The Wizardry of Warne

Inspired by Gideon Haigh’s masterful “On Warne”, I have endeavoured to choose Shane Warne’s greatest wicket-taking deliveries.  I’m sure there are many more, but I have tried to limit my selections to those balls which linger in the memory – and those balls which I happened to be watching at the time.  Hence, I can’t include any of Warne’s 3 late crucial wickets in Colombo in 1992, a game which was a turning point for him; or for that matter any of the wickets Warne claimed vs. Pakistan in Sharjah (2002), when he returned the outrageous match figures of 8/24.  Also, I have limited the exercise almost exclusively to Test cricket – the one exception being the 1999 World Cup semi-final.

 

Of the 17 dismissals I have chosen, 16 of the victims are bowled and one is caught at short-leg.  This means I have not included any of those perfectly executed leg-breaks that snicked the outside edge of the right-hander’s bat and flew to the keeper or Mark Taylor/Matthew Hayden at first slip.  Gideon Haigh makes an excellent point that these stunning highlight reels don’t really do Warne justice as they don’t show the build up to the actual wickets e.g. the incessant mind games, the tireless bowling around the wicket attempting to hit leg-stump, the great endurance of Warne who would shoulder enormous workloads for his captain and team, etc.  One of the many triumphs of Haigh’s book is the chapter entitled “The Art of Warne” which made me feel like I was watching the great man again, whether that be the young Warne at his most mercurial, weaving magic with monstrous leg-breaks and flat, skidding unplayable flippers, or the veteran Warne at his wily best, more of an intimidating force who claimed innumerable LBWs with his prosaic slider, though still capable of the odd ball that could turn a long, long way.

 

1.     Richie Richardson, MCG 1992/1993.  The cool-as-a-cucumber West Indian skipper succumbs to the flipper on the final day of the Boxing Day Test, which triggers a Calypso collapse and leads to an eventual Australian victory.  Warne claims his first bag (7/52), but I’ll never forget the interview with him after the game where he states that he still doesn’t quite feel comfortable at the top level.

 

2.     Mike Gatting, Old Trafford 1993.  The much heralded “ball of the century”, marking the arrival of Warne as a superstar with his very first Test match ball in England (although it should be noted that Warne had a very successful tour of New Zealand just prior to this series).   The ball pitches outside leg, whizzes past Gatting, whose footwork is hesitant, and clips the off-stump bail.  Perhaps Paul Kelly best articulates Gatting’s reaction:

 

Mike Gatting looked up, struck as dumb as a post

and walked from the crease like he’d just seen a ghost

 

3.     Graham Gooch, Edgbaston 1993.  In the 2nd Test of the ’93 Ashes series at Lords, Warne cleaned up a few of the English tail by bowling them around their legs – admittedly it was only Peter Such and Phil Tufnell, but it marked a new strategy.  When Warne starts working on top-order batsmen with this seemingly negative around-the-wicket tactic, many eyebrows are raised.  But significantly he claims the prize scalp of Gooch later on in the series.  Gooch stretches and tries to pad up to a ball that pitches along way outside leg stump, but can’t quite reach it.  The ball turns and canons into his stumps.

 

4.     Daryll Cullinan, SCG 1993/94.  I rate this spell (7/56), along with the spell against England at The Gabba the following season (8/71), as the most entertaining I have seen.  There seemed to be a wicket falling every over.  This one is memorable because of the build up where Warne tosses up a couple of “fake flippers” which are dispatched by Cullinan to the boundary.  Warne then clean bowls his bunny with the real deal a few balls later.  (Interestingly, another one of Warne’s wickets on this day was Kepler Wessels, who 9 years prior was wearing the baggy green and carving up a fearsome Windies attack at the very same venue.)

 

5.     Pat Symcox, SCG 1993/94.  Another hapless “bowled around his pads” victim.  What made this wicket special was that the big quirky South African spinner, who was no slouch with the bat (he later scored a Test century), had remarked to Warne just prior to his dismissal “you won’t get me around there son”.  After Warne bowls him around his pads, Symcox turns around and marches back to the dressing rooms quicker than any batsman I have ever seen.

 

6.     Gary Kirsten, Adelaide Oval 1993/94.  A massive leg break out of the rough bowls the classy left-hander who elects not to play a stroke.  South Africa collapse allowing Australia, ably assisted by Darrell Hair, to level the series and partly redeem the tragic loss in Sydney.

 

7.     Andrew Hudson, The Wanderers 1994.  Bowled around his legs and given the classic Warnie send-off.   This send-off technique was later employed by Warne’s Australian and Rajasthan Royals teammate Shane Watson, who used it to great effect against Chris Gayle in 2009/10.

