sniffer dogs, which they took to be an insult. On the eve of the first Test there were problems with the size of the logos on their shirts. Then, when play began, there were questions about the condition of the ball.
But the series exploded in the Boxing Day Test when umpire Darrell Hair called off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing.
The events of that day at the MCG were indeed forgettable, leading Ranatunga to instruct his players not to shake hands with their Australian counterparts in the subsequent one-day series.
But Warne's disapproval of Ranatunga didn't stop there.
In the press conference after Sri Lanka's first match, which they lost easily, Ranatunga made a comment about the heritage of Australian people. It was more offensive than anything I had written, but not for the first time in his career, he got away with it.
Then later, in 1999, Ross Emerson no-balled Muralitharan in Adelaide, which saw the Sri Lankan captain threaten to lead his players off the ground.
Andrew Symonds vs. Harbhajan Singh
In contrast to many of the other compelling rivalries listed, the duel between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh unfortunately didn't centre on playing excellence between the pair.
Instead, Harbhajan and Symonds became involved in the monkeygate affair that saw racial tension between India and Australia reach new heights.
The saga is believed to have its roots in India's victory at the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007, where India's celebrations in victory drew a critical reaction from the Australian all-rounder—something the controversial Indian responded to angrily in the Sydney Morning Herald.
When the teams met for a subsequent one-day international series on the subcontinent later that year, crowds were heard making "monkey" chants at Symonds, which, it was suggested, Harbhajan contributed to.
From there, the affair continued to become more sour, leading to the events of the Sydney Test in 2008 already documented on the slide featuring Harbhajan and Ricky Ponting.
Steve Waugh vs. Curtly Ambrose
The Steve Waugh and Curtly Ambrose feud was somewhat unique, in the sense that the extremely heated incident between the pair at Queen’s Park Oval in 1995 wasn't the result of long-running tension between the players.
Instead, the West Indies were being severely challenged at home for the first time in decades, with Ambrose failing to conjure his normal brilliance in the early part of the series.
But on a green seamer in Port of Spain, the imposing speedster had regained his fire, dismantling the visitors' top order before Waugh arrived at the crease.
When recalling the incident, Waugh wrote in his tour diary, as relayed by Cricket Country:
[Ambrose] followed through to within two metres away from me and gave me the regulation Clint Eastwood stare. I thought he went on with the silent assassin-style interrogation for longer [than] was necessary, so I came back with, "What the f--k are you looking at?"
No one had ever been stupid enough to speak to him like that.
The result was an incensed Ambrose, so enraged that Richie Richardson was forced to restrain Ambrose from physically harming the Australian.
Saleem Malik vs. Shane Warne
Shane Warne's brief rivalry with Pakistan's Saleem Malik has its origins in the "John the Bookmaker" scandal that broke in 1994-95.
After the Australian Cricket Board (now Cricket Australia) learned that Warne and Mark Waugh had accepted money to provide pitch and weather information—but not tactics or anything further—to an Indian bookmaker, both players were fined internally, with the ACB believing that prior bribing accusations against Malik had damaged the pair's credibility.
While the Pakistani was removed from the captaincy and suspended for one series, per Cricket Country, the controversial batsman toured Australia with his teammates in 1995-96.
For Warne, the first Test became an outing for his own justice.
After the hosts compiled a total of 463, Pakistan collapsed in embarrassing fashion to just 97 as Warne claimed 7/23, with Malik absent from his team's innings due to splitting the webbing in his hand when taking a catch in the field.
During the second innings, however, Warne claimed his adversary's wicket for a fourth-ball duck, saying after the Test: "It showed that there is justice in the game."
Interestingly, it was the only time the famous leg-spinner dismissed this Pakistani in Test cricket.
Sachin Tendulkar vs. Brett Lee
It was yet another of Sachin Tendulkar's compelling rivalries when Brett Lee ascended to the top of the world's speed charts in the early to mid-2000s.
Unnerved by the Australian's pace, however, the Indian superstar averaged 50.40 against Lee in the Test arena, leading his team to a historic first-innings total of 705-7 with 241 not out at Sydney in 2004 that saw the blonde-haired speedster concede 201 runs off his own bowling.
But after enduring some difficult spells against the glittering batsman, Lee enjoyed some success against Tendulkar in the one-day international arena, claiming his wicket on nine occasions at 17 runs apiece, per ESPN Cricinfo.
Andrew Strauss vs. Zaheer Khan
Zaheer Khan enjoyed significant success over former England captain Andrew Strauss, capturing his wicket on four occasions during India's triumphant visit to English shores in 2007.
