|Player:||MW Gatting, SK Warne, Abdul Qadir, IT Botham|
Mike Gatting, the man on the receiving end of the 'ball of the century', responded to Shane Warne's impending retirement from international cricket by saying the sport may not see the like of the Australia leg-spin great again.
Warne, Test cricket's most successful bowler, said Thursday he would call time on his Australia career at the end of the current Ashes series against England.
Former England batsman Gatting played a key role in Warne's career when, in 1993, he was bowled by the Victorian's first delivery in Ashes cricket during the Old Trafford Test. The astonishing leg-break, soon afterwards dubbed the 'ball of the century', confirmed Warne's emergence as a world-class bowler. "It is more than 13 years since I faced my first ball from Shane Warne. No matter how much time passes, I am still asked about it regularly and I expect I always will be," Gatting wrote in Thursday's edition of The Times newspaper.
"I suppose I can say that 'I was there' at the moment he first indicated his potential to the wider world. There or thereabouts, anyway," he also told the British daily. "Anyway, as everyone knows, that particular ball at Old Trafford spun a long way. Having pitched way outside leg stump, it had somehow found just the right angle to go past quite a wide fellow with a bat in his hand and nudge the off bail. It was extraordinary," added the stout former Middlesex skipper. Gatting, the last England captain to win an Ashes series in Australia, during the 1986/87 tour, and renowned as a fine player of slow bowling said only Pakistan's Abdul Qadir came close to Warne in his experience of leg-spin. But while he reckoned Qadir had the greater variety, Warne was the more accurate of the two. "Qadir was perhaps the nearest equivalent to Warne, a strong bowler who really put some spin and drift on the ball. He had plenty of variations, but he used to bowl plenty of bad balls, so you only had to wait. Warne, on the other hand, did not have as many variations, but he was amazingly accurate and still gave the ball a big rip." The 37-year-old Warne has the remaining two matches of the current Ashes series in which to extend his world record tally of 699 Test wickets. However, Gatting said Warne's impact couldn't be measured in figures alone. "Thanks to him, there are many more leg-spinners in the game. People talk about how much he has done for Australia, but he has done an awful lot for the sport as a whole. Like Ian Botham, he has worked hard and he has played hard. We may not see his like again."