Warne to retire, say reports

Shane Warne is set to announce his retirement from international cricket tomorrow, according to reports in Australia.

And he could be joined by another Australia legend, fast bowler Glenn McGrath.

Not for the first time in the career of 37-year-old leg-spinner Warne, he was the focus of news and sports programmes all speculating about his future.

A report from Channel Nine, where Warne is likely to start the next stage of his career as part of their cricket commentary team, claims Warne will call a press conference at the Cricket Australia offices tomorrow to make the announcement.

McGrath may follow suit and join Warne tomorrow in also announcing his retirement at the end of the current Ashes series.

Cricket Australia refused to confirm the reports, although spokesman Phillip Pope said: "There has been a lot of speculation about our players and I am sure they will make an announcement when they feel it is the right time."

If Warne does finish at the end of the series he will end a remarkable career at the top having played a major part in reclaiming the Ashes.

Interviewed at the side of the WACA pitch on Monday having dismissed last man Monty Panesar to win the third Test and win back the Ashes, Warne admitted: "These are the things you're going to miss and I'm a lot closer to the end than the start."

Warne was expected to continue until after the 2009 Ashes series and add to his staggering tally of 186 wickets in 34 Tests against England.

But today's news has left Australia reeling and facing up to a future without the unrivalled superstar of world cricket, who has revolutionised leg-spin since bursting into international cricket in 1992.

Former Australian seamer Geoff Lawson admitted: "I'm stunned by this announcement because I thought he still had a couple of years left in him and I thought he was good for a thousand Test wickets.

"Having regained the Ashes after the disaster of 2005 and doing it in such terrific style, that might have influenced his decision.

"Without Shane Warne, Australia would not be 3-0 up in the series. They might have won one but they wouldn't have won in Adelaide or Perth without him and if he's going to go out then I suppose it's best to go out on a high.

"There will be a lot of disappointed fans around the world, but there won't be too many disappointed opposing batsmen."

Warne is expected to continue playing for Hampshire and Victoria for a few years yet, but in the meantime he is set for an emotional final two Tests - including one at his beloved MCG on Boxing Day when he needs one wicket to become the first bowler in history to claim 700 wickets.

England, against whom he first established his reputation with the "ball of the century" to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993, will miss him the least just because he has saved most of his best performances for Ashes contests.

Only today all-rounder Paul Collingwood, asked about his thoughts on Warne, said: "To get near 700 wickets speaks for itself.

"The guy is literally a legend. That's probably an over-used term but in cricketing terms he is the ultimate legend. He's probably the best bowler there has ever been on this planet.

"It's great to face him on the field and it's a massive challenge because he's always in your ear and the balls that come down are great to face, it's what you play the game for."