The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dazzler misses out on ‘Hollywood’ swansong
Most will expect him to bounce back again from his latest personal trauma, even if he has to endure a drugs ban before doing so

Johannesburg: It was not meant to end like this.

(Read as: Matches, Innings, Not
Out, Runs, Highest Score, Aver
age, 100s, 50s, Catches)
Tests - 107, 146, 13, 2238, 99,
16.82, -, 8, 86
One-dayers - 193, 106, 28,
1016, 55, 13.02, -, 1, 80
(Read as: Balls, Runs, Wickets,
Average, Best, 5-wkts, 10-wkts,
Tests - 29816, 12624, 491,
25.71, 8/71, 23, 6, 2.54
One-dayers - 10600, 7514,
291, 25.82, 5/33, 1, -, 4.25

Shane Warne, so the fairytale script went, would bow out from one-day cricket on March 23 at The Wanderers with the chants of adoring fans echoing around the ground as he lifted the 2003 World Cup high above his head.

Probably, as in 1999, he would produce a Man-of-the-Match performance. Perhaps there would even have been a hattrick to end the game and ice the 33-year-old’s cake.

‘Hollywood’ was certainly not meant to fly home alone and dejected before bowling a single delivery.

Warne, however, will do just that.

Warne, who was born in the outer Melbourne suburb of Ferntree Gully and grew up dreaming of a career as an Australian Rules footballer, has always been a controversial figure.

As a youngster, he was seen as rebellious, lazy and lacking discipline, more likely to be found with a surfboard and a cold beer in his hand than practising in the nets. Later, he was one of three players who accused Pakistan’s Salim Malik of attempting to bribe them to throw a Test match in 1994.

It later emerged that Warne had himself accepted money from an Indian bookmaker — he said it had been a gift, not a bribe — and was duly fined by the Australian Cricket Board over the incident.

There were also stories of Warne sending a lewd message to a nurse in England, an incident which cost him the Australia vice-captaincy.

But few people would deny he stands among the greatest men to ever play the game. For many, indeed, he single-handedly revitalised the art of leg spin.

He had made an inauspicious start, taking one wicket for 150 on his Test debut in 1992 in Sydney against India, a side who have remained his greatest rivals.

Within a year, however, he had become a sensation.

His 491 Test wickets, second on the all-time list just behind Courtney Walsh and at an average of 25.71, make the point eloquently, even before his 291 one-day victims are added to the equation.

Warne was still a player people loved to hate, however.

He was mocked when touring India in 1998 for ordering nearly 2,000 cans of baked beans and spaghetti rather than eat the local food.

At the 1999 World Cup, he was barracked by fans who chanted “Save the whale!” whenever he touched the ball.

But in recent years, despite continuing to dye his hair and sport an earring, Warne has appeared to mature and broaden his outlook.

He even turned to wine rather than beer and started taking care of his health, launching a tough fitness regime which helped him lose around 13kg (he said he had grown tired of looking in the mirror and seeing “10 chins” induced by beer and pizza).

Just before the World Cup, Warne announced it would be his swansong tournament, after which he would concentrate on Tests. Warne was to be the major draw in South Africa and even his opponents would not have wished such a nightmarish exit. However, most will expect him to bounce back again from his latest personal trauma, even if he has to endure a drugs ban before doing so.

The man who bowled Mike Gatting with the “Ball of the Century” in the 1993 Ashes series — a delivery which seemed to pitch yards outside the leg stump before snaking past the bemused Gatting on the way to clipping the off bail — may yet repeat the feat in the new century.

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