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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
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

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell