At the 1993 Ashes a single delivery on June 4th would usher in a new era for Cricket. Leg spin bowling would be revolutioned by a bleach blond Australian with a flair for the dramatic. Shane Warne would take 71 test wickets in 1993, but the first will forever be remembered as the Ball Of The Century.
Australia dominated the first test at Old Trafford, led by the new opening partnership of Michael Slater and Mark Taylor. England debutant Peter Such made head-waves of his own, taking six wickets including Slater’s. Australia ended their first innings with 289 runs, a formidable score on a pitch that the batsmen found difficult to read.
Mike Atherton and Graham Gooch were to settle in for a long reign at the stumps for England until the former was bowled by Merv Hughes for 71 runs. Mike Gatting replaced Atherton, and that’s when it happened.
Explaining the inexplainable is an endeavor better left to the professionals, and Ian Healy’s description of Warne’s ridiculous ball put it best. It did just enough. Everything did just enough.
Warne would go on to help Australia win six successive Ashes series and finished with 708(!) Test wickets.
Gatting for his part had this to say some 20 years on:
“I’m happy to have been bowled by it because had it been some blond bloke who only played about 10 Test matches and got 27 wickets, then I would have been really upset. As it was, he became the best spinner of all time, so you don’t mind so much.”
Many who would know believe spin bowling was reborn when Warne took that wicket in Manchester. The man himself doesn’t believe the Gatting ball was his best, citing a delivery to Shivnarine Chanderpaul of the West Indies in 1996 as the apex of his spin wizardry.
While it is possible better balls have been bowled, the wicket gave Warne the confidence and belief that would make him one of the greatest of all time.