But the pair's rivalry took an interesting turn ahead of India's tour of England in 2011, when Strauss, who was seeking form against left-arm seamers, opted to play for Somerset against an Indian XI in the build-up to the first Test of the summer.
Khan was extremely critical of the captain's decision, according to the Mirror, saying:
The fact that Andrew Strauss is here playing in this practice game says it all. There is definitely that element of doubt in his mind and he has given me that edge now going into the series.
A guy who wants to come and face a particular bowler who he knows is troubling him is in itself a sign. I feel that as a captain it is not a positive move for someone who is going to lead England.
In a remarkable turn of events, Strauss compiled scores of 78 and 109 not out in the tour match, going on to score 229 runs in the Test series, as England whitewashed India 4-0, with the captain only falling to Zaheer once.
Ricky Ponting vs. Ishant Sharma
Only a handful of bowlers ever held a genuine advantage over Australia's Ricky Ponting.
Surprisingly, India's Ishant Sharma was one of those.
Although the right-arm seamer has been much-maligned in recent years, only Harbhajan Singh, Darren Gough and Anil Kumble dismissed the Australian star on more occasions in Test cricket than Sharma, per ESPN Cricinfo.
No performance for Ishant stands out more than his sublime spell to Ponting at Perth in 2008, where he claimed the captain's wicket in both innings to help steer India to a famous victory at a venue that has historically been a graveyard for touring sides.
At just 19 years of age, the long-haired speedster tormented Ponting for an hour at the WACA ground, probing and searching, consistently unnerving the supreme right-hander with pace, bounce and late movement that made for one of the finest showings since Shoaib Akhtar's unforgettable display at the same ground against the same batsman in 1999.
Sharma then repeated the feat in Mohali later that year, trapping Ponting LBW in the first innings before uprooting his stumps in the second.
Andrew Flintoff vs. Jacques Kallis
Much like there had been for Sir Ian Botham's encounters with fellow superstar all-rounder Imran Khan two decades earlier, anticipation swelled when Andrew Flintoff and Jacques Kallis prepared to do battle in England in 2008.
Indeed, it was just prior to the Englishman's stellar series in the famous 2005 Ashes campaign that elevated the talismanic all-rounder to the forefront of the game that his rivalry with the South African began.
During England's visit to the Rainbow Nation in 2004-05, Kallis' batting feats (625 runs at 69.44) were matched by Flintoff's efforts with the ball (23 wickets at 24.95); a tour which saw the visitors claim their first Test series victory in South Africa since the nation's re-admission to international cricket after Apartheid.
Thus, when the teams met again in England in 2008, the focus was on the duel between the colossal all-rounders.
In a statistical sense, both men struggled to live up to the hype, scoring a combined 217 runs and claiming a combined 19 wickets in the four-Test series.
But it didn't stop compelling exchanges from taking place, particularly a memorable spell from Flintoff to Kallis at Edgbaston.
Kevin Pietersen vs. Muttiah Muralitharan
It's no secret that Kevin Pietersen's international career was among the most controversial ever witnessed in the game's history.
Among the renegade batsman's more contentious moments was his switch-hit saga that began during Sri Lanka's visit of England in 2006.
Still buoyed by his heroics against Australia 12 months earlier, the divisive Pietersen set about his attempts to dismantle Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan via a rather radical method.
Switching his stance to that of a left-hander as the bowler reached his delivery stride, the South African-born star simultaneously reversed his grip on the bat handle before heaving deliveries into the vacant spaces behind what normally had been a backward point.
The tactic brought about superb results for Pietersen, as he raced to a series-best 360 runs at 72.00 with two fine centuries.
Continuing to use the stroke thereafter, the England sensation quickly developed an enthralling rivalry with Muralitharan that summer, shining against the off-spinner, despite his incredible record of 24 wickets in three Tests at 16.87.
Sachin Tendulkar vs. Glenn McGrath
Similar to a number of Sachin Tendulkar's rivalries, the Indian great's clashes with Glenn McGrath were notable for the sheer brilliance between the two international stars.
In Tendulkar, you had the game's finest technician with the bat, undoubtedly the most methodical and supreme player of his time.
Interestingly, those words could also be used to describe McGrath with the ball in hand at his peak, given that his unwavering accuracy led him to become the most prolific fast bowler the game has ever seen.
But where do you start when recalling their classic duels?
How about McGrath's classic, four-ball execution of Tendulkar in Kolkata in 2001, one of the rare moments when the exalted batsman was outfoxed by an opponent?
Or perhaps Tendulkar's colossal six off the bowling of the Australian in the ICC Knockout in 2000?
