Just like his Ball of the Century, playboy Pom-basher Shane Warne was once in a life-time phenomenon

SHANE WARNE once compared his life to something out of a soap opera – but the Australian legend was selling himself wildly short.

The leg-spin genius died at the age of 52 from a suspected heart attack on Friday, sending shockwaves through the cricketing world.

🔵 Follow our Shane Warne blog for live updates on his death

Shane Warne will forever be remembered for his sensational Ball of the Century, clean bowling Mike Gatting with his first ball of the 1993 Ashes with a fierce leg-spinnerCredit: Getty – Contributor

Shane Warne also famously dated Hollywood A-lister Liz Hurley during his playing days

Shane Warne also famously dated Hollywood A-lister Liz Hurley during his playing daysCredit: Splash

Warne was arguably more famous for being a glossy-magazine celebrity than a cricketer, which is saying something because he was a truly exceptional player.

There was just something about him.

Warney looked like your typical Aussie surfer. A down-to-earth, diamond-in-the-rough-type that people couldn’t help but be drawn to.

And for every front-page, playboy-level scandal – there was a hilarious tale that showed off his ‘average Joe’ personality that caught the attention of the masses.

No story encapsulates that essence more than Warne demanding Aussie chiefs fly in nearly 2,000 tins of baked beans for the 1998 tour of India because he refused to indulge in the local cuisine.

Between that and being sent home and called a ‘liability’ for dropping his trousers during a game in 1990, admitting he’d down ten pints and eat chips every night and sneak away during matches for a sneaky cigarette, Warne was easy to love as a character.

For all of his sensational cricketing exploits, the king of spin was infamous for his off-field escapades, including A-list romances, womanising and boozing.

But perhaps none of it would have come about if not for that fateful day in June 1993… the one day that changed Warne’s life forever, changed cricket forever.

Arguably the one thing – above all the off-field dramas and 707 other Test wickets – Warne will forever be remembered for.

That summer, 29 years ago, Warne bowled what would later go on to be called ‘The Ball of the Century’.

Again, the name is perhaps a disservice to the spinner, who bamboozled seasoned pro Mike Gatting with an unbelievable leg break.

Warne was just 23 years old when he left jaws on the floor at Old Trafford during a one-sided Ashes series.

It was his first Test against England. His very first Ashes appearance. Incredibly it was his very first BALL of the series, too.

Despite that, the fearless youngster trundled to the crease lobbed up a ripping leg-spinner which appeared to be drifting miles down the leg side, only for the ball to turn, bounce and clatter into the top of off stump.

Gatting’s reaction said it all. Something utterly remarkable had just happened. The England batsman stood still in disbelief.

Had the keeper accidentally knocked his bails off? Had he trodden on his own stumps?

Surely no cricketer, let alone a 23-year-old rookie on a green English wicket, could turn the ball THAT much?

And it’s fair to say the cricketing world would never be the same again.

Leg spin was on the brink of extinction when Warne erupted onto the cricketing scene.

Suddenly the art of wrist spin was sexy again.

There have been dozens, even hundreds of imitators since – but no one has ever come close to Warne.

The Aussie was the first bowler to reach 700 Test wickets – ultimately retiring on a high after the 2006-07 Ashes series on 708 scalps.

Shane Warne was the first bowler to reach 700 Test wickets - ultimately ending his career with 708 scalps

Shane Warne was the first bowler to reach 700 Test wickets – ultimately ending his career with 708 scalpsCredit: PA

Shane Warne retired after heroically helping Australia reclaim the Ashes in 2006-07

Shane Warne retired after heroically helping Australia reclaim the Ashes in 2006-07Credit: Reuters

He took TEN match-ten-wicket hauls and 37 innings-five-wicket hauls.

Warne won a World Cup final Man of the Match award and even bagged a Test hat-trick.

His greatest strength was a nagging consistency rarely seen in leg-spinners, but Warney had a bag full of tricks, including a flipper, slider, googly. You name it, he could bowl it.

But Warne was handy with the bat, too. To this day no one has ever scored more Test runs without scoring a century, with 3,154 in total.

Warne came close on a number of occasions, with a high score of 99.

Incredibly, Warne continued playing long after his 2007 Test retirement, regularly turning out in the IPL and other Twenty20 competitions.

He even captained a Rest of the World XI in the Bicentenary Celebration match Lord’s in 2014.

Simply put, there has never been a better leg-spinner in world cricket. There will likely never be another, either.

There is even a strong argument to be made that he was the greatest bowler, full stop.

Glenn McGrath, Murali Muralitharan, Richard Hadlee, Wasim Akram, Allan Donald… there have been a number of bowlers who would like to be known as the GOAT.

But Warne may be it. The one true ‘best ever’.

More impressive yet was how game-changingly brilliant Warne was in spite of his string of off-field controversies.

In 1998, the Australian Cricket Board revealed that three years earlier, Warne – along with Mark Waugh – had accepted money from a bookmaker in return for information about the pitch.

In 2003, just one day before the start of the World Cup, Warne was sent home and banned for a YEAR by Australia after testing positive for a banned diuretic, allegedly given to him by his mum to help his appearance.

Warne regularly clash with rivals on the pitch too, fined in 2013 for a spat with Marlon Samuels, having previously been ordered to pay up for a war of words with Arjuna Ranatunga.

Away from cricket, Warne was infamous for flings with a string of women.

Warne had three kids of his own with wife Simone Callahan, with Liz Hurley's son joining the gang between 2010 and 2013

Warne had three kids of his own with wife Simone Callahan, with Liz Hurley’s son joining the gang between 2010 and 2013Credit: AFP

Warne was married to Simone Callahan for ten years - with the pair having three kids together

Warne was married to Simone Callahan for ten years – with the pair having three kids togetherCredit: Splash News

He was married to Simone Callahan for ten years between 1995 and 2005 – with whom he had his three children.

But the Aussie great was infamously caught sending explicit texts to a British nurse in 2000 – and to a student while still married five years later.

In 2007, following his divorce, Warne was pictured standing in his underwear with models Coralie Eichholz and Emma Kearney.

After reconciling with Simone, Warne is said to have sent a text meant for another woman to his ex-wife – leading to another split.

However, Warne was most-famous for his brief and tumultuous romance with A-lister Liz Hurley.

The pair were caught kissing in 2010 and were engaged a year later despite the cricketer being caught out texting a married Melbourne businesswoman.

By 2013, the relationship was over. The pair were on the front pages of the biggest magazines from day one until the flame flickered out.

And that Warne in a nutshell. Big, brash, bold, brazen.

In cricket or outside of it, Warne was a remarkable character.

Much like his Ball of the Century, Warney was a once in a generation figure.

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