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Undoing of under arm balling

Cricket is a gentleman’s game and the stakes are very high. Each and every team is vying for top honours and no match is won or lost until the last ball is bowled. In the best of five series Australia and New Zealand were locked in the 3rd match of the Benson & Hedges Triangular series after the scores tied at 1-1. The third team in the Championship, India, had already bowed out. Australia used to win previous years Benson and Hedges Championship rather comfortably and the writing was on the wall for the neighbours New Zealand. But in one of the B&H matches Australia lost to West Indies off a first ball six and the fear was prevalent in the minds of Australian Captain Greg Chappell. So the February, 1, 1981 match was poised for a close finish. The first final was won by New Zealand and Australia came strongly to win the second final. Melbourne Cricket Ground saw history was made for the first and last time by Chappell brothers- Greg the Captain and Trevor the Bowler, who bowled the underarm ball.

Australia won the toss and moved strongly with Wood (72) and Greg Chappell (90) putting on 145 runs for the second wicket. But a score of 235 in 50 overs was not imposing comparing to 200 plus totals in present day Twenty-20 cricket. In the previous match New Zealand was bundled out for 126 and every Australian expected an easy win. The Edgar and John Wright combination put on 85 runs for the first wicket. So both the ex-Indian coaches made runs in this historic match. Edgar scoring 102 unbeaten runs and watched the last underarm delivered by Trevor Chappell to Bran McKechnie in total dismay. Thus the victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat (with a possible six of the last ball). Other New Zealand batsmen fell like pack of cards after touching double figures.

When Brain McKechnie a tail-ender joined Edgar and faced Trevor Chappell, the youngest brother of Ian and Greg Chappels bowled the last ball of the match, the Kiwis needed six runs to win of the last ball in Pakistan’s Javed Miandad style, Greg called his brother for a talk and made sure that the last ball did not go beyond the boundary line. The controversial move to bowl an underarm delivery really put paid the hopes of New Zealand side in the end. MCG was a huge one and the chances of hitting a six is almost ruled out but still the skipper revealed his character. Rod Marsh behind the stumps shook his head from behind and showed his resentment. Trevor Chappell shook the very fundamental of the game by walking up to the stumps to deliver a rolling underarm delivery. McKechnie blocked that delivery and threw his bat in total disgust. Then ICC was moved to do away with the possibility of anyone bowling underarm, by changing the cricketing laws.

Anandambal Subbu

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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