Australia called Shane Warne to advise their spinners ahead of the make-or-break third Ashes Test at Old Trafford — where the leg-spin legend delivered the ‘ball of the century’ 20 years ago.
Warne, in England as a television commentator, was asked to have a word with 19-year-old left-armer Ashton Agar and off-spinner Nathan Lyon by former teammate turned Australia coach Darren Lehmann ahead of a match the tourists, 2-0 down in the five-match series, must win to keep their Ashes hopes alive.
“We’d be made not to use Shane Warne and talk spin bowling to him,” said Lehmann. “It’s not so much technical with him. It’s more the mental side of it, the fields you want for certain players.”
Concerningly for Australia, Agar went wicketless on a helpful pitch during a crushing 347-run defeat by England in the second Test at Lord’s.
Meanwhile Lyon, having seemingly established himself as Australia’s premier spinner, has yet to play in this Ashes after being left out for the first two Tests in favour of the teenager.
But both sides could yet field two spinners at Old Trafford, with England having added left-armer Monty Panesar to a squad already containing in-form off-spinner Graeme Swann, as the Manchester ground has a deserved reputation for taking turn.
It was at Old Trafford in 1993 where Warne, making his Ashes debut, saw his first ball pitch outside leg-stump and then spin viciously across Mike Gatting to clip the top of the England batsman’s off-bail.
The delivery was soon labelled ‘the ball of the century’. Warne would go on to win six successive Ashes series, finishing with 708 Test wickets after helping to secure a 5-0 series whitewash at Sydney in January 2007.
A stunned Gatting stood his ground for several seconds with former Australia captain Richie Benaud, himself a highly accomplished leg-spinner, remarking during his television commentary: “Gatting has absolutely no idea what has happened to him — and he still doesn’t know.” Gatting said: “The reason I stayed there wasn’t because I was shocked but because I didn’t hear anything. Normally you hear the ball hit the stumps, but it didn’t, it just lifted the off bail.”