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January 5, 2007
For 14 years and 145 Tests, Shane Warne teased, taunted and tormented batsmen, ordinary, good and great. He ends his career with 708 wickets, many of whom, like his final victim Andrew Flintoff, are illustrious names. Here, a collection of batsmen, past and present, pay tribute to the genius of Warne.
The thing that worried me most when facing Warne was his unerring accuracy and ability to exploit every single advantage. You never got a freebie from Warne. You always knew he was plotting hard about how to get you out, weighing up your attitude, the conditions and the state of the game.
He was one of the shrewdest bowlers I have ever faced and this deep bowling intelligence got plenty of wickets he should not have got over the years. Sometimes he'd even let you know how he was trying to get you out, adding some extra pressure, toying with your mind. It was a game of bluff and double bluff.
In recent years he rarely bowled a googly or flipper, but the stock legbreak was so dangerous because he had such control of spin. He relied heavily on clever variations in flight, drift and pace. And of course, like all the truly great bowers, he also had that special ability to step up when it mattered most. Out of the blue, when Australia needed it most, he would conjure up something unplayable to put you on the backfoot.
Shane Warne dismissed Kumar Sangakkara four times in Tests and never in ODIs.
He is one of the greatest bowlers ever. And as he is one of the greats, it is difficult to pick out just one thing about him which makes him special - it was everything about him. His drift, his accuracy, his stamina - other bowlers have these qualities but no one has had them all together in one body.
When I first faced him, in 1999-2000, he was a little bit older and some said that he had lost the zip he had in the mid-90s. But he was still amazing then and just always at you, never giving you any space. He is so accurate that as a batsman you can never switch off against him. My best century I consider to be the one against Australia at Melbourne in 2004 and that was because it was against great bowlers like Warne and McGrath.
He bowled so many great balls it is difficult to pick out just one. I guess it would be the delivery to dismiss me in that Melbourne Test. He bowled it round the wicket and it drifted past my pads and I was stumped. It was when he produced it more than anything else because I was well-set by then.
Shane Warne dismissed Mohammad Yousuf twice in Tests and four times in ODIs.
Shane Warne retires as one the greatest cricketers of all time. He holds just about every possible record for a bowler. Most wickets, most away wickets, most wickets in a calendar year, most wickets in won Test matches... it goes on and on. Having failed miserably at his hands in Test cricket he has always been a point of discussion wherever I have gone.
Seldom has my good one-day cricket record against him been given credit but that was eventually achieved by discovering two things: the sweep shot, which came easier in one-day cricket, and the first thing a kid is taught in cricket: watching the ball out of the hand. However, by then the story had been told: Daryll Cullinan was Shane Warne's bunny.
The media thrived on it, in particular Neil Manthorp. His second best story about me was the Melbourne moment when, arriving at the crease on our second tour of Australia, Warne greeted me with the famous words: "I've been waiting six months to bowl at you." The reply was: "I can see you spent it eating!"
As the over finished, I met Gary Kirsten, my batting partner, in the middle and we had a chat about the big man's comments. Kirsten, full of smiles, then made the comment to me that yes he could see he had been spending the time eating. This comment was subsequently attributed to me in Kirsten's weekly column in a Cape Town newspaper which was been ghost-written by Manthorp. In Warne's cricketing history it always comes up as one of the best sledges.
Shane Warne dismissed Daryll Cullinan four times in Tests and eight times in ODIs.
I'd actually seen Shane Warne out here in Australia before he appeared in England in 1993. I was playing club cricket in Adelaide and used to head down to the Oval to get some nets in, and Shane would be there with the academy. He just looked like a big blond beach bum, to be honest, but every day he'd be in there working on his legbreaks, googlies and flippers.
No-one ever thought he'd be as fantastic as he was for the game, though. For me, batting against him was why I played the game. I love to be in a challenge, I love to be in a fight. With Warney at the end of his run, with the zinc on, the beached hair, the weight-gain and the weight-loss, sledging you, testing you physically and mentally - it was the greatest challenge going.
When I saw that Gatting delivery, my only thought was: "Thank God I wasn't at the crease!" In that 1993 series, there was a lot of mystery around the England dressing-room. We hadn't faced a legspinner for ages, we didn't know what a flipper was. That was the difference really. We were just learning on our feet out there. As for the greatest ball I ever received from him, well, there were umpteen. You can't just remember a few from Shane Warne.
Shane Warne dismissed Nasser Hussain 11 times in Tests and twice in ODIs.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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