Special day shows God of leg-breaks still in his heaven

It took 20 balls spanning 27 minutes. Then, at 3.18pm on Boxing Day in front of his home-town fans, Shane Warne took his 700th Test match wicket. There was nothing fancy about the historic ball. It was a conventional leg-break - if anything could be described as conventional about the man - which turned through Andrew Strauss's slightly crooked bat and bowled him.

General tumult ensued. Warne went on a jig, pursued by his team. Doubtless, some of the 89,155, who constituted the official attendance, would have surged on to add their congratulations, except there was a ring of security in place round the perimeter to prevent such an occurrence.

It is sometimes possible to think that Australia will shortly come to a halt because of the number of petty regulations forbidding this, that and t'other, and they were certainly not going to overlook the matter of a potential pitch invasion. When the deed had been done, off they went again.

The dismissal was inevitable and turned out, hardly surprisingly, to have been preordained by the great man. "I have just been sitting there and I can't stop shaking my head that it's actually happened," he said, a few minutes after play had ended. "It's a pretty amazing day. How it's all panned out. I retire, the Ashes are in the bag, I'm coming to Melbourne with 699 wickets. To come on at 101 for 2, knock over Strauss and clean the rest up. There are special things in your life - getting married, the birth of your children, playing your first Test - but from an individual point of view that has got to be one of the best days I've ever had."

Then he hit us with the coup de grâce. He said it was coming. "After a few overs the fingers started to loosen up. Glenn McGrath asked me how I was going to get him out and I said that I was going to bowl him through the gate sweeping.

"That over I bowled him through the gate, not sweeping but driving. I tried to slow the pace up, but when that sort of thing happens to you, you know something's going right for you. I was going to keep running but I was knackered so I stopped."

It is not only as a master bowler that Warne will be missed. He is a dream performer in front of an audience.

Strauss will for ever be remembered as the man who provided the greatest leg spinner of all with the momentous wicket. He may come to be proud of this later in his life. Not yesterday.

"There are 699 other guys who have felt pretty bad after getting out to Shane Warne and I'm no different. It's a great achievement for him and something that will live long in many peoples' memories, but probably not mine."

He will, of course, never be able to forget it. Indeed, it was suggested by one of the more estimable reporters watching that Warne should host an annual dinner in future for the men who provided him with his landmark wickets, from the first, Ravi Shastri, to the 700th, Strauss, and whoever ends up as his final victim (to be decided over the course of the next 10 days).

What a gathering it would be: 11 men, enough to make a decent world team, consisting of two Indians, two South Africans, two Sri Lankans and four Englishman, chatting convivially about the part they played in a remarkable career. Warne had the sort of day when it was clear his scripts were being written by some divine power sufficient to persuade Richard Dawkins that God is not a delusion.

Strauss was his first wicket but there were four morethereafter, all earned with the eager assistance of the batsmen. Warne did not need to try to influence the umpires with overzealous appealing, his victims were happily ensnared. His return of 5 for 31 was the third time he had taken five wickets in an innings on the ground.

If England were wretched, the crowd were enthralled. At the end of one over, Justin Langer playfully took off his colleague's sun hat and the crowd, assuming, that Warne was on at last, roared and roared. Langer was just kidding. But the next over, Ricky Ponting summoned him at the Southern Stand End.

History was round the corner. Unless you were Andrew Strauss, it was a privilege.

Magic numbers: Warne's progress

SHANE WARNE'S WICKETS:

1st Ravi Shastri (Ind) 1992-93

50th Nasser Hussain (Eng) 1993

100th Brian McMillan (SA) 1993-94

150th Alec Stewart (Eng) 1994-95

200th Chaminda Vaas (S Lanka) 1995-96

250th Alec Stewart (Eng) 1997

300th Jacques Kallis (SA) 1997-98

350th Hrishikesh Kanitkar (Ind) 1999-00

400th Alec Stewart (Eng) 2001

450th Ashwell Prince (SA) 2001-02

500th Hashan Tillakaratne (S Lanka) 2003-04

550th James Franklin (NZ) 2004-05

600th Marcus Trescothick (Eng) 2005

650th Ashwell Prince (SA) 2005-06

700th Andrew Strauss (Eng) 2006-07

LEADING WICKET-TAKERS:

704 Shane Warne (Aus) 143 Tests

674 Muttiah Muralitharan (S Lanka) 110

556 Glenn McGrath (Aus) 122

538 Anil Kumble (Ind) 111

519 Courtney Walsh (WI) 132

434 Kapil Dev (Ind) 131

431 Sir Richard Hadlee (NZ) 86

414 Wasim Akram (Pak) 104

405 Curtly Ambrose (WI) 98

402 Shaun Pollock (SA) 103

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific