Shane Warne, who had tormented the England batting in his debut Ashes series in 1993, began weaving his magic in the next edition right from the first Test in Brisbane, this time with a new addition to his armoury.
Cricket is rich in irony. Fast bowlers are consumed with bowling slower balls. Right-handed batsmen jump round to whack slog sweeps over cover. Spinners take the new ball, and that most prodigious spinner of a cricket ball, Shane Warne, touched genius with one that just did not spin at all.
A notorious games-man, Warne advertised his ‘zooter’, aka the ‘flipper’, ahead of the 1994/95 Ashes. After what had happened to Gatting and others in 1993, England were understandably concerned, but played it down. Warne, meanwhile, declared this mystery ball of his turned even further.
Day one of the series fell to Michael Slater, who creamed his first ball for four and finished with 176. Australia bounced along past 400. Craig McDermott dominated England’s response. But while his six-wicket haul ripped the tourists apart, there was no sign of this supposed new delivery from Warne.
Second time around England were batting to save the match. Atherton and Stewart started well. England crept to 46 for no loss. Warne dropped one short. It sat up, turning a touch away from him, and Stewart jumped all over it – 50 up.
The next ball was short again. Stewart darted back, ready to cut again. But the cut never came. Because here it was. The zooter fizzed straight on, scampered underneath Stewart’s shot, and demolished the base of his stumps. There was absolutely no turn and it gathered spitting pace after hitting the pitch. Stewart’s scalp was the first of eight to seal the match, while the most notorious delivery of the modern era had been revealed. The genius had done it again.
First published in January 2013