Farewelling an Australian Cricket Legend

BY JEFF WRAY

On 30 March 2022 Australia farewells one of its greatest cricketers at a State Memorial Service held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

One of the greatest

In his 15-year test cricket career (1992 to 2007), Shane Warne achieved much as a leg spin bowler. Taking 708 wickets with a bowling average of 25.41 he is Australia’s leading wicket taker and – displaying his all-rounder abilities – has scored the most test runs in a career without a century.

Recognition of his prowess, and impact on the game of cricket, came in 2000 when a panel of experts selected him as one of 5 Wisden Cricketers of the (20th) Century, and the only one still playing at that time.

Following a quiet start to his test career, Shane Warne signalled his potential as a match winner on the final day of the second Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1992 against the (then-dominant) West Indies:

Dramatically taking the wicket of Richie Richardson by bowling a flipper, Warne finished with bowling figures of 7-52.

In the clip above from the 2004 documentary, Shane Warne: The King of Spin, Warne talks us insightfully through the ball that dismissed Richardson. The clip also features comments from former Australian captains Ian Chappell and Steve Waugh that emphasise the significance of this key early moment in Warne's career.

The Ball of the Century

‘The Gatting Ball’ – sometimes known as the ‘The Ball of the Century’ – is considered one of the best deliveries ever bowled. It also helped cement Shane Warne's position as one of the most recognisable cricketers of his generation.

Bowling his first ball in a Test match in England, Warne's leg spinner spun in front of batter Mike Gatting – missing the bat but taking the top of off stump to dismiss Gatting in an unforgettable moment.

In this interview with Mike Munro, Warne talks about this ball – modestly ascribing it to luck – as well as the challenge and hard work he put in to learn how to bowl ‘the flipper’:

Warnie's mystery ball

Part of Shane Warne's appeal to cricket followers was the variety of balls he could bowl. Along with the standard leg spinner there was the googly, the flipper, the slider and the zooter.

Before a series commenced there would often be talk of a new ‘mystery ball’ which had been added to his arsenal of deliveries with which to deceive batters.

Drawing on this reputation is a Nike advertisement from 1996 (below), which takes the public recognition of Shane Warne's ‘mystery ball’ to humorous extremes:

It seemed like something special was only moments away when Shane Warne was bowling his big turning leg breaks or deceiving batters with a flipper or a wrong’un whether in the Test, One Day or even the T20 arena.

Following the end of his playing career Warne remained active as a cricket commentator alongside other television appearances – including a memorable role in an episode of Kath and Kim in 2007.

Although Shane Warne is no longer with us, the memories of those fortunate enough to see him will remain. The moving images of his career in the NFSA collection will continue to be preserved for future generations.