At this even Warne experienced doubts: “I did not think that I was good enough to play in such elevated company and at that level.” Indeed, on returning to Melbourne he discovered that he could no longer command a place in the Victoria team.
Again he worked to reduce his weight, from 15 stones to just over 13. The Australian selectors, for their part, true to their policy of giving every chance to those they had once picked for Test cricket, chose him for the short tour of Sri Lanka in August 1992.
In the first Test, at Colombo, the run of disaster continued, as Warne returned an analysis of nought for 107 in Sri Lanka’s first innings. His Test bowling average was now 335, and his morale seriously fractured.
In Sri Lanka’s second innings he was taken off after one over, which cost 11 runs. The batting side seemed well placed when with four wickets standing they required only 36 for victory.
At this point Allan Border, the Australian captain, confounded expectation by putting on Warne. The leg-spinner restored his nerves with a maiden; then, turning the ball fiercely out of the rough, claimed a victim caught at slip. “Well done, mate,” his team-mate Dean Jones told him, “your average is now 230.”
Actually it was 173, and soon 86 as Warne snapped up the last two wickets to secure Australia victory by 16 runs. “I felt I had finally contributed,” he reflected. “But I didn’t feel like I belonged.”
In fact he did not play in the second Test, and failed to take a wicket in the third. Nor, later in the year, was he chosen for the first Test at home against the West Indies.
In Sri Lanka, however, Warne had worked hard with Australia’s coach Bobby Simpson, who helped to improve his accuracy, and encouraged him to extract maximum profit from his extraordinary ability to spin the ball by pitching on or outside the leg stump. Simpson also opened up the possibility of bowling round the wicket.
The real turning point in Warne’s career came when, recalled at the end of 1992 for the second Test at Melbourne, he ripped out the West Indies in their second innings, taking seven for 52.
From this point Warne felt that he had established himself in Test cricket, and his confidence became unassailable. Just as important, Allan Border also believed in him; during his last five series in charge Warne would average 65 overs per Test.
Early in 1993 Warne consolidated his new status by taking 17 wickets in a three-match series in New Zealand. But it was in England that summer that the legend was born. The extraordinary dismissal of Mike Gatting proved the first of 34 victims he took in that Ashes campaign, when he was named Man of the Series.