40 years since the Underarm Ball

“I described Greg Chappell’s actions as an act of cowardice… and I thought it was most appropriate that the Australian team was dressed in yellow.” – Robert Muldoon

Ah yes, it’s been 40 years since the most memorable One Day International incident in Australian history, when an exhausted Greg Chappell, whose brain had copped a frying under the heat and pressure, ordered dear old Trevor Chappell to play lawn bowls instead of cricket when bowling to New Zealand’s No.10 batsman Brian McKechnie on the last ball of Game 3 of the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup Final, with New Zealand needing a measly 6 to TIE THE MATCH chasing 235, and with Bruce Edgar, who was on 102 not out, AT THE WRONG END.

An incident as morbid for Kiwis as the Galllipoli landings, the All-Blacks losing to France in the 1999 Rugby World Cup Semi-Final, or every time Lorde is described as being Australian.

Which may be why the New Zealand Government have a New Zealand History website page about Underarm.

Still, it’s good to see that 40 years on, the Trans-Tasman community can all have a laugh at the fact that Greg Chappell apparently had such little confidence in his own brother’s bowling that he had him bowl underarm against a genuine No.10 batsman in McKechnie, who was at least 100,000/1 to hit the ball for 6 anyway.

And we can all have a laugh about the fact that up until 1981, underarm bowling was still permitted under the Laws of Cricket, and was another one of those ‘Spirit Of The Game’ issues.

And we can all laugh about the fact that the umpire should’ve called a no-ball against Australia for having too many players fielding outside the inner circle, if he’d paid a smidgen of attention to where Dennis Lillee was standing.

Of course, the underarm incident gave us so many other hilarious moments, like McKechnie throwing his bat in disgust, Prime Ministers Robert Muldoon and Malcolm Fraser getting involved in a diplomatic incident, Ian Chappell’s borderline disgust with his brother, the Kiwi fans filling out Eden Park in 1982 and rolling lawn bowls at Greg Chappell, Glenn McGrath reviving it in the first T20 International in 2005:

And above all else, Richie Benaud tearing shreds off the Australians on the Channel 9 broadcast, and ending it with a cheery “One of the worst things I have ever seen done on a cricket field. Goodnight.”

Fun fact: While underarm bowling is now called as a no-ball thanks to the incident, under Law 21.1.2 of the Laws of Cricket:

“21.1.2 Underarm bowling shall not be permitted except by special agreement before the match.”

Although, I doubt you’d find many Kiwis wanting to give it a go.

Categories: Cricket

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