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From Gatting to Strauss, moments that made Warne the "Merlin of Spin”

Last updated on 05 Mar 2022 | 04:16 PM
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From Gatting to Strauss, moments that made Warne the "Merlin of Spin”

The wizard of OZ and a legend of the game, Shane Warne passed away on March 4th at the age of 52

Enzo Ferrari, the great Italian automobile entrepreneur once said “tell a kid to draw a car and he would paint it red”. The same way, ask a budding spinner to bowl and he will imitate Shane Warne.

Gideon Haigh wrote that the term “bowling spell” is true in both senses of the word when the bowler is Shane Warne. Just like the way he used to deceive the batsmen with his wizardry, his death has hit everyone with a jinx meant to stun.

Weaving his own path, Warne mastered the toughest art in the game. Vicious leg breaks, the usage of the bowler's foot mark and flippers were his lethal wicket taking deliveries. Even on pitches like England and Australia, Warne managed to spin the ball a mile.

But, what makes him the legend he is? Generally, every spinner in cricket is termed as magician. But, there are moments that made Warne the ‘Merlin’ :

The ball of the century

The heading itself doesn’t need an introduction. As soon as we hear those words, Mike Gatting getting bowled by an absolute stunner are the visuals that pop up.


By the time he made his Ashes debut, Warne had bagged 31 wickets in 11 matches. In his first ever Ashes Test in 1993, he was introduced as the second change bowler when England were 80/1. His first ball drifted down leg, pitched nearly four stumps away from the leg stump and spun to hit the top of off. The first of many to follow, Warne left the batter stunned.

Alec Stewart vs Shane Warne, a feisty contest

Warne’s bunny was Alec Stewart. Warne had the better of Stewart in 14 innings, the most for him against a batsman.

One of the most iconic moments in the tussle between these two happened during the 1994 Ashes. In the second innings in Brisbane in the first Test, Warne set Stewart up beautifully for a flipper. He bowled four leg spinners on the trot, the fourth being shorter enough for Stewart to cut. The fifth ball, off a similar length as the last, was a zooter (flipper). Stewart, anticipating the ball to turn, went for the cut and saw his stumps being shattered.

Hat-trick after 90 years

As a battle was intensifying between Warne and Stewart, the former went on to record a feat that wasn’t witnessed for nearly 90 years in the Ashes.

In the second Test of the 1994 Ashes tour at MCG, Australia had set a target of 388 runs. England were five down when Warne was brought into the attack. Though he took his time to get his first wicket, the remaining two came in a flurry. Starting with Phil DeFreitas on the fourth ball of his 13th over, he picked up Darren Gough and Devon Malcom in back-to-back deliveries and registered an Ashes hat-trick after 90 years. Hugh Trumble at the same venue had bagged a hat-trick against England in 1904. Interestingly, Stewart was at the non-striker’s end witnessing it.

The big match hero

“He thought the game was never lost”, said Glenn McGrath in his Instagram post for Warne. The semi-finals of the World Cup in 1996 and 1999 are two of the many examples that validate this statement.

In the ‘96 semi-final, Australia had set a target of 208 for the West Indies. He picked up the wicket of Courtney Browne on his first delivery. However, the West Indies batsmen seemed to comfortably play out Warne. At the start of the 42nd over, they were cruising at 165/2. McGrath provided the breakthrough after he dismissed Shivnarine Chanderpaul. But Warne, in his return, picked up Ottis Gibson, Jimmy Adams and Ian Bishop in three overs to change the course of the game. Eventually, thanks to his spell of 4/36 in that match, Australia won by five runs and he was adjudged player of the match.

Similarly, in the Semi-final of the 1999 WC, the most dramatic match of all, against South Africa, he produced another four-wicket haul. Chasing a paltry 214, the Proteas were cruising at 48/0 in 12 overs. In perhaps the ball of the tournament, Warne drifted and turned the ball to knock the bails of Herschelle Gibbs in his second over. He accounted for Gary Kirsten and Hanse Cronje in his third. As South Africa managed to pull things back again, Warne returned to make one final impact. On the penultimate ball of his spell, he dismissed Jacques Kallis for 53. His spell helped Australia tie the match and enter the 1999 WC final.

In the finals of the 1999 WC, he bagged yet another four wicket-haul against Pakistan in a one-sided encounter. He became the third player after Mohinder Amarnath in 1983 and Aravinda de Silva in 1996 to win Man of the Match award in Semi-final and Final of a single World-Cup.

Even in Tests, Warne’s spells turned the game in Australia’s way. He saved the best for the last in the 2006 Ashes tour, his final series. In the second Test in Adelaide, at the end of the fourth day, England were at 59/1 with a lead of 97. A draw was written all-over, until Warne drew first blood on day five. Then England collapsed as Warne picked up three more in quick succession. England were bundled out for 129 and Australia chased the target of 168 in 32.5 overs.   

Attacking the rough

Regular spinners exploit the rough outside a batters off-stump. But Warne was no regular spinner. He had the skills to use even those outside a batter’s leg stump. One of the examples was in the 1998 tour against India in Chennai when Rahul Dravid got an unplayable ball from the rough.

If he could do that to a righty, imagine the plight of the lefties. Dismissal of Chanderpaul and Andrew Strauss are among the most re-watched ones.

Bowled around the legs

When Warne is bowling, no line is safe for a right-hander, even when he pitches it way down leg. His bowling came with a note of warning “do not leave the ball even if I pitch it down the leg”. Ask Graham Gooch or Hamish Marshall, two of many who paid no heed to the warning.

Gooch's dismissal was in the fifth Test of Warne’s debut Ashes series in 1993. Marshall’s was in 2005. Co-incidentally, this was Warne’s 1000th First-class wicket.

The king of flipper

Warne didn’t have the most deceptive googly due a low side-am action. But, he had one of the most lethal flippers.

The deception in those flippers was mainly because of the amount of spin he used to get. If we look in the video above, most of them were stuck on the backfoot looking for the turn and trying to cut against him, which was certainly not an option.

The first man to 700 wickets in Tests

In his last Ashes tour in 2006, Warne achieved a milestone that looked distant among bowlers. In the fourth Test, at the MCG, Warne became the first bowler on this planet to scalp 700 wickets.

He did it in style, with his signature dismissal against the left hander and it was none other than Strauss. A ball that drifted away from the left-hander, pitched outside off and turned sharply to rattle the stumps. 


Though Warne’s legacy is beyond numbers, he was still among the best-ever even if we reduce the sport to bare numbers:

708 – wickets picked up Warne is the second most after Muttiah Muralitharan (800) in Tests.

195 – wickets bagged by Warne in Ashes, the most for any bowler. He had 11 five-wicket hauls (5WI) in an innings and four 10-wicket-haul in a match (10WM). His four 10-wicket-hauls were the joint most alongside Tom Richardson of England.

96 – wickets by Warne in the year 2005 in Tests. This is the most for a bowler in a calendar year in the longest format.

138 – wickets by Warne in the fourth innings of a Test, which is the most for a bowler in Tests. No other bowler has more than 120.

17 – Man of the Match awards bagged by Warne in Tests, which is the most among Australian players. To go along, he has eight Player of the series awards, which is also the most.

1001 – wickets taken by McGrath and Warne while bowling together, which is the most for a pair in Tests.

581 - Test wickets outside subcontinent for Warne, which is the most for a bowler in the format.  

3154 – runs scored by Warne without a century in Tests. This is the most runs scored by a batsman without a ton to his name. HIs highest Test score is 99 (against New Zealand in Perth 2001-02). 

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