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Ashes heroes: Shane Warne

Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne should be near the top of any list of Ashes legends, whether it's judged on substance or style.

Warne's first delivery in Ashes cricket was christened 'Ball of the Century' - it pitched outside leg stump before spinning back to hit the top of off and its victim, Mike Gatting, was the first of many England batters bamboozled by the master turner.

That list also includes Phil DeFreitas, Darren Gough and Devon Malcolm, who made up a stunning hat-trick at the MCG during the 1994/95 series.

WhatAshes Series 2023
WhereEdgbaston, Old Trafford, Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval
WhenSeries starts 11:00, Friday 16th June
How to watchSky Sports Cricket & Main Event
OddsEngland 8/5, Draw 11/2, Australia 10/11

Ashes debut provides unforgettable moment

Warne's dismissal of Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993 was a stunning start to what would turn out to be a glorious Ashes playing career.

The leg-spinner was still feeling his way into international cricket when he was picked for the first Test at Old Trafford, having taken 1-150 on his debut against India the previous year.

However, by the time he swaggered out of Old Trafford he had picked up eight wickets and the player-of-the-match award - as well as producing perhaps the most iconic delivery in Ashes history.

Gatting wasn't the only top-class England player who struggled against the Ashes debutant as Warne also got rid of Graham Gooch, Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart and Robin Smith (twice) in the first Test.

He finished the six-match series with 34 wickets, helping Australia ease to a 4-1 win and a third straight Ashes triumph.

Warne plays key role for dominant Aussies

Australia won eight consecutive Ashes series between 1989 and 2002/03 and Warne, along with metronomic seamer Glenn McGrath, was at the heart of their dominance of England in the 1990s and early 2000s.

He took 27 wickets at an average of 20.3 in his first home Ashes series in 1994/95, including 8-71 in the second innings of the first Test in Brisbane - his best figures against England.

The highlight of Warne's 1997 tour of England was a nine-wicket haul at Old Trafford, where he also made his first Ashes half-century in a crucial seventh-wicket stand with captain Steve Waugh.

Shoulder surgery restricted him to just one appearance in the 1998/99 Ashes series Down Under, but he was raring to go when the Aussies landed in England in the summer of 2001.

Class of 2001 too good for England

Australia were at the peak of their powers in 2001 with Matthew Hayden opening the batting, Ricky Ponting and the Waugh twins in the middle-order, wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist wreaking havoc at number seven, and a bowling attack of McGrath, Warne, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie.

Unsurprisingly, England were blown away 4-1 in a series bookended by two superb performances from Warne.

He took eight wickets in the first Test at Edgbaston, ripping through England's tail in both innings, and signed off with 7-165 and 5-64 in the fifth Test at The Oval.

All-round heroics contribute 2005 thriller

Warne's tally of 31 wickets in 2001 was his best in a five-match Ashes series up to that point, but he raised the bar four years later, despite the fact that Australia lost a gripping 2005 clash 2-1.

Their champion leg-spinner was sensational, claiming 40 wickets including 6-46 in England's second innings at Edgbaston.

That left Australia chasing 282 for victory and they lost by just two runs despite a brisk 42 off 59 balls from Warne, who tormented England's bowlers as well as their batsmen in 2005.

He made 90 in the drawn third Test in Manchester - his highest Test knock against England - when the next-best score by an Australian was Hayden's 34.

In the series finale at The Oval he took 12 wickets in the match, but Kevin Pietersen's 158 earned England the draw they needed to regain the Ashes.

Warne may have ended up on the losing side in 2005 but, having contributed 40 wickets and 249 runs, he earned the admiration of even the most partisan English cricket fans.

Record-holder signs off with clean sweep

By the start of the 2006/07 series Warne was 37 years old, but still capable of magical spells, as England discovered to their cost in the second Test in Adelaide.

The game looked to be heading for a draw after the tourists posted 551-6 declared in their first innings, with Warne recording figures of 1-167.

However, the veteran spinner hit back in the second innings, dismissing Andrew Strauss, running out Ian Bell and seeing off the dangerous Pietersen, as England crumbled to a six-wicket defeat.

Warne was man of the match in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne, where his first-innings five-for included his 700th Test wicket, Strauss, bowled by a beauty that spun back sharply to beat the left-hander.

The legendary leggie retired from Test cricket at the end of the 2006/07 Ashes, which Australia won 5-0.

He finished his career with 195 Ashes wickets, 38 more than any other bowler in the history of Australia's cricketing rivalry with England.

Poignantly, the 2023 Ashes series will be the first since Warne died in March 2022 at the age of just 52, but, for as long as Test cricket is played, he will be remembered as one of the all-time greats of the game.

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