Smiles better: Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne, who celebrated his 44th birthday on Friday
Former Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne turns 44 today and to celebrate the legend's birthday, we take a look back at the 10 greatest moments from the tweaker’s glittering 22-year career at the top of the game.
And not only that, but we have ranked the magical events in descending order.
At the grand old age of 38, Warne made a dramatic return to our screens by captaining the Rajasthan Royals in the 2008 version of the Indian Premier League.
His franchise were only supposed to be there to make up the numbers but the Australian does not do losing.
After overseeing an embarrassing nine-wicket defeat in his first match in charge of the Royals, Warne then inspired the underdogs to a shock win with an impressive overall 11-3 record in the tournament, including a stunning last-ball victory in the final over the Chennai Super Kings.
In December 2001 against Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in the deciding Test of a three-match series in Perth, Warne recorded his highest Test score as the home side battled to avoid the follow on.
The No.8 batsman agonisingly fell just one run short of registering a maiden Test century after being caught on the boundary off the bowling of left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori, typically trying to bring up the landmark in style.
And to make matters worse, the delivery was subsequently shown to be a no-ball!
Mark Taylor’s men were dead and buried in their 1996 World Cup semi-final against West Indies in Mohali as they looked to defend a below-par 50-over total of 207 for eight.
At 165 for two, the Calypso Kings were seemingly cruising towards their victory target.
That was until man-of-the-match Warne started to weave his magic on Richie Richardson’s side, with the Victorian producing an unbelievable spell of leg-spin to finish with figures of four for 36 from his nine overs.
Australia somehow won by five runs.
Warne brought new meaning to the phrase “There’s no place like home” in his final Test appearance in front of his adoring Victorian fans in the Boxing Day Test with England in December 2006.
The Aussies had already wrapped up a convincing Ashes series win in double-quick time in the previous Test in Perth. But Warne was determined to be centre stage at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) against the old enemy, going into the match tantalisingly placed on 699 Test wickets.
It did not take the great man long to bring up the landmark in front of a capacity of 86,000 crowd on day one, luring England opener Andrew Strauss down the pitch before deceiving the left-hander with a beautiful leg spinner that bowled him neck and crop.
What's more, on a batsmen’s paradise after the tourists had won the toss, Warne somehow managed to record the 37th and final five-wicket haul of his Test career with figures of five for 39.
In the second Test of the thrilling 1992/93 series against West Indies at the MCG, Warne gave notice of things to come by bowling Allan Border’s side to a stunning upset win with his first Test five for, after what had been a tough first year on the international stage for the blond-haired leggie.
Chasing down a target of 359, the tourists—who had not lost a Test series since 1979-80—appeared set to go 1-0 up in the series, well placed as they were on 143 for one.
The inexperienced Warne was brought on to bowl on his home ground as a last throw of the dice by Border, and he immediately dismissed West Indies skipper Richie Richardson to spark a dramatic collapse that ultimately saw Australia win by 139 runs.
As for Warne, he recorded sensational figures of seven for 52 on his way to claiming his first man-of-the-match award in the Test arena.
After an undefeated summer back home, England felt they could finally getting their hands back on the urn for the first time since 1986/87.
That bravado lasted precisely all of five days—the time it took the world’s best bowler to produce his finest-ever spell on the way to stunning match figures of 11-110.
It was his second-innings display that will longest in the memory. Warne mesmerised the tourists by registering eight for 71, his best single-innings bowling analysis in Test cricket, including an eye-catching flipper that bowled Alec Stewart all ends up.
Warne’s displays for Australia at the 1999 World Cup in England were simply breathtaking, and none more so than when his country really needed him in the semi-final against old foes South Africa at Edgbaston.
Steve Waugh’s side appeared to be on the verge of sliding out of the tournament after being bowled out for only 213 inside their allocated 50 overs, with the Proteas racing to 48 without loss from just 12 overs.
Enter stage left Warne, who then ripped the heart out South Africa’s batting lineup with a bewitching spell of four for 29 for his 10 overs.
It left Hansie Cronje’s men in such a state of confusion, that they then somehow failed to score the one run needed for victory from the final over to hand the Aussies a place in the final, with Warne inevitably given the man-of-the-match award.
In the final against bitter enemies Pakistan at Lord’s, Warne unsurprisingly took centre stage once again with another man-of-the-match performance.
This time his spell of four for 33 on a green top at the home of cricket helped Australia ease to a comfortable eight-wicket win off just 20.1 overs.
It really is a case of “home is where the heart is” as far as Warne is concerned, with the magical leg spinner achieving his first and only Test hat-trick against England in Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test of the 1994/95 Ashes series.
Warne, who had already registered figures of six for 64 to help bowl the tourists out for 212 in their first innings, then sealed the home side’s win by dismissing Phil DeFreitas, Darren Gough and Devon Malcolm with successive balls as the MCG went ballistic.
Not for the first time, and certainly not the last either, people were heard wondering: “Just who writes this guy’s scripts?”
In the 2005 Ashes, Warne’s last in England, the 35-year-old produced his most impressive displays for his country in what subsequently became known as the great-ever Test series.
All this while off the field his marriage was falling apart.
Not only did the Victorian end the series with an impressive 249-run haul, which included a brilliant knock of 90 in the third Test at Old Trafford and made him more successful with the bat than the likes of teammates Simon Katich, Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist.
But the leg spinner also led the bowling aggregates by picking up 40 wickets—the most that he had ever captured in an Ashes series—at an unbelievable average of just 19.92, and all this despite the tourists going on to lose the series 2-1.
When Warne came on to bowl for the very first time in an Ashes Test, his team were in a bit of a hole against Graham Gooch’s England in the opening encounter of the 1993 series at Old Trafford.
The home side knew next to nothing about this slightly rotund, peroxide-haired 23-year-old from Victoria with just a handful of Test appearances to his name. That soon changed when he sent down his first-ever delivery against the old enemy.
Facing him was Mike Gatting, a renowned player of spin bowling. The leggie landed his first ball outside the Middlesex man’s leg stump, and the batsman could only watch in utter disbelief as it then ripped past his defences to hit the top of off.
Gatting famously did not know what had happened. He initially stayed at the crease thinking that Aussie wicketkeeper Ian Healy had dislodged the bails himself, before being sent on his way with a look of total confusion written across his face.
The rest, as they say, is history.