June 04, 1993. England vs Australia, Old Trafford. Ashes. Exactly 27 years to the day, Shane Keith Warne signaled a warning to the entire world. A warning that would turn into reality in the course of the next 14 years as the leg-spinner went on to bamboozle batsman around the world, 708 to be precise.
And, it wasn’t a spell or a five-wicket haul that announced the arrival of the legendary leg-spinner. It was what is now called the ‘ball of the century’ when Shane Warne delivered a stunning leg-break to bamboozle the off-stump of a 79-Test veteran Mike Gatting.
After taking his customary four-pace run-up, Warne swirled his wrist to give some hefty revolutions on the ball. The ball pitched outside leg-stump.
Gatting stretched forward not reaching the pitch of the ball, only to see the ball whiz past his bat to knock his off-stump over.
Gatting was bewildered, as was everyone including the Australians.
The iconic image of bewildered Mike Gatting after Shane Warne’s ‘ball of the century’ still resonates in the mind of the cricketing folklore.
Shane Warne had become an overnight sensation and years later, the legendary leg-spinner reminisced about its immediate aftermath.
“I was 23 when that happened. I remember going to the Windmill Pub in London, we were staying at the Westbury Hotel 100 yards up the road … and I went for a pint with Merv (Hughes),” Shane Warne was quoted as saying by Indian Express.
He added: “And when I came out there was, without a word of a lie, probably 25-30 photographers just taking pictures. The next day was about ‘Shane Warne was at the pub’. I was getting critiqued about what I was wearing, I had ’10 things you don’t know about Shane Warne’ and I’m reading it going, ‘that’s not true, I didn’t know that about me!”
When Fred Trueman’s prediction about Shane Warne went horribly wrong
Interestingly, England hadn’t considered Warne a threat coming into the 1993 Ashes series. In 11 Tests leading into that series, Warne had just one five-wicket haul to his name.
In fact, during the warm-up game ahead of the series, Graeme Hick had smashed Warne, who returned with figures of 1-122. Australia did the right thing by not exposing Warne in the One-day series leading into the Ashes.
Fred Trueman, in his Ashes preview, had even said that Australia had given England a gift by selecting Warne and Tim May for the Ashes. He had further added that there could be a feast of runs for the English batsmen.
“I’m just back from Australia and I can tell you their selectors have made England a gift of the Ashes. I can’t remember such a mish-mash of an Aussie squad in the 36 years I have been writing for the paper. Spinners Tim May and Shane Warne are not going to make England grovel the way the Indians did, so there should be a feast of runs for Gooch, Hick, and Gower.” Fred Trueman was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
How’s that for a prediction gone horribly wrong? Warne not only claimed four wickets in each innings to help Australia win the series, but he also cast a spell on the England batsmen for the entirety of his career, claiming 195 of them in his 15-year-old career.
Watch the ‘ball of the century’ here: