The Ball of the Century refers to the leg spin delivery that Shane Warne bowled to Mike Gatting in the 1993 Ashes series at Old Trafford, Manchester. It was the first ball Shane Warne ever bowled to the English batsmen. The ball spectacularly bowled Mike Gatting and became significant not only in the context of the match itself or even the series but in actually helping to revive the lost art of wrist spin bowling.
The UK's Channel 4 ran a poll in 2002 to find the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments. This delivery came in at number 92.
The 1993 Ashes Series saw England field a full strength team again for the first time since the suspension of quite a few players touring South Africa during the Apartheid era. Australia took the Ashes Urn in the 1990/91 season but England looked to seriously challenge Australia and reclaim the Ashes.
Old Trafford tradionally favours spin bowling and England picked two spinners, Phil Tufnell and Peter Such, while Australia picked the unexperienced Shane Warne as their only spin bowler. Although Shane Warne had shown promise at the start of his career it was nothing spectacular and many experts saw wrist spin bowling as a redundant art in the modern game.
Graham Gooch sent Australia in to bat and Australia made 289 runs with Mark Taylor scoring a century. England responded well and Mike Gatting came in at number three with England on 71/1. At this point Australian captain, Allan Border, brought on the young Shane Warne. Mike Gatting was already a legend of the game and well known for his expert batting against spin. No one expected Shane Warne to cause him any trouble.
The delivery itself
Shane Warne ran up to the wicket in his slow relaxed style and delivered what seemed like a normal leg spin delivery. Initially the ball seemed to be travelling straight down the track. However, halfway in its travel the ball started to rapidly drift towards the leg side. This drift caused the ball to pitch a foot outside of leg stump. Mike Gatting simply padded up to the ball not expecting to be troubled. Even if the ball spun back he did expect to be given LBW as the ball pitched outside leg stump. However, the ball spun and bounced back so sharply that it shot past a bemused Gatting and hit the top of off stump.
Australia went on to win the test by 179 runs with Warne picking up the man of the match award.
Warne continued hos devastating bowling throughout the series and took 34 wickets at an average of 25.79 sharing the man of the series award with Graham Gooch.
The ball of the century started a decade or more of dominance by the Australian cricket team. Warne went on to become a legend of the game and voted as one of the five cricketers of the 20th century. The art of leg spin also became popular again and is yet again firmly rooted in the modern game as an essential skill for any team to have.
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