 

8.     Alec Stewart, The Gabba 1994/95.  Stewart tries to cut what he believes to be a loose, short ball on off-stump only to be deceived by the flipper and bowled.  Warne takes career best figures of 8/71.  I can’t remember Warne being as successful with the flipper after his mercurial form of 1993-1994.  Perhaps finger, hand and shoulder injuries took their toll and inhibited his ability to bowl it with great effect.  There is a clip on youtube of the late Hansie Cronje being supposedly bowled by the ball in 97/98 but I’m not convinced that this ball is in fact a genuine flipper.  On the subject of Hansie, and I’m not sure whether stats will be back me up here, but I always felt he was the one batsman who perhaps had the better of Warne during his golden run that stretched from February 1993 to December 1994.  Warne claimed 140 wickets in this period, but Cronje seemed to have his measure, particularly during the South African leg of the back-to-back tours.

 

9.     Devon Malcolm, MCG 1994/95.  The hat-trick delivery.  Very well caught by a diving David Boon at bat pat.  With Warne on a hat-trick and awaiting the arrival of no. 10 Devon Malcolm to the crease, Alec Stewart, the batsman at the non-strikers end, said something along the lines of “you’ll never get a better chance for a hat-trick”.  A fair summation, although the no.11 of the day Phil Tufnell would surely have given Malcolm a run for his money.

 

10.  Basit Ali, SCG 1995/96.  The last ball of the day, preceded by a lengthy mid-wicket conference between Ian Healy and Shane Warne.  Basit is then bowled in between his legs, while trying to pad up to a ball that pitches outside leg stump. A bizarre dismissal.

 

11.  S. Chanderpaul, SCG 1996/97.  Warne claims this to be his biggest spinning delivery.  The ball hits the rough way outside off-stump and the left-hander Chanderpaul plays back to a viciously turning delivery only to be clean bowled.  The Windies predictably collapse on the final day in pursuit of 340 on a spinning deck.

 

12.  Jacques Kallis, SCG 1997/98.  Warne’s 300th wicket, deceiving Kallis in flight, perhaps with a top-spinner that gets through the gap between bat and pat. Warne finishes with the ridiculous figures of 6/34.

 

13.  Hershcelle Gibbs, Edgbaston 1999.  This ball changed the course of the 1999 World Cup semi-final.  With South Africa chasing 213 and cruising at 0/48 after 12 overs, Warne rips one from outside leg which zips past Gibbs, who is trying to work the ball through the on-side, and clips the top of off-stump.  Warne claims the wicket of Gary Kirsten the following over and the Aussies are suddenly back in the contest.

 

14.  Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kandy 2004.  Warne’s comeback series after a one-year suspension.  With Sri Lanka 6/272 chasing 352 for victory, Dilshan plays back to a ball that pitches on leg stump.  The ball turns just enough to miss Dilshan’s pads and bat and strikes his off-stump.  Australia go on to win by 27 runs.  Warne takes 26 wickets for the series at 20.03, compared to Murali’s 28 at 23.17.

 

15.  Andrew Strauss, Edgbaston 2005.  Warne had a stunning Ashes series in 2005 capturing 40 wickets, though I’m sure he would be the first to concede that Strauss (and Trescothick) got England off to some flying starts… but not on this occasion.  It’s the last over of the day and left- hander Strauss pads up to a ball that pitches more than a metre outside of off-stump.  The ball fiendishly turns somehow missing Strauss’ pads in the process and crashes into leg-stump.  This must rank with the Chanderpaul dismissal for sheer turn.  To the complete cricket-stranger it almost looks as if Strauss is deliberately stepping out of the way so the ball can hit the stumps.

 

16.  Kevin Pietersen, Adelaide Oval 2006/07.  Pietersen is bowled around his legs while trying to sweep a ball that pitches outside leg.  This sparks an English collapse on the final day of a Test that seemed destined for a draw, and Australia quickly chase down the target for a remarkable victory.

 

17.  Andrew Strauss, MCG 2006/07.  Strauss is deceived in flight and clean bowled, presenting Warne with his 700th wicket on the biggest stage of all: Boxing Day at the MCG in front of 89,155 deliriously happy Victorians.

About Damian Balassone

Damian Balassone is a delusional Collingwood supporter who writes poetry and fiction.

Comments

  1. All good stuff, but I still feel the mastery of Warne is his ability to demand – and receive – seven figure pay outs even when he’s in his cricketing dotage.

  2. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Great stuff Damo.

    Sydney Test v India in 1992 I watched Ravi Shastri take Warnie to the cleaners and remember thinking that that would be the last I see of the chubby, peroxide bogan from St Kilda. How wrong I was!

