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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

England Wary of the Spinner Down Under

LONDON -- England, which succumbed to the wiles of Warne in the last Ashes series, set off for its tour of Australia on Tuesday with captain Mike Atherton anxious to avoid a phobia about the leg-spinner.


With 34 wickets during the 1993 six-test series in England, Shane Warne played the most influential role in Australia's 4-1 triumph, and is waiting to weave more magical spells in the forthcoming five tests.


"I don't want to create a Warne-phobia," said Atherton. "But we will talk about him among ourselves because you don't want to go into the first test wondering where you are going to score your runs when he comes on."


Atherton is facing his most important assignment as England captain since his appointment 15 months ago, but is approaching the task with clear determination to end a wretched sequence of results against Australia.


England has lost 12, drawn six and won just one of its last 19 tests against Australia, which is now seeking a fourth consecutive series victory to follow its 4-0, 3-0 and 4-1 successes.


"Australians generally view our cricket with disdain," said Atherton. "The best way to rectify that is to bring the Ashes back with us.


England's captain views his team's prospects optimistically based on its improved form in the internationals against South Africa. Atherton's men drew the test rubber 1-1 and won both limited overs matches.


Former captains Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting, who total 78 years and 187 tests between them, are seen as best qualified to nullify Warne's threat.


England will be banking on Devon Malcolm and Darren Gough to provide the firepower in attack but may look to rejuvenated pace bowler Phillip DeFreitas for consistent steadiness.


Australia has started a new era under the captaincy of Mark Taylor, who has taken over after Allan Border's retirement at international level, and is now leading the team on a tour of Pakistan.


Taylor, who shares Atherton's philosophy of playing fiercely but fairly, is rebuilding his pace attack around Craig McDermott.


Atherton's men play their first game in Perth on Oct. 25 and, apart from the five Ashes tests, the itinerary includes the limited overs World Series Cup involving Zimbabwe, Australia and, as an innovation, an Australian A team.