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Last Updated: Thursday December 21 2006 16:26 GMT

Why is Shane Warne such big news?

Shane Warne

It might seem a bit strange to some people that a cricketer who has played so well against England in the past is so celebrated when he retires.

But when Aussie leg spin legend Shane Warne quit on Thursday it made headlines around the world, especially in England, despite his key role in winning back the Ashes.

So why is he so popular?

Wickets

Firstly for his cricketing success. Warne has taken more Test wickets (699) than any other player ever, and is on course to be the first to claim 700 Test victims.

The person with the second most has 25 fewer wickets and the third-placed around 150 fewer. The leading English bowler at the moment is Matthew Hoggard with 234.

And a lot of Warne's wickets have come against England, 186 of them to be precise, and he's still got two Tests to play.

In fact the first time cricket fans realised Warne was something special was in a match against England back in 1993.

Warne's international career
Tests played - 143
Test wickets taken - 699
Tests against England - 34
Wickets taken against England - 186
ODIs played - 194
Wickets taken - 293

On his first tour of England, he played in a test match. Shane already had a reputation for being able to play spin bowling really well. When he was handed the ball to bowl at England batsman Mike Gatting, in Shane's first Ashes cricket match, no-one expected what was to come next.

Moments later Warne had sent Gatting back to the dressing room after bowling what has since been called the "ball of the century".

Best cricket

The delivery seemed harmless as it landed on the pitch outside the leg stump, but Warne made it spin so much that it baffled Gatting. The ball span past Gatting's bat and hit his off stump, getting him out.

From then on Warne has continued to play some of his very best cricket against England.

But Warne has also delighted fans around the world because he's not quite what you expect a cricketer to be like.

Shane Warne
Shane Warne celebrates one of his 699 Test wickets
He wears an earring, has bleached blond hair and nearly always plays with a smile on his face - although with his amount of talent he normally has a lot to smile about!

Warne's career hasn't always run smoothly though.

Banned

He's been fined for talking to a bookmaker in India when he shouldn't have done, and in 2003 was banned for a year for having an illegal substance in his body.

It wasn't a drug to help him play better, it was something to make him lose weight, according to Warne. It can also be used to help hide drugs though.

Things like that helped people around the world feel a bit like Warne. Everyone makes mistakes, even the greatest bowler ever, and if he can survive them so can we.

And how well he survived those problems.

Better

Warne came back from his ban like he'd never been away, and kept on taking wickets.

In fact as he got older he seemed to get better, taking 40 wickets in the Ashes series of 2005 that Australia lost, including his 600th Test wicket.



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