The best Ashes delivery of all time will come as no surprise to anyone. There’s no point teasing the reveal because it’s Shane Warne’s appropriately named ‘Ball of the Century’.
By Aaron Callaghan
Co-Founder The Unsportsmen
In the midst on the 2019 Ashes battle in England, it is time to remember the three greatest Ashes deliveries of the modern era. There is only two caveats, firstly the footage must be available on YouTube, the quality doesn’t matter as long as we can see a castle being demolished or a stump cartwheeling past the keeper it counts and secondly it’s of the modern era, 1990 to present. I could deep dive back into the archives, but I’m relatively young and simply cut my teeth on cricket from the 90’s onwards, sure I have seen old footage from almost every era, ever iteration of the Australian team but I’m keeping it to recent memory.
Shane Warne Ball of the Century
It’s great to reminisce and just remember a simpler time, no internet, no social media and just bathe in the all-time-greatness that is Shane Keith Warne, it the 1993 Ashes series and an up and coming young leg spinner with seemingly untamed but actually heavily curated blonde locks, made a grown man call him daddy. Gatting has no idea what was coming to him or what went by the reaching, probing outside edge of his Gunn & Moore, a looping, dipping, drifting and fizzing rock delivered from 5 and half ambling paces from a vibrant young leg spinner.
It’s perhaps a stretch to call the ball unplayable, even Graham Gooch said at the time that perhaps Gatting should have got to it on the full, none-the-less still an amazing delivery and Mike Gatting certainly made it look unplayable, the look of bewilderment on his face as he trudges off is the stuff spin bowlers dreams are made of like Michael Jordan hitting game winning jump shots and jogging back up the court shrugging, as if he didn’t know exactly how great he is.
The 1993 Ashes series in England saw the rise of Shane Warne’s profile and the start of a burgeoning career after struggling in his test match debut against India where he returned match figures of 1/150. Allan Border threw the ball to Warney on an Old Trafford wicket that is as spin friendly as English conditions will allow, 700 plus wickets later and the rest is history.
In watching the video below, a few things catch my eye. Mike Gatting is taking guard 3 inches outside of leg stump knowing fore well that something is going to land out there. The ball pitches and fizzes past Gatting’s bat, he immediately looks down at the umpire for confirmation, perhaps even help, then down at the pitch wondering what it hit, where it landed?
I don’t envy Mike Gatting in that situation. God knows I’ve trudged off to worse bowlers in third grade - guys who can’t keep stable employment, guys who with second hand kit and don’t know what the fielding positions are actually called.
Ryan Harris Ball of the 21st Century
Some 20 years after Warne’s effort, Ryan Harris produced a first up rock that would make anyone holding 2 pounds 9 ounces of willow look like they’ve never played the game before.
Harris took the new ball of the Perth test match in the 2013 Ashes, steamed in and moved the Kookaburra ball after pitching to castle Alistair Cook and gift the prodigious left hander his first ever golden duck in test matches. Cook played compactly down the line of the ball, it was essentially unplayable moving 4 inches after pitching to collect Cook’s off-stump.
As a fielding captain you couldn’t ask for a better start to the innings.
Cook does however look back at the slips cordon presumably wondering why they’re all up and celebrating, that couldn’t have possibly the stumps? Could it? But Ryan Harris’ celebration says it all as he shifts his bowling momentum into a celebration sprint collecting high fives from the slips cordon as he rushes past.
Simon Jones - Reverse Swing Masterclass
The 2005 English team may have had some assistance in squeezing every ounce of swing, traditional and reverse, out of the Dukes ball, however I cannot draw attention to that apparently because the Aussies have their own skeletons, a cupboard full of them. Dispursions aside, Simon Jones produced a peach to Michael Clarke in the 2005 Ashes series, love or hate Michael Clarke due to his commentary and well the Simon Katich thing, of which every punter in the country sides with Katich, was a bastman on the rise in 2005, very in control of his own game, a very classy stroke maker combined with the patience required to construct an innings.
Clarke doesn’t look in disbelief like Gatting, he instantly knows he’s left a bad one. Clarke holds his leave pose for a second extra than he should as he computes his own poor decision and wondering how that rock came back so far in the air late, very very late.