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Top 10 Aussie Caps - Shane Warne

UPDATED 11 December, 2012 6:16PM AEST | by Martin Gabor

At number 4 on our countdown is Shane Warne, having played 145 Test matches for Australia.

He will go down as the greatest human headline to ever play cricket.

Adored wherever he went, the leg-spinning-king played by his own rules in a career that could one day perhaps be turned into a mini-series.

In a career of endless highlights, Warne became the first bowler to take 700 wickets when he removed Andrew Strauss with a peach of delivery at his beloved MCG.

Debuting in 1992/93, Warne was given a reality check by the Indians, finishing with 1/150.

It wasn’t until the Boxing Day Test against the West Indies that Warne really stood up.

His 7/52 on a turning track spun Australia to victory in a mesmerising second innings display.

Of his 708 Test wickets, the most memorable must be his first ever delivery on English soil.

Bowling to the wily Mike Gatting, Warne ripped a ball from outside the leg stump that spun sharply to take the top of the off bail.

It was a sublime delivery that announced the spin king’s arrival on the grandest stage.

The Victorian enjoyed success on all surfaces across the world and in Australia, and he quickly passed the magical 300 mark when he expertly undid Jacques Kallis from around the wicket.

Warne’s eccentric attitude always entertained the crowds, who hadn’t seen such a character since Merv Hughes.

Whether it was his unorthodox celebrations in the dressing room, his patented tins of baked beans in India, or his general demeanour, Warne was a breath of fresh air in world cricket.

Batting was another famed facet of his career.

Known more for his bowling, Warne was more than just a handy lower-order player.

His 3,154 runs was a record for the highest tally without a century; although he will be aggrieved for falling on 99 to an ill-timed slog sweep off Daniel Vettori in Perth.

Warne was also a superstar in the field.

Although not the fastest mover, he was equally as good as the likes of Mark Waugh and Mark Taylor.

A superb slipper who could also handle the rigours of the outfield, Warne took an impressive 125 catches in his 145 test career.

It was his ability to position himself in the field that also made him a great leader.

His tactical nous was unrivalled, and many believed he was unlucky to not be handed the captaincy in 2004.

However, all things aside, it his bowling that Warne will be best remembered for.

With an arsenal including over 10 varieties of spin, Warne was arguably the hardest bowler to ever play; just ask Darryl Cullinan.

In a beaten side, Warne’s efforts in England in 2005 were outstanding where he finished the series with an astonishing 40 wickets.

Warne announced his retirement from Test cricket ahead of the Boxing Day test in 2006.

Australia had just regained the Ashes, and the king felt the time was right to hang up the boots.

On the first day of the Boxing Day Test, Warne thrilled the 90,000 capacity crowd when he bowled rival Andrew Strauss with a beautifully flighted delivery that clean bowled him.

It also happened to be Warne’s history making 700th wicket.

It was fitting for Warne to go out with a 5-0 Ashes triumph on home soil standing side by side with his brilliant bowling partner Glenn McGrath.

With 708 scalps, Warne remains Australia’s leading wicket taker.

Number 5 – 99 Problems

Most people would agree that the only thing missing from Warne’s CV was a Test century.

Despite scoring 12 half centuries, the champion spinner never went on to make triple figures.

His best chance came against New Zealand at the WACA, where he played all the shots in the book to find himself in unfamiliar territory in the nervous 90’s.

When he got to 99, it looked as if the milestone was a mere formality.

Unfortunately, the 90’s can do crazy things to players, and Warne fell victim to this all too common cruse.

Facing the spin of Daniel Vettori, Warne attempted a trademark slog sweep over the mid-wicket fence.

Tragically, he top edged the shot and the ball sailed down the throat of Mark Richardson on the fence.

Replays suggested the delivery was in fact a no ball, and that Warne should have been celebrating a maiden ton.

Number 4 – Ashes Agony

The 2005 tour of England ended in disappointment for the Australians, but at least Shane Warne could hold his head high.

In a series dominated by the hosts, Warne almost single-handedly won it for Australia with a valiant all-round display.

The spin king took a staggering 40 wickets in the five match series with his mix of spin and bounce.

While he excelled as usual with the ball, Warne also added valuable runs with the bat to keep Australia’s totals looking respectable.

He will rue a missed opportunity to score his maiden Test century when he fell hooking in the 90’s, but can be proud of a monumental 249 runs in nine innings.

Number 3 – Boxing Day Beauty

Sceptics will often say that sport is a marvellously scripted affair.

Just days after announcing his retirement, Warne walked onto the MCG to face England with an unassailable 3-0 series lead.

In front of his home fans, Warne got the ball just before tea.

Sitting on 699 wickets, and bowling to Andrew Strauss, the stage was perfectly set for the legend of the game to enter the record books as the first man to reach 700 test wickets.

The moment the ball left his hand, you knew something special was about to take place.

With dip and flight he drew Strauss out of his crease, who missed the turning ball and was bowled all ends up.

Truly masterful cricket.

Number 2 – Triple Treat

It’s pretty hard for a hat-trick to not be a player’s number one moment, but on this occasion, Warne’s triple treat has to be relegated to number two.

Continuing his love affair for England, Warne dismantled the English tail in a superb spell during the 1994 Boxing Day match.

The first man to fall was Phil de Freitas, trapped plum in front.

Darren Gough was the next man to fall, edging one to Ian Healy.

There was a palpable hue of anticipation when Devon Malcolm came to the crease.

With six men around the bat, he pushed nervously at a ball that ballooned onto the on-side.

Portly David Boon showed the reflexes of a gazelle to gobble up the tough chance to hand Warne another special Ashes moment.

Number 1 – Ball of the Century

It is hard to go past a delivery that has been dubbed the best ball of all time.

Given the setting, given the moment, and given the opposition, this delivery was one of the greatest moments in Test history.

The English barely knew who this baby faced, slightly chubby, bleach blonde haired bowler was when he arrived on their shores in 1993.

One ball later, and he was world famous.

In blustery conditions, Warne landed a classic leg-spinner just outside Mike Gatting’s leg stump, with the batsman playing down the wrong line entirely.

The ball spun sharply, collecting the top of the off stump and sending the Australian team into hysterics.

Gatting was left momentarily stunned, but left the ground knowing that he had just been outdone by possibly the best ball ever.

It was the perfect way for Warne to announce himself to the world, and it’s a moment that will never be forgotten.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia

First Posted 11 December, 2012 9:00AM AEST

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