Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Test, Galle, 5th day

A remarkable comeback

Charlie Austin

March 12, 2004

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You can't keep a good man down. Shane Warne celebrates yet another wicket © Getty Images
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Shane Warne completed a remarkable comeback to international cricket by claiming the four wickets he needed on the final day at Galle to become the first spinner to take 500 Test wickets. Warne, the catalyst for Australia's fightback in this match with 5 for 116 in the first innings, bowled Australia to a famous win, ripping out three batsmen in the morning, and then returning in the afternoon to claim Hashan Tillakaratne's scalp, and in doing so reaching the milestone.

Warne, now 34, was rushed back into the Australian team immediately after finishing a 12-month ban for taking a banned diuretic, a drug that can be used as a masking agent for performance-enhancing steroids. Warne said that he took the diuretic innocently, to look good for a television interview - diuretics, which cause the body to lose fluids, are also used for rapid weight-loss.

Despite his lack of competitive cricket - he played just two one-dayers and one first-class match before being called up into the Test squad for Sri Lanka - Warne soon settled back into his old groove. He struggled for rhythm at the start of Sri Lanka's first innings, taking just two wickets on the second day, but then snapped up three more next morning to complete the 24th five-wicket haul of his 108-Test career.

In the second innings, starting on 496 wickets, he bowled even better as Sri Lanka, chasing 352 for victory, lost four wickets for 15 runs in the space of 29 deliveries. Warne dismissed Marvan Atapattu (16), Tillakaratne Dilshan (6) and Mahela Jayawardene (21) in quick succession.

Ricky Ponting made him wait after the break, bringing back Jason Gillespie for his second spell. But Warne needed just two deliveries to strike when he came back. Hashan Tillakaratne hit a boundary off his first ball, but then top-edged a sweep shot to give Andrew Symonds a simple catch at midwicket. Warne then got rid of Kumar Dharmasena to complete ten for the match, as Australia sealed a superb victory.

Warne will now have to race Muttiah Muralitharan to Courtney Walsh's world record of 519 wickets. Muralitharan has also been in superb form, taking 11 for 212 in the match to extend his career tally to 496 wickets, in just 86 Tests.

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Charlie Austin Sri Lanka editor When Charlie Austin left for Sri Lanka after graduating from Sussex University, he was a planning a winter's cricket in the tropics and a six-month stint with an environmental NGO. His mother's worst fears were soon realised when it became clear that he had fallen in love with the island. Six months have now become eight years and Colombo has become his home. He joined Cricinfo in February 2000 and now heads operations in Sri Lanka, responsible for both sales and editorial. He is also the director of a UK-based travel company called Red Dot Tours, and is currently ghosting Muttiah Muralitharan's autobiography.
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