Warne bows out of MCG scene with pure finesse
LIKE an ageing crooner Shane Warne closed his last hometown concert by tugging the bow tie loose, pulling up a stool and inviting the spotlight to hover on him while he went through his best-loved numbers.
First came a reminder that he’s always been a dab hand with the bat.
He opened his valedictory performance by smacking his way to a rich and accomplished 40, replete with cover drives, uppercuts and lusty pulls that a player half his age would be proud to own.
And just so there would be nothing to tarnish his last innings on the MCGhe remained unbeaten at the end of Australia’s imposing 419.
The old rogue might even have been entertaining thoughts of marking the occasion with a century, about the only thing that has eluded him during a phenomenal career.
But he ran out of partners when Glenn McGrath made the 35th duck of his career and nudged Warney aside as Australia’s greatest compiler of noughts in the history of Test cricket.
Even that seems to have worked out for him. Now for the closing set. He began with the mellow leg-break and the audience of 79,000 hummed along during the chorus.
Next came the wrong’un, something he has saved for special occasions in the past.
Between numbers he gave us the usual ration of extravagant appeals followed by looks of wounded indignation, a skill he has mastered as surely as Marcel Marceau.
Warne even reached into the archives and produced his flipper, a number he’s scarcely brought out since the 1990s.
It made an appearance last ball before tea — another of his specialities — and only a splinter of wood from the England captain’s bat saved him from a certain lbw.
After tea he tried a few more and when one of them crashed into Sajid Mahmood’s back pad and umpire Aleem Dar raised his finger, it brought forth from Warne a look of sheer joy and fulfilment.
It took him back to the day in 1992 when he got West Indies great Richie Richardson with a similar ball on this very ground.
Time now for a high, looping teaser that brought him within a centimetre of a stumping.
No matter, he had Steve Harmison lbw a couple of balls later.
As the game drifted to its denouement, the result began to matter less and less.
The Ashes have been safe since before Christmas. It was all about Warney.
So what can top a day like this? Nothing, surely. But wait. The old magician has one more up his sleeve.
He was chaired off with 706 Test wickets to his name.
Add 293 one-day international wickets, and it becomes 999.
He’ll save No. 1000 for Sydney.