On this day: Shane Warne’s ‘ball of the century’ and the making of a legend
Warne bowled a flighted delivery that pitched at length way outside the leg stump and went on to hit the top of off stump. History was created. Warne and the Aussies celebrated in joy while Gatting stood bewildered.Updated: Jun 04, 2020 13:38 IST
Exactly 27 years ago, on this day, an Australian leg spinner produced a piece of magic on a cricket field. Shane Keith Warne had made a rather nondescript Test debut against India in January 1992. By the time he was selected to play in his first Ashes series in 1993 in England, he was being seen as a talent for the future.
In 11 Test matches till then, Warne had just one five-wcket haul to his name. A spell of 7/52 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which helped the Aussies beat a charged up West Indies side in a memorable Test match. Warne went on to have a productive series in New Zealand but he was nowhere close to being someone whom the English would consider a big threat.
The first Test of the Ashes series began on June 3, 1993 at Manchester. Mark Taylor’s century headlined the first day and so did England spinner Peter Such’s heroics. Such returned on day 2 to bowl the Aussies out for 289, ending with figures of 6/67.
England’s innings started with a young and resolute Michael Atherton blocking most of what Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes had thrown at him. On the other end runs flew from the willow of a ripe Graham Gooch, also the English skipper. After Hughes finally ended Atherton’s watch, Allan Border decided to bring the leg spinner into the attack.
Mike Gatting had joined Gooch in the middle. Gatting had already got his name etched in history, having played the ill-fated reverse sweep in the 1987 World Cup final off Border, which derailed England’s title hopes. Little did he know that at the fag end of a fairly successful career, his name would get attached, not in a memorable way, with a legend in the making
Warne bowled a flighted delivery, that pitched at length way outside the leg stump, and went on to hit the top of off stump. History was created. Warne and the Aussies celebrated in joy while Gatting stood bewildered. Warne went on to pick up 4 wickets in each innings to help Australia win the Test and eventually the series. The delivery has since become a part of cricketing folklore.
Warne would go on to torment the arch rivals for years to come as Australia enjoyed one of their best Ashes run in the history of the rivalry, through the 90s and the early 2000s. Needless to say, it also ushered in an era when spinners were back to being the magicians of the game.