Ball of the Century
The Ball of the Century, also referred to as the Gatting Ball or simply That Ball, is the name given to a cricket delivery bowled by Australian spin bowler Shane Warne to English batsman Mike Gatting on Day Two during the first Test of the 1993 Ashes series (4 June 1993), which took place at Old Trafford, Manchester. With his first ball against England, in his first Ashes Test, Warne produced a spectacular delivery that bowled Gatting out. It became recognized as being of considerable significance in not just the context of the match or series, but in cricket in general in that it signalled the revival of leg spin bowling.
The pitch at Old Trafford traditionally favours spin bowling, and England picked two spin bowlers: Phil Tufnell and debutant Peter Such. In contrast, Australia picked three fast bowlers, with the inexperienced Warne as the only spinner. Warne had played in 11 Test matches up to that point, and taken 31 wickets at a moderate average of 30.80 runs per wicket. Although showing some promise, Warne's early career had been less than spectacular and his style of bowling — leg spin — was seen by many cricket followers as an antiquated art with little value in the modern game. Pace bowling had dominated the game since the legendary West Indian pace bowlers of the 1970s and 1980s. New Zealand’s captain and leading batsman, Martin Crowe, had praised Warne before the series, but Wisden notes that Crowe’s proclamation was widely dismissed as excusing New Zealand’s frailties rather than genuinely endorsing Warne.
English captain Graham Gooch won the toss and elected to bowl first, hoping to use the pitch conditions to make batting difficult for the Australians. Despite Mark Taylor scoring a century, Australia were dismissed for a moderate total of 289 runs. England also began well, reaching 71 runs before Mike Atherton was dismissed by Merv Hughes. Opposite Gooch, Mike Gatting was the next man to bat and he duly set about scoring runs. At this point, Australian captain Allan Border turned to his leg spinner, Shane Warne. However, Gatting was renowned as a world-class player against spin bowling, and was fully expected to give the inexperienced Warne a tough time.
After a slow run-up of just a few paces, 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. As is apparent from slow motion replays, the rapidly spinning cricket ball began to drift to the right (due to the Magnus effect). The ball ended up pitching several inches outside the line of Gatting's leg stump.
Gatting responded by thrusting his left leg forward towards the pitch of the ball, and pushing his bat next to his pad, angled downwards. This was a standard defensive tactic used by most experienced batsmen against leg-spin balls which pitched outside leg stump. The intention is for the ball to hit either the pad or the bat without danger of being out. Because the ball pitched outside the leg stump, the batsman cannot be out leg before wicket, and if the ball spun slightly more than expected, it would hit the bat and rebound safely down to the ground so the batsman cannot be caught.
However, the ball landed in a patch of the pitch which had been worn by the follow-through of pace bowlers earlier in the game (footmarks). This increased the friction between the ball and the surface, causing it to turn far more than Gatting (or anyone else) expected. The ball passed the outside edge of his bat, then clipped the top of his off stump, dislodging the bails. Gatting stared at the pitch for several seconds, before accepting that he was out bowled and walked off the field. The dismissal was captured in a photograph by Steve Lindsell, in which Gatting is in shock, while wicketkeeper Ian Healy raises his arms in celebration behind and Gatting's off bail spins somewhere above his head.
The fall of Gatting's wicket left England on 80 runs for 2 wickets, a position from which they never recovered, as Warne added the wicket of Robin Smith a mere four runs later. Warne also accounted for Gooch and Andy Caddick in the innings, helping reduce England to a first innings total of just 210. Encouraged by their bowling, Australia declared their second innings at 432 for 5 wickets. Warne then contributed four more wickets as Australia won the match by 179 runs, winning the man of the match award for his efforts.
The result of this match set the tone for the remainder of the series, and Australia cruised to a comfortable 4-1 victory, with Warne taking a total of 34 wickets at an average of 25.79 and being named the Australian man of the series (each team being awarded a separate Man of the Series award by the other in that series).
This series was another step in the early stages of a long domination of world cricket by Australia, coinciding with the exceedingly successful career of Warne. Warne's bowling also provided an eye-opening insight into the subtleties and power of leg spin bowling for modern cricket audiences, who had become used to the spectacle of pace attacks, and marked a worldwide resurgence of popularity in the art of spin bowling in general, and leg spin in particular.
Warne's delivery to Gatting has become known as the Ball of the Century. Since that incident, Warne has come to be acknowledged as one of the best bowlers in history. During the penultimate Test match of his career on Boxing Day 2006, in the fourth Ashes Test against England, Warne took his 700th Test wicket, bowling Andrew Strauss to become the first cricketer ever to reach this milestone.
Graham Gooch commented on the reaction of Gatting, "He looked as though someone had just nicked his lunch", as Gatting was much mocked for his rotundity. This was further alluded to by journalist Martin Johnson, who said, "How anyone can spin a ball the width of Gatting boggles the mind", and again by Gooch who added, "If it had been a cheese roll, it would never have got past him."
During the Old Trafford Test of the 2005 Ashes series, the long-retired Gatting re-created the Ball Of The Century with an automated bowling machine programmed to deliver leg spin.
In 2009 the Irish chamber pop group The Duckworth Lewis Method wrote a song called "Jiggery Pokery" about this incident.
During the 2019 Cricket World Cup, India unorthodox bowler Kuldeep Yadav's dismissal of Pakistan's Babar Azam drew comparisons to Warne's ball, with James Gheerbrant of The Times calling the delivery "[Kuldeep's] own 'ball of the century'."
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- The significance of the ball in a number of contexts, as well as the reaction from people who view video of its trajectory, have made the appellation stick. 1001 Australians You Should Know - Google Books. books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
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- Haigh, Gideon (2005-08-11). "Warne turns myth into mastery". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Kuldeep's 'ball of the century'". Rediff.com. 17 June 2019. Retrieved 17 June 2019.