Shane Warne, an Australian spin master, died suddenly on this day in 2022 at the age of 52. For cricket fans, Warne gave many memorable moments. His Ashes debut in June 1993 was possibly the greatest cricket moment for posterity, thanks to the internet.
The year was 1993, and the day was June 4th. The venue was Old Trafford. Warne, a rookie with 31 wickets in 11 Tests at the time, was getting ready to make his debut in England. The batsman was Mike Gatting, a former Test captain and renowned spin bowler. What happened in the next seven seconds startled the entire world.
At first, Warne’s delivery appeared to be straight, but after pitching, it took a sharp right bend. Gatting reacted by stepping forward with his left foot to block the ball with his bat, a classic defensive batting tactic against spin. The ball, though, missed Gatting’s bat and spun violently, knocking his stumps out.
The ball spun “two and a half feet” to smash the stumps, shocking Gatting, Umpire Dickie Bird, and the Channel 9 announcer. The delivery has been dubbed “the ball of the Century” in retrospect.
Years later, Gatting told the BBC about the incident: “From two or three inches outside the leg stump, it spun a long way… I assumed Australia wicketkeeper Ian Healy had kicked the bail off since the ball had not brushed against my bat, glove, or pad… The ball had gotten a hold of the bail.”
Warne concluded the Test with four wickets in both innings, which Australia won by 179 runs.
The ‘ball of the Century’ not only heralded Warne’s international debut, but it also reinvigorated the dwindling art of leg spin, which had been overshadowed by the legendary fast bowling feats of the 1970s and 1980s.
Warne retired as the second-highest wicket-taker in Test history, and he was the first bowler to surpass 700 wickets. In 145 Tests, Warne got 708 wickets at an average of 25.41.
The ‘Ball of the Century’ also marked the start of Warne’s lifelong love affair with England, which became his preferred hunting grounds. In 22 Tests in England, Warne collected 129 wickets. Nonetheless, his England bowling average of 21.95 was greater than his domestic average of 26.