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Shane Warne poses with the ball with which he took his 600th Test wicket © Getty Images

On August 11, 2005, Shane Warne became the first bowler in the history of the sport to take 600 wickets in Test matches in the third Test of the Ashes at Manchester. Jaideep Vaidya goes through the happenings of the day.

June 4, 1993. Old Trafford cricket ground, Manchester. A chubby, cherubic, and extremely blond young leg-spinner walks, trots, jumps and delivers his first ball in Ashes cricket to the imposing presence of Mike Gatting. The ball pitches in the wilderness outside leg-stump, as the stocky Englishman leans forward to go on the defensive. However, not he nor his grandmother have a clue of what happens next as the ball turns square and zips past his expansive frame and knocks back his off-stump. Ashes cricket? You gotta be joking, says the 23-year-old Shane Warne, as he is congratulated by his equally flabbergasted teammates. Gatting can only stare at the crime scene for a while before sauntering off. You couldn’t blame him; he had just been bowled by what came to be known as the ‘ball of the century‘.

July 4, 1997. Warne returns to the scene of his black magic after four years. Australia had not put many on the board after electing to bat on a green pitch, scoring just 235 thanks to a Steve Waugh century. But come Day Two, the Old Trafford track had magically transformed into a brown strip laden with footmarks of the English bowlers. Warne used it to his advantage as he generated some vicious spin and bamboozled Graham Thorpe, Nasser Hussain and James Crawley for one run in a scintillating spell of 26 balls. He ended up with figures of six for 48 as England were bowled out for 162. Warne picked up three more wickets in the second innings, but his heroics were overshadowed by those of Waugh, who became the first batsman in 50 years to score twin Ashes centuries in a Test.

August 11, 2005. It was another eight years before Warne returned to the North West for another Test, since Old Trafford wasn’t allotted an Ashes match in 2001. When the two teams arrived in Manchester in 2005 for the third Test, the occasion was set up for Warne with the series levelled at 1-1. Australia had pummelled Michael Vaughan’s team in the first Test at Lord’s, before England pulled one back by the narrowest of narrow margins at Birmingham in what was arguably the greatest Test match ever played. Australia were shaken coming into the third Test, while England were high on confidence and had actually started to believe that they could win the Ashes after 16 years of hurt.

England’s mood was further given a boost when Vaughan won his first toss of the series on a perfect batting strip on Day One and rightly opted to bat. The English captain was in need of a few runs after recording 3, 4, 24 and 1 in the series so far. After Australia dismissed Andrew Strauss early, Vaughan benefitted from a couple of strokes of luck as he was dropped by an over-enthusiastic Adam Gilchrist who leaped in front of the first slip fielder, who was best positioned to take the catch, and dropped it; a few minutes later, Vaughan was bowled off a no-ball by McGrath, who could not believe what was happening. Earlier, Gilchrist had also dropped opener Marcus Trescothick off McGrath’s bowling, before the left-hander settled in and began playing his usual silky innings. The duo eased along to a 137-run second-wicket stand and looked good to pile on the runs and misery on their guests. Then, after 33 overs of pace, Ricky Ponting finally tossed the ball to his ace spinner.

Warne, now less blond, less fair and a bit less chubby than he was in 1993, was in terrific form. He had taken six wickets at Lord’s and 10 at Birmingham to take his career tally to 599. At Edgbaston, he had bowled Strauss in a manner similar to Gatting. Ever since his return from the one-year ban handed out in 2003 for testing positive to a banned substance, he had personally resolved to make the most out of his remaining playing career. In the 18 months since his return, he had played 18 matches prior to Manchester and taken over 100 wickets. Before the 2005 Ashes series started, he had separated from his wife Simone, but had still volunteered to go on the tour, hoping for some solace on the cricket field. And now, aged 35, he was back on the stage that had made him an overnight superstar with a chance to get his 600th Test wicket — poetic was an understatement for the setting.

Warne tested the waters for four overs and got into his groove. And finally, the moment arrived. It was the fifth ball of his fifth over, which he bowled from around the wicket to the left-handed Trescothick. Again, the ball pitched miles outside the line of the stumps and jagged back into Trescothick, who looked to play the sweep. The ball clipped the batsman’s front pad before deflecting off the leading edge of Trescothick’s blade and popped up in the air. This time, Gilchrist’s instincts were good enough for him to hold on.

Trescothick was gone for 63 and Warne had number 600, which put him 51 wickets above his nearest rival, Muttiah Muralitharan. Warne raised his arms in the air as his teammates mobbed him, before doffing his hat to the crowd, who rightly gave him a long, standing ovation. He then kissed a white rubber wristband on his right arm, which he later revealed was a gift from his eight-year-old daughter Brooke and had the word ‘Strength’ written on it. “She said you’ve got to be strong, daddy,” Warne said later in an interview. “That was my inspiration. Every time I looked at it, it gave me some inspiration.”

It was the only wicket Warne could take in the day as England reached stumps at 341 for five. Talking about his milestone in the post-match presser, Warne said, as quoted by the BBC, “To get to 600, no one has ever done that before and I feel pretty proud of that achievement. To do it at this ground is obviously pretty special as well, and with my parents here to top it off.”

Vaughan paid tribute to his opponent, saying, “Anyone who gets 600 Test wickets warrants all the plaudits he’s going to get. He’s great to face, he’s a real competitive player and a decent bloke. Hopefully he won’t get too many more now!”

(Jaideep Vaidya is a correspondent at CricketCountry. A diehard Manchester United fan and sports buff, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook)