On June 3, 1993, Shane Warne bowled what is widely regarded as the ‘ball of the century’. In an Ashes Test at the Old Trafford in Manchester, the leg-spinner knocked back Mike Gatting’s off stump with a delivery that is still fascinating to watch.
Warne had made his debut in Test cricket the previous year. Heading into the 1993 Ashes series in England, he had played 11 Tests, taking 31 wickets at an average of 30.80. In the first Test of the series in Manchester, Australia had been bowled out for 289 in their first innings and England were 80/1 in reply with Gatting and Graham Gooch at the crease.
That’s when Australia captain Allan Border tossed the ball to Warne and the world got to witness an unforgettable moment.
With his very first ball in England and in Ashes cricket, the 23-year-old Warne managed to produce a piece of pure magic. The ball to the right-handed Gatting drifted drastically and pitched well outside leg stump (it probably would have been a wide to a left-hander had it pitched and gone straight in its trajectory), before spinning sharply and beating the bat by a fair distance to clip the top of off stump.
“The ball of the century was a fluke. It really was. I never did it again in the first ball of any time. So it really was a fluke and I think it was meant to be,” Warne said in an interview with ICC in 2018. “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 but like I said, a fluke really.
“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.”
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Warne went on to pick four-fors in both innings in that match and helped Australia win it by a comfortable margin of 179 runs.
And it is that wicket of Gatting at Old Trafford that not just kickstarted his career but rekindled the magic of leg spin. “Never, perhaps, has one delivery cast so long a shadow over a game, or a series,” was how Wisden described that iconic Ashes moment.
Watch Warne, Gatting and Border talk in detail about ‘that ball’ in the following videos: