Archive for the ‘England’ Category

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.

I don’t want to see you, Mr. Warner. There are two teams out there, one is playing cricket. The other is making no attempt to do so.

- Australian Captain Bill Woodfull to Pelham Warner, when the English team manager visited his opponent’s dressing room to express sympathies after the batsman endured 89 minutes of Bodyline bowling on January 17th, 1933.

To many in North America, including myself, cricket is foreign. I mean that in both senses of the word. It’s foreign to me in that I’m unfamiliar with it, but it’s also foreign to me in that I associate it with other nations. When I think of the sport, I’m just as likely to think of Australia, England, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka or the West Indies (which, as it pertains to cricket, actually refers to several Caribbean nations) as I am the oddly shaped bat or the fancy white clothes.

In my ignorance of the sport’s culture, I always imagined a measure of civility that governed cricket – both its players and its fans – in a fashion that other, more North American sports seemed to lack. This stereotype was quickly laid to rest by watching an amateur match with a couple of Australian friends who taught me how to cut a hole in the box with which we carried our beer to make a sun-blocking hat. What I remember of that day was fun and anything but civil.

While the reputation that preceded my first cricket experience might not extend to spectators, there is at least some element of truth to it in terms of how the cricketers handle themselves on the field. The Marylebone Cricket Club, an organization that governs the sport’s rules in tandem with the International Cricket Council, refers to something called the Spirit Of The Game in its preamble to the rule book.

Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game.

Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself. The major responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play rests with the captains.

I don’t believe it unfair to suggest that there is a standard of sportsmanship in cricket that doesn’t necessarily exist in other sports. That’s a good thing. It’s not meant to connote a lack of competition or intensity to the sport, but rather express the importance of tradition and respect present in it. It’s also meant to provide some context for a fascinating story from cricket history that happened 80 years ago today, when a riot almost occurred and diplomatic relations between two nations soured all because of a controversial cricket strategy, called Bodyline.

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