The ball of the century

We look back at 25 memorable moments, events and developments in cricket in the period 1993-2017. First up: Gatting b Warne, Old Trafford

David Hopps

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Dub something the ball of the century and before too long it will be suggested that it was nothing of the sort. So it has proved with Shane Warne's delivery to bowl Mike Gatting in the 1993 Old Trafford Test. Just as the 20th century revelled in one of the greatest deliveries the game had ever seen, so the 21st insisted on the right to reassessment.

Warne's delivery to Gatting was a joy. Anticipation about this new legspinner from Australia, 11 Tests into his career but little known to English crowds, was high. With his first ball in Ashes cricket, he left the cricketing public agape. That regulation legbreak, drifting in and dipping suddenly to pitch just outside leg, springing away to beat Gatting's forward stretch and clipping the top of off stump. Warne, so full of himself, became an instant global star, his jubilation a perfect counterpoint to Gatting's hangdog expression.

The protagonists: Gatting and Warne 12 years later, when the magic of the delivery was losing some of its wonder © PA Photos/Getty Images

With a single delivery, legspin was again at the forefront of the game, its leading proponent an ebullient, not to say brash, Australian who would challenge the game's stuffy image. For two decades, cricket had been dominated by fearsome fast bowling, led by West Indies and Australia, and suddenly it was dancing to a different tune. With one delivery, a page of cricket history had changed.

As a new century dawned, the magic began to be questioned. Garry Sobers, in his autobiography, was just one judge who felt it should have been defended better. But Gatting, for all his modest average of 35.55 over 79 Tests, was a much-loved figure. In retirement, he loved to tell that he was afraid of being bowled around his legs, only for his batting partner, Graham Gooch, to say that his backside was far too big for that to have happened.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps