Foxsports.com.au teamed up with West Indies cricket legend Brian Lara to get his thoughts on the 30th anniversary of one of the great Test series played in Australia.
In the first of the three-part series, Lara recalls the moment when Shane Warne truly announced herself to the world with a spectacular show at the MCG.
Shane Warne acknowledged the Gatting Ball as his life-changing delivery, but what really marked the arrival of the cricket legend was a brilliant moment six months ago.
Warne’s first year in international cricket was not indicative of the greatness he would follow until his first Test at his home ground, the MCG.
Before the West Indies landed in Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test in 1992, Warne had played four games that year without much glee.
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He had only taken four wickets at 96.50 and especially struggled in a Sri Lanka tour that he hoped would enjoy a coming-of-age streak.
As such, when Warne was selected to play in Boxing Day, which was overlooked in Gabba, the West Indies didn’t know what to expect.
«To be honest, we didn’t know much about his exploits,» said cricket legend Brian Lara. foxsports.com.au.
“Of course it’s a leg spinner, you have to respect leg spinners.
«Sometimes, West Indians get very scared when they hear that there’s a leg-turner on the team.»
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For about 20 fourth innings, then 23-year-old Warne would prove that fear was justified.
After Captain Allan Border poked his neck out for Warne, who wasn’t selected for the pulled Gabba Test, the leg-turner was again making an impression in Aussie whites.
He scored 1-65 on the ball during his first four days in Melbourne, with scores of 1 and 5.
The test would have ended in another draw when the West Indies reached 1-143 on the final day and Warne again failed to attack.
«I was kind of wiped out by a lot of people saying ‘this guy isn’t good, he can’t deliver,'» Warne later recalled. cricket.com.au.
Suddenly, as Warne wrote in his autobiography, «everything clicked, it felt like magic.»
Warne began undeterred and let the ball squirt out of his fingers. It ended with West Indies captain Richie Richardson looking confused.
What was in the middle was a blur at the time, but would continue to be known as the «palette»; Warne’s most famous variation.
Instead of grasping the surface and launching away from the right-handed player, the ball advanced low and fast, leaving Richardson suddenly vulnerable.
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The ball raced between his bat and pad and hit his logs, which Warne later called «probably one of the best fins he’s ever bowled on.»
He had come – though his arrival was still not clear enough for everyone.
“The West Indies thought it was a bad ball running on the ground. Not many people had seen table football in the early ’90s, most of these guys were so used to fast bowling,” said Warne. cricket.com.au.
«I went to get 7-52 that day, and that made me believe that if I bowled well enough at Test level, I was good enough.»
Warne turned into a wrecking ball: Three of the next four forts – Keith Arthurton, Carl Hooper and Phil Simmons – all fell on Warne before they passed the West Indies 200.
What didn’t was Lara, who was fired by Mike Whitney before she had a chance to face the leg spinner.
“But I think what he produced is great,” Lara recalled. foxsports.com.au. «This is ridiculous.
«The fin he threw at Richie Richardson… luckily I didn’t go through that pack of wickets.»
Clearing the West Indies tail, Warne led Australia to a famous 139-lap victory, finishing 7-52 on strokes.
Since then, not a single seven-wicket Test has been conducted at the MCG.
‘He took care of his job’
The performance proved to be the moment Warne craved, putting the chunky blonde from the Melbourne suburbs on a path to never-before-seen perfection.
However, it has contributed to a larger turning point in the world’s cricket landscape as the once mighty West Indies began to look vulnerable.
The West Indies had not lost a Test series since touring New Zealand in 1980, and had not lost to Australia since 1975, when they arrived on these shores 30 years ago.
However, the big names that helped create that era of domination were beginning to fade. Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Malcolm Marshall had said one day, with more retirements on the horizon.
The West Indies then found themselves trailing 1-0 in a series against Australia with just three Tests to play. What made the situation even more worrying was that they had just been canceled by a spin master class and the next Test would be held at SCG, Australia’s top spin location.
Australia had won only six of 33 Tests against the West Indies since 1978, but the island nations had not tasted victory in the SCG since 1961, before seven attempts.
«I think at that point, the mood in our camp leaving Melbourne, knowing about our background at SCG, I think a lot of panic started,» Lara said.
«I think a lot of guys are like, ‘How can we save this Test match?’ he thought.
“It wasn’t a negative attitude, but we were very cautious that Sydney wasn’t one of our hunting grounds as I couldn’t come up with a better word.
“And Shane Warne took care of it.
«Also, in those days, there were a lot of people watching Test cricket while the West Indies were playing and the crowd was really behind him.»
However, Warne would not be the only 23-year-old candidate to announce himself to the world in this series.
West Indies’ demise could have happened in Sydney after losing 2-31 in response to Australia’s 9-503d had it not been for Lara’s own moment of magic.
Over nearly eight hours at 372 balls and creases, Lara, who had never done a double century at any level of the game, scored a total of 277 points, apart from one draw for the West Indies.
His double century remains arguably the biggest Test hits by a visiting hitter on these shores, with Tip Foster’s 287 in the same place just 89 years ago and Ross Taylor’s 290 for New Zealand in Perth in 2015. passed.
“To me it was great. I was young, excited about everything. I really wanted to take my first Face Test, and then I blossomed into something much bigger,” Lara said.
“To go out there and see how it evolves. At that point I knew I had what it took to be one of the best cricketers around. It gave me the confidence I needed.”
The 1992-93 series was already turning into something special, but no one could predict what would happen at the fourth Test in Adelaide.
Going into second innings with a 39-point lead, the West Indies capitulated with the bat, leaving the door firmly open to Australia.
Warne was barely needed, playing only eight over bowls in the game. Instead, it was local hero Tim May who dealt the damage with an almost believable 5-9 from seven over on the second hit.
He left Australia with just two days to run 186 and eventually beat the West Indies for the first time in nearly 20 years.
But everything took a pear shape for Australia as well. The hosts were down 8-102 with Justin Langer as the only form of resistance.
That was until May came into the wrinkle and made an undefeated 42, but Langer’s departure for 54 left #11 Craig McDermott fighting to complete a thrilling one-point win.
When Australia needed just one run to win the match and the series, a heartbreak came to end all heartbreak.
Courtney Walsh launched a laser-like bouncer and turned McDermott’s back as the ball passed through his helmet and gauntlets stuck to his body.
Walsh did not dare to look at the referee. Instead, he walked away amid scenes of sheer delirium for the West Indies and complete despair for Australia.
In a controversial decision that could not be upheld by the DRS, the referee raised a finger.
“There was definitely a noise and a lot of people had a lot to say about exactly what hit the ball afterwards,” May wrote, who was on the forward team. Wisden in 2010
“For 20 minutes in the locker room, no one said anything. There was nothing left to say.
«It still continues to hurt.»
The one-round win remains the only one in the 145-year history of Test cricket.
‘A VERY SPECIAL SITUATION’
The series was now a draw and with Australia still recovering from a crushing defeat and the final Test coming in WACA in a fast-paced bowling paradise, there would only be one winner.
Curtly Ambrose took 7-25 in the first inning and Ian Bishop caught 6-40 in the second inning and Australia lost by an innings of 119 and 178 and 25 laps.
The West Indies held the Frank-Worrell trophy aloft once again, but there was a feeling the cricket giants had just gotten away with one.
Under Border’s guidance and through the next generation of Warne, the Waugh twins and Langer, Australia’s future looked bright.
Meanwhile, the West Indies would have to consider their own invincibility, which would eventually end with Australia’s 1995 Caribbean tour.
Yet the West Indies clinched one of the great series of Test cricket that Lara fondly remembers to this day.
When asked what rank she occupied in the dramas she starred in, Lara replied, «I mean, it would be very high. If it’s not number 1, (then) number 2.
«We’ve dominated Australia over the years, yes, but one of the teams we played against and was very cautious about was Australia.
“I was looking forward to that series and looking forward to playing Test cricket for a long time. It started on the Gabba and has gone on to be one of the best Test series ever played.
«It was just a very special occasion.»
And it all started with a Shane Warne palette.
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