Shane Warne, the greatest of bowlers to have turned the cricket ball, died at the age of 52. This is as big a shock as any to cricket fans and players around the world. He was loved by one and all for his cricketing exploits, flamboyant persona, and uninhibited commentating style.
Recognized by Wisden as one of the five greatest players of the past century, he made people fall in love with the art of spin bowling. There must rarely be a cricket fan who, if he or she bowls leg-spin, has not tried imitating the Australian legend's bowling action.
Warne took 708 wickets in 145 Tests and 293 wickets in 194 ODIs, and was one of the chief architects of Australia's dominace in the late 90s and the first decade of this century.
As we reconcile ourselves to the fact that the spin wizard is no longer with us, let's look back at some of the greatest memories of the legend that shall live with us forever.
Best memories of Shane Warne: Ball of the century
On his very first delivery in an Ashes test in 1993, Warne produced a magical delivery against Mike Gatting that pitched outside the leg-stump and spun viciously to hit the top of the off-stump.
Gatting, regarded as a brilliant player of spin bowling, was left flummoxed and could not fathom what had happened. While Warne later developed a habit of bowling recognized batsmen around their legs, this famous delivery remains etched in the memory of all cricket lovers.
Best memories of Shane Warne: Batting exploits
Shane Warne was no bunny with the bat and often scored crucial runs for his side, coming in at No. 8. He holds the dubious record of scoring the most runs in Test cricket - 3154 - without hitting a century.
He came tantalizingly close to scoring a Test hundred once, against New Zealand, but got out at 99, that too, off a delivery which was subsequently shown to be a no-ball.
Best memories of Shane Warne: 1999 World Cup win
Warne, like all great players, often rose to the challenge on the big stage. Not many occasions were bigger or had higher stakes than the knockouts of the ICC World Cup in 1999.
In an epic semifinal against the fancied South African team, Warne weaved his magic with a performance that produced figures of 4/29 in 10 overs. Australia, defending a low total of 213, were tied with South Africa at the end of the match but progressed to the Final due to having defeated the Proteas in an earlier match.
In the Final against Pakistan, on a greeenish wicket, the legendary spinner produced a Man of the Match-winning performance, ending with 4/33 in his 9 overs. The World Cup triumph marked the start of an era of ruthless dominance by the Australian team over the next decade.
Best memories of Shane Warne: Player of the Series in 2005 Ashes
In one of the greatest Test series of all time, if not the greatest - Ashes 2005 - Warne produced scintillating performances with both the bat and the ball. Despite being on the losing side, he was named the Player of the Series.
The Australian great picked up 40 wickets in the series, at an average of 19.92, besides adding 249 runs with the bat. This included a fiery knock of 90 in the third Test that helped Australia draw the game with just one wicket in hand. Despite his team losing the urn, Warne once again showed his supremacy.
Best memories of Shane Warne: Epic battles with Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar
It was always a treat for the fans when Shane Warne, one of the greatest bowlers of all time, turned up against the two best batsmen of his era - Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar.
The legendary leg-spinner famously joked that he had nightmares of Sachin hitting him for sixes straight over the head. The famous 'Desert Storm' in 1998 was one of their many epic battes.
Both Lara and Tendulkar proved their mettle against Warne. He also retaliated by dismissing Sachin 4 times in 29 international matches and Lara 10 times in 42 international games.
Best memories of Shane Warne: Leading Rajasthan Royals to IPL title in 2008
In 2008, cricketing pundits brushed off the Rajasthan Royals' chances of making it to the IPL knockouts, based on the make-up of the side. While all the other IPL sides had many of the who's who of world cricket, the Royals had a relatively modest-looking squad of local and international players.
Shane Warne, at the age of 38 and well past his prime, turned the mediocre looking side into a champion team, winning the inaugural tournament with a stunning last-ball triumph against the Chennai Super Kings.
Best memories of Shane Warne: Controversy's favourite child
Warne's career was punctuated by a number of controversies. He failed a drug test ahead of the 2003 World cup in South Africa. In 1998, he was fined by Cricket Australia for accepting money from a bookmaker. He was stripped of Australia's vice-captaincy in 2000 for sending 'dirty messages' to a British woman.
His personal life always remained in the public spotlight due to his cricketing stature. His divorce with his ex-wife was much talked about in the media. The brash and carefree cricketing commentary by the champion cricketer also kept him at odds with some of the past and current Australian players.
All in all, there was never a dull moment with Shane Warne around and cricket fans all over the world will miss his presence. RIP Warney.
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