AUCKLAND, 15 March -- Australian pace bowling legend Dennis Lillee has applauded Shane Warne for ending his 16-year reign as Australia's greatest wicket-taker, hailing him a great bowler and a great bloke.

Warne drew level with Lillee's 355 wickets on Monday evening when he bowled Nathan Astle, but he was forced to endure an anxious wait thanks to Tuesday's wash-out at Eden Park. He was made to suffer further when rain delayed play again on the final day, and then watched Brett Lee and Colin Miller dismiss four of the remaining five Kiwi batsmen while Warne struggled with his control. But when recalled to bowl at the last-wicket pair, Warne promptly had Paul Wiseman caught by Adam Gilchrist attempting to sweep, thus becoming Australia's greatest wicket-taker with 356.

Lillee was not at Eden Park but sent a hearft-felt message of congratulations.

"I'm very honoured to have achieved the record in my time, but I'm just as pleased that a bowler and a bloke as great as Shane Warne has overtaken my record," Lillee said.

"It makes me smile that I took it from one of the greatest leg-spinners, Richie Benaud, and now possibly the greatest leg-spinner of them all has repeated the dose on me.

"Congrats, Warney. Well done, keep it going, and I look forward to buying you a congratulatory ale soon.

"He's such a great competitor and a great achiever," Lillee said.

"I wish him all the best and in the future. I hope he takes many more wickets for Australia."