Shane Warne’s Ball of the Century catapulted him to fame and changed cricket forever

The turn

“My thought process was to bowl the ball and spin the ball as far as you possibly can and send a message to the England guys that this guy can spin it,” Warne said. “Let them see it drift, curve and just rip it.”

These words could have been the manifesto for Warne’s career. For all the focus upon Warne’s competitive zeal and his mastery getting inside opponents’ heads, perhaps the single greatest hallmark of his bowling was quite how much he turned the ball. Modern ball-tracking only began in 2005 – after Warne had suffered shoulder injuries – but, of the 82 spinners to bowl 1,000 deliveries in this time, the average turn on each Warne ball was significantly higher than anyone else.

Being able to generate so much turn opened up new geometric possibilities for Warne. So it was with his most famous delivery. Gatting, a fine player of spin, shapes to cover his middle and leg stumps. Against most leg-spin bowlers, this would be sufficient. But against Warne, it left his off stump fatally exposed.

The wicket

“It’s all like it happened in slow motion,” Warne later said of the delivery. “Gatting tried to turn it. It drifted and he followed the drift. It pitched, just missed his bat and just clipped the top of off stump.”

Gatting, who had ample experience playing on turning wickets in Asia, called it “surreal”. This was just one ball, yet one that would reverberate for a generation to come.

Over the previous two series, superiority in pace bowling had helped Australia to two comprehensive victories. Now, they had superiority in spin too: a bowler with the conniving and control who could threaten England on any surface, at any time. Gatting would be the first of 34 wickets that Warne would take in the 1993 Ashes, and the first of 195 English wickets – more than anyone else – in Test cricket.

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