The memories, inevitably, were not confined to the cricket pitch. Walter recalls being passed a copy of the News of the World upon arriving in the press box for a match in Uxbridge which told the story of three models and Warne in a pair of playboy pants. Upon checking out the dates, Walter discovered that Warne had achieved figures of 7-99 on the day after the supposed ‘encounter’.
Hampshire’s unlikely win over Notts in June 2005, achieved thanks to Warne’s inspired decision-making following two days of rain, was another fond memory. “As the only reporter present wanting Warney’s take on the extraordinary denouement I fully expected a long wait before a chat with the great man,” recalled Walter. What actually followed was an invite into the victorious dressing room from Warne who, covered by only a small towel and supping a can of XXXX, regaled the Daily Echo’s man with a blow-by-blow account.
Hampshire did win the sizeable consolation of the C&G Trophy in 2005 and plenty of good judges will tell you that the foundation for subsequent successes was Warne’s influence. “It is impossible to exaggerate the impact Shane Warne had on this club,” said Bransgrove on Friday. “He was an inspirational leader and brilliant tactician. He convinced the players to believe in his philosophy. Off the field, he was competitive, fun, naughty and lovable in equal measure. He used to say ‘just because I occasionally do stupid things, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid’ and he couldn’t have shown greater self-awareness.” Shaun Udal, his vice-captain at Hampshire, described Warne as “the best cricketer and friend ever”.
Kevan James, the former Hampshire all-rounder, said simply that he was “loved to bits” by everyone at the county.
Warne never forgot his time at Hampshire and, when I interviewed him at the Oval more than a decade later in 2018, his eyes lit up at the mere mention of the connection. One line from the interview also somehow seemed to explain his genius. “Every time I had the ball in my hand, I truly believed something magical was going to happen,” he said.