THE WORLD of cricket and sport remains in shock over the passing of Australian leg spinner Shane Warne on Friday (March 4) at the age of 52.
The Observer’s Rob George looks back on the career of one of the greatest cricketers to have played the game.
HE WAS the blonde bombshell who tormented batsman for fun, the sportsman who didn’t always play by the rules and a man for whom ‘losing’ was only an option when the stumps were drawn.
Shane Warne spent as much time on the front pages and on the back pages – somehow it seemed right for a man who in retirement dated Elizabeth Hurley.
Yet he never complained, never explained and never changed. It’s probably why we loved him so much, he was flawed yes, but then again so are we all.
I was 11 years old in 1993 when Shane Warne bowled the ‘ball of the century’ to Mike Gatting in the Ashes test match at Old Trafford. A vicious leg break, drifting down the line of leg stump before pitching, turning and into the off stump, one of the first of his 708 test match wickets.
Over the next 14 years, I watched as England valiantly tried and often failed to cope against his magic, the hat trick in the 1994/5 Ashes, spells which turned a good England day to ‘oh no not again’.
A legend of the game 💔 pic.twitter.com/advZ1LGPeW
— Worcestershire County Cricket Club (@WorcsCCC) March 4, 2022
He embodied Australian cricket, tough but fair on the field but a great bloke to have beer with off it. He was the finest cricketer arguably to have never captained his country.
But Warne never needed the armband to lead, every time he came on to bowl he knew where he wanted a fielder and wouldn’t shy away from telling the likes of Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting exactly where someone should be almost to the exact blade of grass they should be standing on.
Sure it caused conflict but that was soon forgotten as another batsman trooped off, a victim of the king of leg spin.
The 2005 Ashes were won by England despite Warne taking 40 wickets in the series.
He bowled out our team effectively four times in England’s 10 innings during the series.
Whether it was the defiance at Edgbaston as he battled to get Australia to a 2-0 series lead before England’s dramatic victory, the 97 with the bat at Old Trafford as he sought to stem the tide of England’s bowling attack or the remarkable spell at Trent Bridge as England’s quest for just 129 to win, Warne’s will to win was unquestionable.
No match was lost until the beers were broken open in the dressing room, is it any surprise the Australian team of that time were so good?
In retirement he imparted his wisdom freely, working with spinners from across the world and sharing tales from his playing days in the commentary box for Sky Sports here and Channel 9 in Australia.
They broke the mould when they made Shane Keith Warne, the boy from St Kilda who attracted attention across the world.
May he forever be at peace.