READ: Ashes over the years, the 'Ball of the Century'
#TheRetURN: The 'Ball of the Century'
As we get ready for #TheRetURN of the Ashes at Emirates Old Trafford, we will look back at some of the most best Ashes moments at our iconic stadium. This week, we will take a look back at Shane Warne's 'Ball of the Century' in 1993.
Day Two of the first Ashes Test of 1993 at Old Trafford, England have started well in gloomy conditions – dismissing Australia for 289 before cruising to 80-1.
By mid-afternoon, and with Mike Gatting new to the crease joining the well-set Graham Gooch, England were looking to continue their march towards the tourist’s first innings total.
Summoned to bowl his first delivery in England, was a promising, young, blonde haired leg-spinner called Shane Warne. Warne's previous six months had been notable for his progress from his early beginnings in Test cricket. He'd taken 7-52 to help Australia defeat the West Indies in the Melbourne Test. Then he was Australia's most successful bowler on a three-Test tour of New Zealand two months later.
On strike was Gatting, who was renowned as a world-class player against spin bowling, and was fully expected to give the rookie of English surroundings a rude awakening.
There was a hush around Old Trafford as the chatter stopped for spectators to take their first look at the next big deal, as he ran in off a few short, slow places nobody in attendance could have expected what would happen next…
Warne rolled his right arm over and delivered a leg break to the right-handed Gatting. The ball initially travelled straight down the pitch towards the batsman, before it began to drift to the right, pitching about 30 centimetres outside the line of Gatting’s leg stump.
Gatting stretched forward not reaching to the pitch of the ball, looking to play a forward defence - only to see the ball whiz past his bat, clattering the top of off-stump, and changing Warne’s life as he knew it, forever.
"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 much, it was a fluke really," he said. “In all the different matches I played I never was able to do it again first ball. It was one of those things that was meant to be.
"It sort of changed my whole life really back on the field and off the field. It was one of those deliveries which all leg-spinners want to bowl and I am proud that I have bowled it, especially to someone like Mike Gatting, who was a fantastic player.
“When I was thrown the ball I was feeling pretty nervous, my hands were sweaty. I just wanted to make the ball land somewhere and not get hit for four – to knock Gatting over with the first one was just one of those things, was it fate? If it was, then I am glad it happened to me! The way that the ball drifted and hit the top of off-stump was a pretty special sight.”
Gatting recalls: “I played it back in my head several times, could I have swept it? Would I have swept it? I asked Warnie how would he have played it? He said ‘I would have probably swept it, top edged it and got out!’
“It is one of those wonderful bits of history now, that belongs not only to me, but to the greatest leg-spinner of all time. It is nice to be a part of history and that is what this great game is all about.”
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