Underarm bowling incident of 1981

Underarm bowling incident of 1981

The Underarm bowling incident of 1981 occurred on February 1, 1981, when Australia was playing New Zealand in a One Day International cricket match, the third of five matches in the final of the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. [http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1980S/1980-81/OD_TOURNEYS/WSC/AUS_NZ_WSC_ODI-FINAL3_01FEB1981.html Cricinfo scorecard of the match] ] In order to prevent New Zealand from scoring the six they needed to tie, the Australian captain instructed his bowler to deliver the last ball underarm, along the ground. This action was not technically illegal, but it was widely considered to be against the spirit of the game.

Events leading up to delivery

The series was tied 1-1 with New Zealand winning the first match comfortably and Australia equally as comfortably in the second match.

The batsman at the non-striker's end, Bruce Edgar, was on 102 not out at the time and his innings has been called "the most overlooked century of all time."Fact|date=February 2007

The match had earlier controversy: in the Australian innings, Martin Snedden took a spectacular low outfield catch off the batting of Greg Chappell when he was on 52. [Wisden Cricketers Almanack - 119th edition (1982)] It was disallowed by the umpires, although TV replays clearly showed it was a clean catch. Some commentators believed Chappell should have taken Snedden's word that the catch was good. Chappell went on to score 90, before he was caught by Bruce Edgar in similar fashion. This time Chappell walked.

In the confusion, one of the fielders (Dennis Lillee) forgot to walk into place, meaning that the underarm ball was technically a no-ball, because Australia had one too many fielders outside the field restriction line. [Channel 9 commentary of the match at the time]

The delivery

New Zealand needed six runs to tie the match from the final ball, with eight wickets down. The Australian captain (Greg Chappell) ordered the bowler (his brother, Trevor Chappell) to bowl underarm: rolling the ball along the ground to avoid the possibility that the No. 10 New Zealand batsman (Brian McKechnie) would score a six from the last ball to tie the match, requiring the teams to play more matches to decide the series. This was not against the rules of cricket, but it was however widely perceived as unsportsmanlike. [cite web|url = http://www.virginmedia.com/sport/galleries/cheats.php?ssid=3|title = Top ten sporting cheats: 8. Greg Chappell |publisher = Virgin Media| work = Sport| accessdate = 2008-07-12|quote = Cheating? It wasn't against the rules - but it certainly wasn't cricket.] [cite web|url = http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2004/s1035164.htm|title = Underarm incident was a cry for help: Greg Chappell |last = Knight|first = Ben| publisher = Australian Broadcasting Corporation| work = ABC Local Radio: The World Today|date = 2004-01-30|accessdate = 2008-07-12|]

Immediate reaction

Australia won the game, but was booed off the field by spectators. The New Zealand batsmen marched off in disgust, McKechnie famously throwing his bat in frustration. Ironically, McKechnie was censured for bringing the game of cricket into disrepute by doing so. The "Underarm '81" incident remains a source of heated discussion between Australians and New Zealanders.Fact|date=May 2008

New Zealand reaction

It was described as "the most disgusting incident I can recall in the history of cricket" by the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Rob Muldoon, who also said that "It was an act of cowardice and I consider it appropriate that the Australian team were wearing yellow".

Reaction in Australia

Even the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, called the act "contrary to the traditions of the game". Commentating for Channel 9 at the time, Richie Benaud described the act as "disgraceful" and called it "one of the worst things I have ever seen done on a cricket field".

Brian McKechnie bears no ill will over the incident [cite news | first= Will | last=Swanton | url= http://www.theage.com.au/news/cricket/25-years-along-kiwi-bat-sees-funnier-side-of-it/2006/01/22/1137864806682.html
title= 25 years along, Kiwi bat sees funnier side of it | work= Cricket | publisher= The Age | date= 2006-01-23 | accessdate=2006-06-27
] but both Chappell brothers have publicly stated their embarrassment over the incident and, over 25 years later, are still reluctant to discuss it. Unfortunately for Trevor Chappell, this incident is what he is best remembered for. [ [http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/ci/content/player/4561.html Cricinfo Profile - Trevor Chappell] ]


As a direct result of the incident, underarm bowling was banned in limited overs cricket by the International Cricket Council as not within the spirit of the game.

New Zealand cricketer Warren Lees recounted the underarm incident on New Zealand's "20/20" current-affairs show, on Thursday 17 February, 2005. He said for long after the affair there was silence in the dressing room, which was broken suddenly and unexpectedly by fellow player Mark Burgess smashing a tea cup.

On February 17, 2005, 24 years after the original underarm delivery, Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath light-heartedly revisited the incident in the first ever Twenty20 international, played between Australia and New Zealand. In the last over of the match, a grinning McGrath pretended to bowl an underarm delivery to Kyle Mills which prompted New Zealand umpire Billy Bowden to produce a mock red card. This drew a large reception from the crowd, which was mostly made up of New Zealand fans, and echoed the good spirits in which the whole game had been played.


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