Shane Warne
source: official Twitter handle ICC @ICC


When captaining India, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi brought spin into focus with the famous quartet. In 1993, in an Ashes Test, as a match referee, he witnessed in one delivery spin bowling being rediscovered. At last two ingredients were needed: the Nawab’s presence and Shane Warne.

Richie Benaud on-air studied the field placements. Spin was introduced, Ian Healy came up to the wicket and did some drills. Mark Taylor, who stood in the slips with his arms behind the back, watched Warne roll his arms to the mid-off fielder. Graham Gooch, on 50, was at the non-striker’s end with one glove off.

Just when umpire Dickie Bird hung bowler’s sweater to his white jacket, he gave guard to Mike Gatting, a fine batsman against spin. Gatting signalled one, with his index finger for a leg-stump guard. It had nothing to do with the duration of his stay at the crease. Captain Allan Border from the short cover position wished Warne good luck.

On June 04, 1993, at around 3:05 pm, from Warwick Road End at the Old Trafford, Shane Warne — coming over the wicket, bowling his first ball in Test cricket in England — produced what leg spinners around the world dream of…a perfectly pitched leg spinner.

‘That ball’ took a curve in the Manchester air like it was too conventional to move upon landing. When it landed and did everything it was supposed to do, in no time, it became ‘The ball of the Century’.

Any coach would be happy to see from his/her pupil a ball pitched on off or middle stump and breaking away. But on the second day of the first Test (28 years ago today), the 23-year-old set a benchmark so very high, that even he couldn’t repeat it.

Warne later admitted it felt good when the ball left his wrist. The ball curved in, it continued to do so till the point people in hushed tones defied physics. To put it simply, it started from the off side and drifted in the air to the leg side. It had to pitch. So it chose to land way outside of the leg stump. From there it broke away sharply. By this time it beat Mike Gatting’s bat and Ian Healy’s gloves. It turned miles. And when it hit the top of off, the bails were in the air and leg-spin bowling was alive.

Benaud exclaimed, “He’s done it. He has started off with the most beautiful delivery.” Umpire Bird looked stunned. While Australians rushed to congratulate Warne, Gatting with his eyebrows raised walked back—taking off his gloves and with bat under his arm—in disbelief. Continued Benaud, “Gatting has absolutely no idea what has happened to it. He still doesn’t know.”

“There are people who think I should have padded it away but I never tried to lunge at a spinner. I was more worried about being bowled around the back of my legs. I had most of it covered and had ensured it would not get round the back of my legs and if it did anything else, I was in the right position to react, but it spun quickly as well as a long way. It was a leg-break and I knew he had put a lot of revs on it and we knew the wicket might turn, but not that much,” right handed batsman Gatting told the Manchester Evening News.

Warne was 11 Tests old (with 31 wickets at an average of 30.80). Years later, he said, “As a leg-spinner, you always try to bowl a perfect leg-break every ball and I managed to do it first up which was pretty, like I said, was a fluke really.”

It was timely. Not because England were responding well to the Australian first innings total of 289. But because the bowler and that particular ball arrived like a breath of fresh air when bowling meant just fast bowling, when spinners were filled in for formalities to make a XI, when leg spinners were seen as run-leakers.

Many special deliveries will be bowled but nothing will fascinate as much as this does. Wisden recorded, “Never, perhaps, has one delivery cast so long a shadow over a game, or a series.”

Year after year we celebrate its brilliance. We still call it, ‘The ball of the Century’ in the 21st century. For the magician, however, it remains a ‘fluke’.


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