• Friday, Jul 10, 2020
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The ball that changed cricket’s history

  • Published at 12:13 am June 4th, 2020
Australia's Shane Warne bamboozles England's Mike Gatting during the Old Trafford Test in 1993
The incident took place exactly 27 years ago, June, 4, 1993 in Old Trafford, where a young Australian leg-spinner baffled seasoned campaigner Mike Gatting with a delivery that may occur only once in a century and hence titled the "Ball of the Century"
It is said that, in the history many epochs may remain inert but a single moment of spark may explode the revolution to rewrite human history. 

Cricket is a team game, the win and loss of a match holds paramount importance but a single cricketing moment, a single delivery, changed its history and resurrected its most enigmatic art from a morbid state to the epitome of glory like the phoenix of the mythology.

The incident took place exactly 27 years ago, June, 4, 1993 in Old Trafford, where a young Australian leg-spinner baffled seasoned campaigner Mike Gatting with a delivery that may occur only once in a century and hence titled the "Ball of the Century"

Leg-spin has always been the most difficult craft to master in cricket and with the advent of one-day international cricket the art was almost in danger of extinction as it proved too risky in the shorter format to deploy. 

However, Australia picked up an inexperienced 23-year old leg-spinner, who got just 31 wickets at 30.80 in 11 Tests till then, and many thought experienced English batting lineup with the likes of Graham Gooch, Gatting and Graeme Hick would rip him apart.

Old Trafford hosted the first Test of the Ashes 93 and English bowlers did a reasonable job bundling out the opponent for 289 early in the second day. 

In reply, the host eached 80/1 with Gooch and Gatting, both known for their prowess against spin bowling, at the crease. 

But visiting skipper Alan Border decided to introduce his young leggie Warne for the first time against the batting behemoths. 

The plump Warne reached the mark of his very short run up in his signature unfussy style with the ball in hand, approached the bowling crease with slow steps and flicked the ball from his right hand as the celestial bodies were ready to spark with the cricketing Gods scribing the tale. 

Like a true killer, the delivery looked innocuous, pitched well outside the leg-stump at about good length but the assassin changed its course like a cobra as the Magnus effect created due to the rapid spin of the cricket ball and a patch of the pitch made by the pace bowlers’ footmark made it lethal. 

Gatting, an expert of facing spin bowling, thrust his left leg forward with bat next to his pad, the ideal defensive technique to combat a ball that pitched outside the leg stump as he would not get out leg before if hit on the pad and extra spin would be negotiated with the meat of the willow. 

But, little he knew what was going to happen next. 

The lethal delivery spun so much that it went past his pad and bat to hit the off-stump and dislodge the bails. 

Gatting , the awe-struck batter looked at the pitch with sheer disbelief. 

He however, got out of his spell after several seconds and walked off the field, but the unbelievable trajectory of that delivery, the incredible spectacle it created still make people awe whenever one watches that moment through video.

Steven Lynch, the erstwhile deputy editor of Wisden cricket monthly recalled, “Gatt [Gatting] looked completely shocked, the wicket-keeper Ian Healy, was half-amazed, fully elated; the crowd gasped, gob smacked. And Warne looked as if he’d planned it that way all along. It was the ball that did the most to revive the fading art of leg-spin, and truly the Ball of the Century.”

Henceforth, the most enigmatic art of leg-spin became the most sought after trade for young cricketers around the globe. 

Every country wished to find a wizard like Warne and many around the world flourished in the next two decades albeit none reached the heights of Warne, the most successful leg-spinner and arguably the greatest spinner ever.
Even after the inception of Twenty20s, the shortest format of the game, where batsmen rule the roost, a good leg-spinner is still regarded as the most important and aggressive weapon and every captain counts a leggie as an asset if not the most potent weapon in his repertoire. 

Such is the impact of that magical delivery, it is worthwhile remembering on its anniversary, each and every year.  
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