Five memorable moments from Shane Warne's career as the cricket world mourns his death aged 52
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  • 24/05/2022
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Five memorable moments from Shane Warne's career as the cricket world mourns his death aged 52

Richie Benaud said of Shane Warne, he could spin it on glass.

Breaking down the career of Australia's greatest bowler and showman is virtually an impossible exercise, given the breadth of Warne's leg-break mastery — 708 Test wickets of pure genius.

But you can't ignore the other side: the man who said his life was like a soap opera, who courted controversy everywhere he went.

But for the sake of starting arguments, here are five moments that stand out.

Warne's famous flipper

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Shane Warne's Test career began against India less with a bang than an almighty thwack from the bats of Sachin Tendulkar and Ravi Shastri. By the end of his second Test in early 1992 he had one wicket at a cost of 228 runs.

He took three wickets in two away Tests against Sri Lanka later in 1992, but Warne was still very much a novice by the time West Indies arrived in Australia for the five-Test series in the 1992/93 season.

Warne did not play the first Test at the Gabba but came back for the second on his home ground, the MCG.

Batting last, West Indies was set 359 to win the Test. Merv Hughes got Desmond Haynes early, but then captain Richie Richardson and Phil Simmons put on 134 for the second wicket to right the ship.

Up stepped Warne to bowl to Richardson, who was set on 52. The ball dipped, landing on off stump, then seemingly rolled along the ground to bowl Richardson between his bat and pad. It was only in hindsight that cricket fans realised that was the first outing of Warne's famous flipper.

The wicket triggered a collapse as the Windies were bowled out for 219. Warne finished with 7-52 in the second innings. He was named man of the match and was now on his way.

The Gatting Ball

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By the time Warne made his first Ashes tour of England in 1993, he had taken 31 wickets in 11 Tests at an average of 31. Good, but by no means remarkable.

The English team and press were sceptical about the tubby blonde with the big raps, particularly after Warne's ordinary form in the warm-up games, where he was regularly hit around the park.

Was it all a deliberate ruse, a sucker-punch in preparation for Warne's first Test ball in England?

Have a look at the Gatting Ball. Really look.

It's not the ball spinning two feet from way outside leg stump to knock off the top of the off bail, it's the drift.

Out of the hand the ball looks headed for middle stump, but suddenly it dips and swerves violently to Gatting's leg. His bat is only vaguely in the vicinity of the ball as it zips past on its way to smash the off stump. Gatting walked off shaking his head, utterly bemused.

Warne finished the series with 34 wickets, England was mesmerised, and the legend was born.

The Gatting Ball — which also became know as the "Ball of the Century" — is the only delivery in the history of Test cricket that deserves capitalisation.

Basit Ali mind games

Over the years, Warne became almost as well known for his psychological games as his flipper.

Five memorable moments from Shane Warne's career as the cricket world mourns his death aged 52

South Africa's Daryll Cullinan never had a chance once Warne declared he was his "bunny".

In the third Test against Pakistan at the SCG in the 1995/96 series, Warne was bowling the last over of the day to Basit Ali.

"Basit Ali had been sort of annoying us a lot of the time, because he was always holding us up," Warne later said.

"Every time we were ready to play, he'd do his shoelaces up or call for gloves."

On the last ball of the day, Warne decided to give Ali a dose of his own medicine. He called over Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy and the two engaged in a lengthy mid-pitch conversation. The commentators assumed it was to discuss what sort of ball Warne should bowl.

The actual conversation, according to Warne, went like this.

"'Heals, what are we doing for dinner tonight, mate?'," Warne said of the exchange.

"We talked about pasta or Mexican or what we were going to do. We just generally held up play so we could just annoy Basit Ali.

"In the end Heals sort of said: 'C'mon, just do something, bowl him around his legs or through 'em … just do something'."

From around the wicket, Warne bowled a leg-break that pitched way outside leg stump. Ali tried to let the ball go, but it spun viciously straight between his legs and crashed into the stumps.

"You wouldn't believe it, he's done him between his legs," Benaud said in commentary.

"Well, whatever it was they talked about you can bet your life in future it'll be, 'Why don't you give him the one that'll bowl him between his legs'."

"We couldn't stop laughing," Warne said.

The trickster at his best.

The 'slimming tablet'

On the eve of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, Australia's team was thrown into a spin by the news that Warne had tested positive to a banned diuretic.

Warne by now was a fully-fledged superstar, who seemingly courted controversy with every move as his fame grew and grew.

Already he'd survived betting and sex scandals.

Taking a banned drug was just the latest in a stream of bad news that seemingly came with the regular bags of wickets. This time vanity was the culprit.

Warne had been hitting the gym and pleased with his new-found "cut" physique had allegedly taken a banned diuretic, which could be used to mask the use of other drugs.

He said his mother gave him the tablet to make him look slim.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting was ropeable with his star spinner, given it would mean Warne would miss the World Cup.

He was banned from cricket for a year.

Any hope that he might one day captain Australia was forgotten thanks to the taint that remained throughout his career.

A starring role in a losing side

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Warne owed Ponting when he returned from his drug ban. He repaid him in spades during 2005's thrilling five-Test Ashes series in England.

Australia won the first Test at Lord's comfortably. But on the eve of the second Test at Edgbaston Glenn McGrath sprained his ankle stepping on a cricket ball and was forced to miss the match.

Now, more than ever, Warne had to shoulder the load for the depleted Australian attack. He took 10 wickets in the match, but it wasn't enough to prevent Australia losing by just two runs after a defiant last-wicket partnership almost got the tourists home.

England won the fourth Test to ultimately win the series 2-1.

Warne finished with 40 wickets in five Tests, an astonishing performance in a losing side that won him the man of the series award.

In the 2006/07 Australian summer, Warne and Australia got revenge, defeating England in a 5-0 series whitewash at home.

He took his 700th wicket in his final MCG Test during the series, before finishing his career with 708 dismissals — a record that has only been beaten by Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan.

Shane Warne: spin bowling genius, psychological trickster, vain and courageous. There will never be another like him.

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