700 Test wickets within reach for Shane Warne

Published: Saturday, December 23, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Perth:The forecast of a spin-friendly WACA wicket could see champion Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne become the first bowler to claim 700 Test wickets during the third Ashes Test.

After his fifth day heroics in Adelaide, Warne is poised on 694 Test wickets and sure to reach the milestone during the series.

While Warne would like to reach the mark in front of his home crowd at the MCG in the fourth Test, starting on December 26, he could do so at the WACA when the third Test starts here Thursday.

The pitch has long been regarded as the home of fast bowling but has been increasingly helpful to spinners in recent seasons.

Warne has generally struggled at the WACA, with 32 wickets in 11 Tests at 37.28, well below his career record.

He also struggled in Perth earlier this season, taking 1-113 for Victoria against Western Australia in a match during which his frustration built to a point where he bowled consecutive bouncers.

Warne's best Test haul in Perth is six wickets, a figure he has achieved three times, including last year against South Africa, but this season the leading wicket-taker at the venue is local left-arm finger spinner Aaron Heal by a good margin.

Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, who said Warne was a like a "vulture circling" on the final day of the second Test in Adelaide, doubted it would be a traditionally fast and bouncy wicket.

"The results prove spin has worked," Gilchrist said here Tuesday of the WACA. "Last year (against South Africa) spin was a good option.

"We could have done with another spinner on the last day even though we had the greatest spinner ever bowling.

"That was our approach -- to get into the footmarks. It seems they come into play (at the WACA) more than they have traditionally done so."

Gilchrist said Warne would be focusing on his indifferent record at the WACA rather than the 700 mark, but he added the milestone was sure to cross the leg-spinner's mind.

"I'm not sure if Warney's taken more than six wickets in a Test at the WACA," Gilchrist said.

"If he hasn't, I'm sure that's a burning goal in his mind to better that.

"Ricky Ponting always asks us to try and better ourselves every time we train or play. Warney will have that in his mind, but he'll have 700 in his mind, it's inevitable.

"It's one of the two or three greatest achievements ever in the game."

Despite being the wrong side of 37, Gilchrist said Warne was as enthusiastic as ever about his cricket.

"He's just got a real spring in his step at the moment," Gilchrist said.

"He's quite vocal in the group, he's vibrant, he's really energising the group. That's been his way through the whole series but it really shone through on that last day (in Adelaide).

"He led us and we all followed -- that's what good leaders do."

For all his greatness, controversy is never far away from Warne and Gilchrist couldn't help but a share laugh with the media contingent when he unwittingly reminded the gathering of Warne's one-year suspension for taking a banned substance with an off-the-cuff comment about the leg-spinner.

"This morning in training when we all rolled in - everyone was asking what's happened, what's he on?" he said before a momentary pause and a chuckle.

"I probably shouldn't say that."


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