Where, and when, did Shane Warne bowl ‘The Ball of the Century’?

The late Shane Warne, who died of a heart attack – caused by atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries – on March 4, 2022, aged 52, was one of the finest bowlers in cricket history. He was credited with single-handedly resurrecting the ‘lost’ art of leg-spin bowling, which yielded 708 wickets in Test cricket and another 293 in One Day Internationals, at an average of 25.41 and 25.73, respectively.

Born in Upper Ferntree Gully, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, on September 13, 1969, Warne made an inauspicious Test debut, taking 1-150 off 45 overs in the first innings of a drawn match against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in January, 1992. However, British cricket fans were given their first glimpse of the young Victorian when he made his Ashes debut, aged 23, in the first Test of the Australia tour of England at Old Trafford, Manchester on June 4, 1993. England won the toss and elected to field and, on day two, were 80-1 in pursuit of Australia’s first innings total of 289 all out, with captain Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting at the crease, when Warne came on to bowl from the Warwick Road End.

Gatting, renowned as a skilled player of spin, was on strike for what match commentator Richie Benaud, almost clairvoyantly, introduced as the ‘first ball in Test cricket in England for Shane Warne’. What followed was later described by Anil Kumble, the most successful Indian bowler in history, as ‘a perfect delivery for any legspinner, or any spinner for that matter’. The so-called ‘Ball of the Century’ drifted across Gatting, pitching, apparently harmlessly, well outside the leg stump, but ripped back two and half feet, past the outside edge, to clip the top of the off stump. A bewildered Gatting stood momentarily at the crease, oblivious to exactly what had happened, before consulting umpire Ken Palmer and trudging off.

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