My favourite cricket photograph

The Wizard of Aus

In the twilight of his career, Shane Warne conjured up magic in Adelaide one last time

Hemant Brar  |  

Hamish Blair / © Getty Images

If there was a wicket that put the "amazing" in Shane Warne's "Amazing Adelaide" spell, bowling Kevin Pietersen around his legs was it.

In his 15-year career Warne bowled numerous batters around their legs. From Graham Gooch to Daren Powell. From over the wicket and around it. Before his shoulder surgery and after. It was magical, every single time.

The 2005 Ashes was Warne's most successful series as a bowler, but his magic didn't always work on Pietersen, who in his 2006 autobiography Crossing the Boundary, wrote that Warne would never bowl him around his legs. (He would later clarify he meant Warne would never bowl him around his legs from around the wicket.)

By the 2006-07 Ashes, Warne was in the twilight of his career, and Pietersen once again had the better of him. In the first innings of the Adelaide Test, on his way to 158, he scored 59 of the 167 runs Warne conceded in the course of registering what would be among his worst bowling figures in Test cricket.

But Warne showed his wizardry once again. On the fifth day of the Test, bowling to Pietersen for the first time in the second innings, Warne landed one in the rough outside leg stump. Pietersen looked to sweep but was beaten as the ball spun sharply and hit the off stump.

Bowled. Around his legs.

Hamish Blair's photograph captures this in all its glorious symmetry. Warne and Adam Gilchrist may have had their disagreements off the field, but on it, they were always in sync, and they mirror each other at opposite ends of the pitch here. Pietersen is off-kilter - perhaps recovering from the missed sweep, or from the shock of being bowled around his legs - one foot just off the ground. At short leg, Michael Hussey, swivelling around to take evasive action, has just realised what has happened, his left foot too still in the air. Paul Collingwood, backing up at the non-striker's end, has put the brakes on. Matthew Hayden at first slip is ready to take off. Only umpire Steve Bucknor is perfectly still, his face inscrutable in shadow, Warne's hat in his hands, watching the magic unfold from the best seat in the house.

This was the last time Warne bowled a batter around his legs in international cricket. But what a final act it was.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo