London: Former England cricketer Mike Gatting was left in a state of disbelief after hearing the news of Shane Warne’s death on Friday at the age of 52.
One of the top batters of his era, Gatting was at his wits’ end almost three decades back when Warne’s “ball of the century” rattled him on the second day of the opening Ashes Test at Old Trafford on June 4, 1993.
A seemingly innocuous delivery from Warne turned almost two-and-a-half feet to bamboozle the home batsman. It was the spin king’s first ball against England, in his first Ashes Test.
The delivery, also referred to as the ‘Gatting Ball’, has a significant place in the history of the game in the sense that it signalled the revival of leg-spin bowling.
The delivery was pitched outside the line of the right-handed Gatting’s leg stump. It dipped, ripped and zipped beyond the England batter’s defensive prod, beating the outside edge of the bat before going on to hit the off stump.
The spin king had had already played 11 Tests, but it was his first Test in England, and the hosts were all too aware about his prodigious talent.
“We understood he was a very talented sportsperson. He liked his surfing, he was a typical sort of Aussie larrikin, as they called them, who could spin the cricket ball,” Gatting told BBC 5 Live.
“We didn’t know much more about him than that, and in the match before they told him to just bowl his leg-breaks and he didn’t bowl his flippers, and topples (top-spinners), and googlies, but when he got down the other end there, I was just trying to watch the ball.
“I knew it was a leg-break and I knew it was going to spin, you could hear it coming through the air from down the other end, and then just at the last yard or so, as a good leg-spinner does, it just drifted in, and it drifted just outside leg stump and just turned out of nowhere, a long, long way.
“I’m quite a wide chap and it got past me as well as everything else and just clipped the off bail, and I was just as dumbfounded as I am now to hear that he’s died,” said Gatting.
The 64-year-old Gatting was in the twilight of his international career when Warne was emerging, but 30 years later he remains astonished by the way Warne got him out that day.
“I can’t believe it, and I couldn’t believe it then, and it was just one of those that sort of probably helped him,” Gatting said. “He was a pretty confident bloke already, but I’m sure that gave him a huge amount of confidence and took him to the next level, and he kept going up levels after that.”
On Warne’s death, Gatting said, “It’s been just devastating really, and unbelievable. When you think he’s 52, and he’s been an absolute legend in the game, and I don’t use that word lightly either. It’s just unreal. We’ve lost a great cricketer and a great guy. I’m very, very happy to have called him a great friend.”