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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
McGrath eyes 500 wickets and more
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport with the Ashes teams

If England bat first at Lord's on Thursday, it shouldn't be too long before Australia are celebrating their first major milestone of the Ashes summer.

McGrath congratulated in New Zealand
The body feels great, there's no pain in the ankle any more; I've come back a lot fresher, a lot keener
Glenn McGrath

Fast bowler Glenn McGrath, who has been stranded on 499 Test wickets since March, is on the verge of becoming the second fast bowler after West Indies great Courtney Walsh to enter the 500 club.

And he has already singled out the batsmen he will be targeting, notably Andrew Strauss and England skipper Michael Vaughan.

McGrath trades in headlines, and he has another one for you: He does not expect this to be his last Ashes series, although it is almost certain to be his last Test tour of England.

"The way I'm travelling at the moment it would be good to get to at least the 2007 World Cup. That's what I'm aiming for, then re-assess it," says the 35-year-old from Dubbo, New South Wales.

"But the motivation and determination is still there, the enjoyment factor is as good - if not better - than it's ever been, the body's great and things are going well at home."

McGrath peppers his interviews with outlandish statements for fun but he is deadly serious in his intention to carry on playing for as long as possible.

If proof were needed, look at his performance in the last Australian summer, from October to March.

SK Warne (Aus) 583 wkts at 25.51 (123 Tests)
M Muralitharan (SL) 539 at 22.74 (92)
CA Walsh (WI) 519 at 24.44 (132)
GD McGrath (Aus) 499 at 21.22 (109)
A Kumble (Ind) 461 at 28.23 (95)
Ankle surgery and then his wife's illness had seen him miss much of the previous season, prompting speculation he may not return.

But he put his troubles behind him to take 59 wickets in 12 Tests at 18.35 runs each - three below his overall career average.

"The last game I played was at The Oval [in last week's one-day international] and bowling-wise it was as good as I've felt for a long, long time," he says.

"The body feels great, there's no pain in the ankle any more.

"I've come back a lot fresher, a lot keener. I got to spend some good quality time at home with Jane and the kids, so I couldn't have asked for any more."

McGrath has enjoyed every one of his 499 wickets, but two stand out.

"When I knocked over Brian Lara for the first time, in Barbados in '95, that was a pretty big wicket," he says.

Mike Atherton
19 dismissals - Mike Atherton (Eng)
13 - Brian Lara (WI)
12 - Jimmy Adams (WI)
11 - Sherwin Campbell (WI)
10 - Alec Stewart (Eng)
9 - Mark Butcher (Eng)
6 - Stephen Fleming (NZ), Nasser Hussain (Eng), Gary Kirsten (SA)
He was also pleased with his dismissal of Pakistan opener Aamer Sohail in Brisbane in 1995.

"He was on 99, there was a little reverse swing and I was trying to set him up for the in-swinging yorker," recalls McGrath.

"I ran in, it came out perfectly and I bowled him middle stump."

Michael Atherton fell 19 times to McGrath's unerring line outside off-stump, but the former England captain is not alone in succumbing to the Aussie legend.

Of McGrath's top nine 'bunnies', six are former or current national Test skippers.

And against arch-rivals England, he takes an average of 5.32 wickets per Test.

Zimbabwe 6 wkts in 1 Test = 6
England - 117 in 22 = 5.32
West Indies 97 in 20 = 4.85
Pakistan - 80 in 17 = 4.71
India 51 in 11 = 4.64
Sri Lanka 37 in 8 = 4.63
New Zealand 57 in 14 = 4.07
South Africa 49 in 14 = 3.5
Bangladesh 5 in 2 = 2.5

"A true indication of your standing in the game is how you perform against the best batsmen in the world," he says.

"I've always loved playing in England. I think the conditions suit me; the Test wickets are very good and the Dukes balls have always suited me too."

He is a ruthless performer, but McGrath is a character, too, a pantomime villain glaring on the field and playing up to on-lookers off it.

Ahead of a series as big as this, most sportsmen would talk with straight face about "taking each game as it comes".

McGrath says: "We'll try not to think about what it's going to be like on 13 September when we're flying back, but if it's 5-0 to Australia then I'll be pretty happy. I couldn't predict anything less."

Interview: Glenn McGrath

Interview: Matthew Hayden

Interview: Australia's Adam Gilchrist


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