Warne writes the perfect script
Shane Warne has usually registered his major wicket-taking achievements on overseas tours, but on Boxing Day he will have the chance to raise his 700th Test victim on his home ground in Melbourne. Warne passed Dennis Lillee's 355 wickets in New Zealand, his 500 was reached in Sri Lanka and the 600 came up in England last year.
After his 4 for 115, which pushed Australia to a 206-run win and earned them the Ashes, he will be cheered on by a crowd of close to 100,000 at the MCG as he attempts the one dismissal needed to become the first man to the mark. "What an amazing, remarkable milestone that will be," Ricky Ponting said. "Shane could not have scripted the thing any better. I'm pretty sure he won't be looking to do any training whatsoever in the lead-up in case he gets injured."
Warne started England's final-day fall by bowling Andrew Flintoff, who played over and outside a full delivery, and he was on track for 700 until Ponting ran out Geraint Jones with a sharp underarm and Stuart Clark trapped Sajid Mahmood. As the WACA was only half full the scene was not appropriate for such a Warne occasion, but he made sure it would almost certainly occur in Melbourne as he dismissed Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar. After sealing the final wicket and the Ashes Warne was held in the air by Andrew Symonds for what seemed like minutes as the team huddled.
Michael Hussey, the Man of the Match, was also consumed by the mass of bodies before the players spread around the ground to thank the supporters. A Western Australian who returned 74 not out and 105, Hussey received a lot of attention.
"It's pretty special, especially on my home ground and with my family watching," Hussey said. What is also special is Hussey's incredible average of 86.33 after 14 Tests, which has been boosted by four half-centuries and a hundred in this series. "What a great player he's been and will continue to be," Ponting said. "His preparation and his love of representing his country are second to none.
"Coming into the one-day side he was remarkable and since he's been in the Test side he's been even better. I checked his figures the other day and he was averaging 85 so that would indicate he's not doing too much wrong."
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo