1993 was a big time for this kid from a speck-on-the-map township in the middle of New South Wales.
Fresh out of boarding school and a couple of months past my 18 th birthday, I was enjoying life on university campus and living in the big-hearted cigarette: Wagga Wagga.
As winter started to take hold, the sumptuous disclosure of a fully televised Ashes Tour to England was seen: from the outset my teammates and I resolved to watch every ball.
Of course, Wagga circa-1 993 was in an Ashes Tour delirium. Not content with exactly one Australian opener in Mark Taylor, the cities was basically tripping over itself with feeling when brand-new favourite son Michael Slater was mentioned in the touring party.
Anything and everything Slater-related was newsworthy; the classic sample being the front-page Daily Advertiser story of how then-girlfriend( and now ex-wife) Stephanie Blackett was going to be staying up all night watching the cricket just like “were going to”. Though I don’t recall any mention of brew in Stephanie’s plans.
Stephanie labor at the neighbourhood Grace Bros department store, and despite Wagga in 1993 previously having a population well north of 50, 000 people, everyone claimed to know her. Twelve months later I felt myself working at the accumulate alongside her brother; so my Kevin Bacon higher-ranking was right up there.
When Slater got the nod ahead of Matthew Hayden- who’d just come off a million-run Sheffield Shield season for Queensland- for the first Test at Old Trafford, the cities was chattering. Then when he made that typhoon 58 in his entry innings, Wagga was basically breath itself with its own hyperventilation.
Slater-mania was alive and well, and after he made that memorable helmet-kissing maiden century at Lord’s a fortnight subsequently, the effect on cricket in municipality was such that you could buy any bat you demanded, as long as it was a Gray-Nicolls Powerspot.
Day 1 of the first Test was wonderful, with Taylor and Slater opening with a century stand. Taylor would go onto fix 124, which by our impression formed him the first Australian batsman to make a ton using a Stuart Surridge bat in well over a decade. Was Kim Hughes the last? We were happy to go deep into the analysis, and this was the working day before the internet made restraint, implying we were going old school … you are familiar with, actually having to remember it ourselves.
Australia finished the day 5-242, and we were as material with our decision to watch every clod of the tour as Graham Gooch must have already been regretting his decision to send the sightseers in.
Day 2 was a Friday night, and when Australia lost 5-29 to be all out 289 by sips, our commitment to the expedition digested its first setback. England started batting and Gooch and Michael Atherton vanished past the half-century opening stand without too much tribulation. There was large hassle brewing in our barrier common room, though; we’d gone too hard on Day 1 and were rapidly running out of the amber fluid.
As Atherton differed and the last quit was found, we resolved to move down to the campus rail. Despite being in the degrees of football season, Wagga was a cricket township this wintertime and we were confident the bar would have the Evaluation on. Besides that, even if it didn’t, our copulate Mick use behind the bar and he’d look after us.
Mike Gatting had come to the wicket and hadn’t certainly get starting, but it was clear that Allan Border needed to make a change in the attack. Merv Hughes had gone Atherton, but Craig McDermott and Brendan Julian didn’t seem to be agitating the current and onetime England captains.
As the commentators started meditating the idea of gyration and the cameras took their cue and started focusing on the now-slimmer, stepped-haircut and zinced-nose flesh of young Victorian leggie Shane Warne, we figured it was time to adjourn to the bar.
At that stage, Warne wasn’t genuinely standing out as someone who would go on to add another 677 wickets to the 31 he’d taken in 11 Experiments. His first real headline-grabbing carry was the 7-52 he took against the West Indies in Melbourne the Boxing Day Test before, though he took two four-fors touring New Zealand later that same time. He had removed a few keg, though, so we saluted its determination to at least looking like a Test cricketer.
To the bar, then. Maybe Warne will have got his couple of looseners out of the space by the time we got there and went comfortable.
Now, the interval from our cube to the bar wasn’t enormous. Maybe not even four hundred metres, and pretty much a direct route, save for shunning the old-time clotheslines, which were tough to see in full sunlight, never mind in the dark of night. Halfway en route, we could hear mad encouraging from the bar.
“How good was that? ” Mick asks us as we walk in and give him the three paws for some frothies.
“How good was what?
“Warne’s really bowled Gatting firstly dance. It must have turned two feet to areas outside leg! ” he followed, singularly excitedly for a fast bowler was describing a spinner’s wicket.
“Yeah, good one mate, ” we said, as we turned right into the face of a deluge of replays.
And then we attended it.
He did bowl Gatting firstly ball. It did turning around from two feet outside leg.
Hole. Lee. Moley.
Blank watches were exchanged.’ What on ground have we just missed? ’ we hollered to one another without actually saying a word. The embarrassing stillnes around that moment took over and hasn’t certainly disappeared in the 25 years because it happened.
What we had just missed, of course, is now known as the Ball of the Century. It was named the Gatting Ball initially for several years henceforth, but a combination of exaggeration and nothing else topping it in the seven years that followed ensured the highest nomenclature was enshrined into folklore.
We missed it, though, and we’ve never spoken of it since.
Later in that same Test, Gooch would be given out managed the lump; exclusively the fifth batsmen to dismissed by the method used in Test Cricket history at the time, and simply acceded to by Steve Waugh and Michael Vaughan since- coincidently within nine months of each other in 2001.
We called for it immediately and fairly vigorously in our common room, and we still remember it vividly to this day.
But that’s more of a cover for the facts of the case that we know we missed the’ other’ memorable minute from that extraordinary Test.
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