Warne the busiest as well as the best

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The Independent Online

In the sober darkness of the pavilion library, the eyes seemed bluer and more sparkling, and he was in buoyant mood. Far from being tired, Warne said how much he was still enjoying it all and remembered when he himself reached 300 wickets (Jacques Kallis of South Africa, bowled at Sydney in 1998). His mentor, Terry Jenner, had remarked at the time that Warne could probably reach 600.

"I thought he must have been drinking," said Warne. He then paused. "Probably had actually." It was a beautiful piece of comic timing which yielded a huge laugh and suggested that if this leg-spin lark does not work out, Warne could go on to a career in stand-up.

There is a danger that Warne's seminal achievement will be subsumed by other matters (such as the eventual destination of the Ashes) but its measure is inestimable. He has now bowled almost twice as many balls as Fred in Test cricket (30,076 at the end of England's first innings in the Third npower Test compared with the Yorkshireman's 15,178).

As well as becoming the first man to take 600 Test wickets, Warne also broke another record. He has now bowled more balls in Test cricket than any other bowler. With the final ball of his 24th over here he went past the 30,019 balls delivered by Courtney Walsh of the West Indies. He narrowly avoided setting another record, although he will inevitably do so in this series. Even when you are as parsimonious as Warne, sometimes runs are conceded and there have now been 12,723 of them. He has moved up from third to second in the list, overtaking Walsh, but still behind Kapil Dev's 12,867.

The milestone man

No matter how much more international cricket is played these days, it is still hard to credit that one man could get 600 wickets all to himself. That was probably said when all the various landmarks were passed.

Johnny Briggs was the first to 100 in 1895, Clarrie Grimmett to 200 in 1936, Trueman to 300 in 1964, Richard Hadlee to 400 in 1990, and Walsh to 500 in 2001. At the rate Warne is now going he could become the first bowler to appear on the century milestone list twice.

The real spin master

Warne's most prolific mode of dismissal has been lbw. Some 119 of his wickets have come that way, while Simon Jones on Friday became the 100th batsman he has bowled. This is testimony to his accuracy. It means that almost 37 per cent of his wickets have been leg before or bowled.

However, on that basis the most accurate wrist spinner of all could be said to be Warne's compatriot, the feisty Bill "Tiger" O'Reilly, who bowled or had lbw more than 50 per cent of his 144 Test victims. O'Reilly played 27 Test matches, making his debut against South Africa in 1931-32, and was labelled by Don Bradman as the finest bowler he ever saw.

The top four of Warne's most frequent victims have all been Englishmen: Alec Stewart (14 times), Nasser Hussain (13), Graham Thorpe (10), Andrew Caddick (nine).

Perfect end-game

Much discussed during this Test match has been Warne's ball of the century, his first in an Ashes Test to dismiss Mike Gatting here in 1993. A good quiz question would be to ask whether he dismissed Gatting from the same end as he took his 600th wicket. The answer is both yes and no - doubters should be told that in 1993 it was known as the Warwick Road End but is now the Brian Statham End.