Game on: How Shane Warne stumped the world
The year was 1993. The first Test of the series was underway between England and Australia at Manchester. A chubby, blond leg spinner was making his Ashes debut. The man facing up to him was Mike Gattings, who was known to dig into spinners as he would into his lunch. What transpired next single handedly revived the art of leg spin bowling.
The world was to witness a delivery that would go on to be known as the ‘The Ball of the Century’.
The bowler came off from three to four paces to whirl the ball towards Gattings. The ball headed down the leg side harmlessly, giving Gattings a false sense of security. He stretched forward with bat and pad close, lazily to see to his utter horror, the ball spinning sharply after hitting the turf to take his off stump.
The sight of a baffled Mike Gattings at the crease as the Australians celebrated with the bowler looking as if it was all scripted is etched into the memory lanes of all who witnessed that delivery.
Shane Warne had finally announced himself on the world scene. Although some glimpses of his genius had been on display previously including a seven wicket haul against West Indies, till then, he had had a modest record of 31 wickets from 11 Test matches but took eight in that match and 34 wickets for the series.
He went on to become one of the most celebrated bowlers in the history of the game as well as the first to reach 700 Test wickets.
Warne’s histrionics were not lost on anyone. Each delivery had a preface. The stroking of the chin, slow walk to his bowling mark, curling of the ball from hand to hand as the batsman would wait and then a simple twirl of the arm after a few steps to send the delivery towards the batsman. But no one could tell what venom that delivery would spit out.
England never recovered after that delivery and went on to lose the match and the series 4-1. Australia’s world domination was just about to start and in the next two decades this Australian team would rule the cricket world with Shane Warne along with Glenn McGrath being at the centre of most of their victories.
Shane Warne would also have proven to be a mighty captain had it not been for his indiscretions off the field. It is a world’s loss not to have seen him as an international captain. No match would have been ever lost till the last delivery, no draw ever sought, all gambles taken and retaken in an attempt to win – for win was all what Warne ever played for.
It has been 19 years since that delivery left Warne’s hand and countless articles have been written about it, but the legend still lives on and will till the day this great game is played.
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