What about McGrath's dramatic capture of the Indian's wicket in the 2003 World Cup final in South Africa?
Maybe Tendulkar's sparkling 126 in Chennai in 2001 that helped to clinch a dramatic series victory for India?
The duels were truly engrossing, but interestingly, the statistics suggest McGrath got the better of the Indian maestro, given that Tendulkar averaged just 22.16 in Tests against the Australian seamer, per ESPN Cricinfo.
Brian Lara vs. Glenn McGrath
Glenn McGrath always enjoyed bowling to left-handers but none more so than West Indian great Brian Lara.
Famously, the Australian spearhead captured the wicket of Lara 15 times in Test cricket, per ESPN Cricinfo, consistently bringing about Lara's demise with his unerring line and length that always took the ball away from the left-hander at an uncomfortable height.
Most memorable for McGrath was dismissing Lara first ball for the second wicket of his hat-trick against the West Indies at Perth in 2000.
But the Caribbean star also enjoyed his own moments of success against his adversary, crunching nine of his 34 Test centuries against Australia, none more significant than his majestic 213 at Sabina Park in 1999 that propelled the home side to a thumping victory (McGrath didn't play when Lara struck 277 at Sydney in 1993).
Like many of the rivalries on this list, the pair also shared a mutual respect for each other.
Sachin Tendulkar vs. Shoaib Akhtar
As Shoaib Akhtar rose to prominence in Pakistan, it was inevitable that he would enjoy a rivalry with Sachin Tendulkar.
Of course, it was what the cricket world wanted to see: The world's finest batsman up against the planet's most fearsome speedster.
Their clashes didn't disappoint.
Regularly the stars locked horns, with two of their more memorable moments including the 1999 Test at Eden Gardens when the "Rawalpindi Express" clean-bowled Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in successive deliveries and the batsman's upper-cut six against the right-armer in 2003 World Cup.
Explosively, Shoaib claimed in his book, Controversially Yours, that the Indian great feared his bowling, while questioning his match-winning ability.
According to India Today, the fast bowler wrote:
...Vivian Richards, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and the likes of them are great batsmen who dominated with the bat and were truly match-winners. Initially, when I bowled against Sachin, I found these qualities missing. He might have had more runs and records, he lacked the ability to finish the game.
...I bowled [Sachin] a particularly fast ball which he, to my amazement didn't even touch. He walked away! He was distinctly uncomfortable against me.
I think players like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid weren't exactly match-winners to start with, nor did they know the art of finishing the game.
Dennis Lillee vs. Sir Viv Richards
The rivalry between Dennis Lillee and Sir Viv Richards went well beyond the mere fact of pitting a truly great fast bowler and a champion batsman against one another.
Indeed, it was the ferocity inherent in both men that saw their contests reach boiling point, with the Australian's hubris countered by the West Indian's swagger.
Thus, when the two men met in the middle, it was extraordinary viewing.
The clip above shows the lethal speedster claiming Richards' wicket from the final ball of the opening day of the first Test between Australia and the West Indies in Melbourne in 1981.
After the home side had slumped to 198 all out, the team's spearhead helped reduce the visitors to 10-4 by stumps, as Lillee's brutal final over claimed the dominant West Indian with the last ball.
The pair also enjoyed a memorable clash in a lesser known encounter between Queensland and Western Australia at Perth in the Gillette Cup in 1976.
After collapsing to 77 all out, Lillee inspired the hosts to an extraordinary victory, claiming 4/21—including the wicket of Richards for a duck—to bowl out Queensland for 62.
Shane Warne vs. Sachin Tendulkar
Has there ever been a more compelling duel in cricket over an extended period than that between Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne?
Not in the modern era, at least.
Like famous rivalries in other sports, such as Bjorn Borg's with John McEnroe or Arnold Palmer's with Jack Nicklaus, the battle between the iconic pair was enhanced by the distinctly contrasting personalities of the two men.
In Tendulkar, the rivalry had its humble and private phenomenon, pitched against Warne, the brash and controversial showman.
But sometimes forgotten when reminiscing about their clashes was the Indian's dominance over the Australian.
While the leg-spinner was in a class of his own elsewhere in the world, he never quite conquered India or Tendulkar, dismissing the legendary batsman on just four occasions in 29 international encounters.
The Little Master was particularly savage on the prolific tweaker in the one-day international arena, averaging precisely 100.00 against Warne in coloured clothing.
But that's not what defined their rivalry.
No, it was the pair's rare skills, their unique qualities—the most technically gifted batsman of the modern era against the unparalleled talent of leg-spinning wizardry—that became the essence of their duels.
And quite simply, the game is poorer in their absence.
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