    Still reckon the ‘Gatting Ball’ was the best. The moment when nature, skill and destiny meet to conjure something truly remarkable and memorable.

  3. Andrew Starkie says:

    Excellent Damo. Well researched and compiled.

    I’ll never forget the Gibbs ball – one of my favourite sporting moments. It couldn’t have happened to a better bloke in Gibbs. And the Simcox dismissal was brilliant in its audacity and defiance. I was there on Boxing Day when he took his 700th. Strauss couldn’t get out of there quick enough. He as good as tanked.

    This piece is important because it reminds someone like me just how incomparable Warne is as a cricketer. Being named one of Wisden’s top five greatest cricketers of the 20th century can’t be argued with.

    Warne’s legacy is being spoiled by the TV soap opera lifestyle. Each Christmas since retirement he has thrown out the ‘I could still play for Australia’ line in a desperate search for attention. His onfield argument with Samuels a few weeks ago was nothing short of ‘look at me, look at me’. The ball before he blew up Warne was having a friendly chat with the TV commentators. The same can be said of his opinions about Australian selection.

    Simultaneously, he will resemble the tragic, aging boxer who can’t give it away or the lonely former star who can’t cope when the lights go down and applause stops.
    In these ways, Warne reminds me of Mick Malthouse and Sam Newman.

    And there was probably more to the diuretic and betting scandals, but we’ll never know.

    But having said all that, on the flipside, it’s this vulnerability and ordinariness that we find endearing and allow us to relate to him.

  4. Great stuff, happy memories. He was the greatest

  5. John Butler says:

    Great selection DB.

    I wonder if we’ll look back on Warnie’s role as figurehead for the BBL and question whether he was ultimately calculating or used?

  6. We will never see his likes again in our life time. Just like Bradamn, he stands alone in the pantheon of cricketing greats from his period. Though like Andrew S talks about he’s like the pug who needs that one more fight, and equally as sadly ,like the buffoon John newman, he runs the ongoing risk of his off field exploits being the primary reason for him being remembered, rather than his on field wizardry.

    To me the Gatting ball is the delivery of the 20th century. Damian, It is a great compilation you’ve assembled, but the Gatting delivery showed the world someone amazing was here, to captivate us, as an only once in generation champion can .

    Glen!

  7. Razor sharp Damien, I remember every one of them vividly. Warne is crickets greatest artist. No one comes close. The best for me is the flipper to Alex Stewart. That one was Warne’s masterpiece.

    Good stuff

  8. Great piece, well researched and brings back vivid memories.

    The Gatting ball, which seems to have turned more as the years go by, was just as much about confirming the myth of this new mystery player for the Poms as much as the delivery.

    Like watching Mike Tyson fight at teh start of hsi career or Jonah Lomu in that world Cup, it was the sheer open mouthed ‘what the..’ that it gave a generation of English cricketers. For years, in the back of their minds, they felt that every ball could be their last, and that psychology, which Warne was smart enough to trade upon, was genius.

    Sean

  9. Jeff Dowsing says:

    Good work Damian – like a list of say Daicos’ top 20 goals, it’s the artistry and the context that make them so special. Pulling out the improbable at the most opportune moment… time and time again.

  10. While I am on the classical music theme, I will extrapolate Warne to Mozart. I loved watching Warne bowl for all the reasons described above. He was magical; an unworldly genius.
    But now that I don’t have regular reminders of that genius, I am like Salieri contemplating the cruelty of the Gods in “Amadeus” – “why do you torment me by putting such beauty in that base, insular vessel?”
    I wonder if he calls it “The Magic Flute”?
    I know he was the greatest leg spinner of this or any other lifetime, but I also remember how Dennis Lillee and Richard Hadlee could make the ball dance and sing. How they out-thought batsmen before they out-bowled them.
    And when I remember their genius I don’t have the accompanying saccharine after taste.

  11. DBalassone says:

    Thanks for all the feedback Knackers. Re his character, I agree with Andrew Starkie: “it’s this vulnerability and ordinariness that we find endearing and allow us to relate to him.” Couldn’t have said it better.

    In terms of his craft, has there ever been a player that has inspired so many kids (of all ages) to pick up a cricket ball and try and spin it? This is the mark of greatness for any artist, whether it be Hendrix with a guitar, Maradona with a round ball, or Jarman, Stevie J or Daicos with an oval one.

    Jeff, only because you mentioned it, here’s my unworthy attempt at listing all of those Peter Daicos miracles….

    https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/peter-daicos-the-top-35-in-chronological-order/

  12. Jeff Dowsing says:

    Great link Damian, and I also muchly enjoyed Haiku Bob’s response.

