Shane Warne’s decision to retire may mean he will not be the world’s greatest ever wicket-taker for long - but he will always be the best according to old adversary Graham Thorpe.
The Australian leg-spinner has announced his intention to quit the international game at the end of the current Ashes series, following a career spanning 15 years and, so far, 699 wickets.
He looks certain to break through the 700-wicket barrier during the final two matches of the series, which Australia have already won thanks to three straight wins.
Warne is currently ahead of nearest rival Muttiah Muralitharan by 25 wickets and Thorpe has expressed surprise at the timing of his retirement, which is likely to cause him to be relegated into second place in the all-time rankings within a year.
But for Thorpe, who faced the 37-year-old both at home and down under, Warne will remain the best slow bowler in history.
"I regard it as an honour to have played against the best spinner of all time, and to have to taken a few runs off him on occasion," Thorpe said. "His decision to go is a real blow for the world of cricket and has come as a surprise to a fair few people as well.
"It’s all set up for Shane to go and claim his 700th wicket in an emotional last appearance at the Melbourne Cricket Ground next week.
"When he started out nobody thought that bowlers would reach 500 wickets, never mind the 700 he has claimed.
"Muttiah Muralitharan will undoubtedly go past him now, which is a shame, as despite Murali’s great talent, Warne is the better bowler."
Thorpe, who was never on the winning side in an Ashes series, admits Warne caused some of his England team-mates "endless torment" as they struggled to deal with his ‘flipper’ and the ferocious spin he imparted on the ball.
But despite the heartache inflicted by a player never happier than when sending a Pom back to the pavilion, Thorpe is happy to recognise a true great of the game.
He added: "Shane’s great strength has always been his sheer accuracy which is uncanny for a leggie, who are usually expensive.
"He remains a student of the game and to his credit kept on developing throughout his entire career.
"We will all remember Shane for his great showmanship, and a little bit of gamesmanship, which allowed him to maintain his hold over so many batsmen.
"He has been one guy who talks the talk and walks the walk and is so perceptive in working out how batsmen play.
"It’s no secret that he had several players in our dressing room in serious trouble, causing them endless torment as they tried to work him out."