McGrath also tipped to make Ashes series his last December 20, 2006

Warne set to retire at Sydney

AFP and Cricinfo staff

Reports say Shane Warne will announce his retirement on Thursday © Getty Images

Shane Warne will announce on Thursday that he will retire at the end of the Ashes series, according to Channel Nine. The television station, which has used Warne as a commentator, also said Glenn McGrath would quit after the fifth Test at Sydney starting on January 2.

The report said Warne, who is the leading Test wicket-taker, would hold a press conference on Thursday. Warne, 37, hinted at retirement after Australia crushed England at the WACA to reclaim the Ashes.

"These are the things you're going to miss," he said as the crowd and team-mates celebrated the win. "I'm closer to the end than the bloody start." Warne has 699 wickets and is set to pass the 700 mark before his home crowd at the MCG in the fourth Test from December 26.

However, Warne deflected talk of his retirement in his News Ltd column today. "Is this my last Ashes series?" Warne wrote. "I am not thinking about that at the moment. I am enjoying my cricket and bowling well enough and we'll see how it pans out."

At the start of the year Warne's manager, his brother Jason Warne, hinted the bowler might make a one-day return in time for next year's World Cup. And in May Warne said: "If I'm bowling well and enjoying it, I've got no right to say this is my last Test match in Sydney next year. Who knows? I might be able to make another Ashes series out here [England] in 2009." Warne has two years left on his Hampshire contract and the county expect him to return for 2007.

McGrath is the third-leading Test wicket-taker and his loss combined with Warne's departure would represent the end of a golden era for Australian cricket. It would continue the changing of the guard after Damien Martyn's surprise departure after the second Test at Adelaide.

Peter Young, the Cricket Australia spokesman, said it was up to Warne and McGrath to make any announcements regarding their futures. "There is nothing we can say," he told AAP. "Those two players are the masters of their own destiny and the owners of their own futures and when they announce decisions on their futures is up to them." Young did not say whether McGrath or Warne had contacted Cricket Australia.

If Warne quits, it will continue the changing of the guard that began with Damien Martyn's retirement © Getty Images

Warne's mentor Terry Jenner also gave no indication that Warne had come to the end of the road. "The only reason he would [retire] is if the joy went," Jenner told The Age. "I guess you have to ask whether winning the Ashes back here is enough, and I'm not sure that it would be."

Brett Lee, in his column in today's Daily Telegraph, suggested Warne had a long playing future ahead of him. "I am hoping Warney will play at least until my career is over," Lee wrote. "I've heard it said Warney is not fit but he is as match fit as they come. He is the only guy I know who can bowl 30 overs straight."

Lee also said McGrath could continue his career. "McGrath can be just sitting in his chair before play or during a break and Ricky Ponting will say 'you're on next over', and Glenn will respond 'cool' and just walk out and bowl," Lee wrote. "To me, that doesn't sound like someone ready for the pipe and slippers."