    Peter_B – concure wholeheartedly with Lillee v Warne. But Hadlee? He wanker!

  13. Jeff – on the wanker scale I would have thought Warne has a considerable lead over Hadlee. Lillee is not even in the picture.
    As for Hadlee’s bowling, he was aesthetically and technically wonderful to watch. I can remember how uncomfortable he made Border – no mean feat. Objectively his record is better than Lillee and Warne by most measures.
    Hadlee played 86 tests and took 431 tickets (5 per test) at 22.29. His average in Australia was 17.83 and against the era benchmark (Windies) he averaged 22.03.
    Lillee played 70 tests and took 355 wickets (also 5 per test) at 23.92. Against the Windies in an overlapping era his record against the WIndies was much worse averaging 27.74.
    Warne played 145 Tests taking 708 wickets (4.9 per test) at 25.41 (understandably more expensive as a slow bowler).
    Doodling the Post WW2 records of bowlers who took over 100 Test wickets is fun.
    The oddity is the best average – Johnny Wardle – the English slow Left Armer of the early 50’s. He took 102 wickets at 20.39 to top the statistical list. But a bit of drilling down shows it was due to bumper series against Pakistan (20 wickets at 8.80) and South Africa (46 at 17.45) – they were the Zimbabwe/Bangla Desh of the era. His record against Australia was much more modest.
    The second best was Australia’s classical left arm opening swing bowler of the 50’s/60’s Alan Davidson (186 at 20.53).
    For a combination of wicket taking (strike rate) and economy (average) the names that stood out were Marshall, Trueman, Garner, McGrath and Hadlee.
    For me it was a reminder of what many players who competed for and against him have said – Malcolm Marshall was a great bowler who was under-recognised amid the many West Indian greats in the wake of Holding and Roberts.

  14. Jeff Dowsing says:

    Great bowler Hadlee, no argument Peter. And Warne has now taken an unassailable lead over RJH in the Wanker Stakes.

    But I do recall back when cricket used to fill the MCG, the unified, deafening chorus of “Hadlee’s a wanker”. That’s all!

  15. Re Lillee
    You have to remember that he was an opening bowler bowling to opening batsmen,i.e. the oppositions best. When he had taken 2 or 3 of those wickets,he was laidback enough to leave the rest to his teammates.
    Try adding the rankings of the batsmen he dismissed.My uninformed guess would be that ,dismissal for dismissal, he’d be in the top 2 or 3

  16. DBalassone says:

    Great work with the stats Peter. Hadlee’s action was aesthetically perfect and he was as cunning as a fox. Who could forget the torment he caused Australia in 85/86 (33 wickets in a 3 match series), though I recall Border as being the one Aussie batsman who could handle him. Hadlee certainly has the measure of one Dean Jones in 87/88. No disrespect to Sir Richard, but perhaps his figures look a little better because of those seaming NZ wickets, and also becaue of that 79/80 series win vs. the Windies (when the home umpires greatly assisted).

    I love some of the names of your list. Marshall perhaps is less recognised because he accepted the baton from Garner via Holding via Roberts, etc. But I can’t think of another bowler who could swing the ball at the pace Marshall could.

    I would add Curtly Ambrose to your list. Destroyed Australia in 88/89, 92/93 and (to a lessor extent) 96/97. We should never have scheduled test matches at the WACA when Curtly was in town.

  17. Great read and memories. I remember many of those deliveries, but the memory I enjoy most is the tension and expectation that would accompany Cullinan to the crease after his “bunny” tag was confirmed. I remember him prior to one test series telling anyone who would listen that he was better prepared for Warne and that Warne would find him a different proposition. LOL was all I could do when Warnie got him early the first time the two went head-to-head. The Aussies were pissing themselves laughing.

    On a different note, I’m over Warnie’s every “tweet” being reported on, particularly his “opinion tweets”. Being a great cricketer does a celebrity make, but being a celebrity does not a Rhode Scholar make. IMO, the media gives too much airtime to the opinions of celebrities on the apparent premise that celebrities are credible opinionists.

  18. Great memories Damien, saw all those dismissals. We are lucky to have seen this greatness in our lifetime. The Chanderpaul wicket in 96 was my favourite, a vicious turning delivery against a player who was flogging him and the other Aussie bowlers. I remember being at the MCG for the 1st ODI of the 1993/94 summer and being keen to see a highly rated young South African bat called Daryll Cullinan play for the first time. Warne, in just his 2nd ODI got Cullinan LBW for a duck with his skidding flipper. From that moment on Cullinan was under the Warne spell.

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