No. 23 May 24, 2009

The ball of the century

Pitch outside leg, take off stump, easy as pie

The arrival © Getty Images

Manchester, 3 June 1993

As a legspinner, of much more modest pretensions, it was with special interest that I watched Shane Warne's first ball in a Test against England. He was bowling to Mike Gatting, the former England captain and a batsman famous for his ability against spin. There was a certain amount of field adjustment between Warne and Allan Border, his captain - long enough for onlookers to prepare themselves for this much-heralded blond bloke's first delivery in an Ashes Test.

He shuffled up: unprepossessing three- or four-pace run-up, nice sideways position, right arm snapping over in an exciting whirl. As the ball looped down, my first feeling was one of disappointment: it was headed down the leg side, a harmless start. Gatting obviously thought so too, and stretched forward slightly without quite getting to the pitch. The ball drifted even further down leg... and then it hit the turf. It fizzed back across Gatting - no mean feat - and clipped the top of off stump.

Gatt looked completely shocked; the wicketkeeper, Ian Healy, was half-amazed, fully elated; the crowd gasped, gobsmacked. 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 legspin, and truly the Ball of the Century.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine