Get the app

1st February 1981: “How’s Your Underarm Bowling?”

While Australia and New Zealand share one of the more competitive rivalries in the annals of cricket history, no other moment in the Trans-Tasman rivalry is as iconic as the final ball of the third final of the by Benson & Hedges World Series Cup 1980-81.

Cricketnext Staff |February 1, 2019, 12:02 AM IST
1st February 1981: “How’s Your Underarm Bowling?”

While Australia and New Zealand share one of the more competitive rivalries in the annals of cricket history, no other moment in the Trans-Tasman rivalry is as iconic as the final ball of the third final of the by Benson & Hedges World Series Cup 1980-81.

After splitting the first two finals of the tournament between them, Australia and New Zealand headed into the third game to secure one hand on the trophy. Winning the toss and electing to bat first, Australia posted a competitive 235 runs on the board, having lost only four wickets.

The skipper Greg Chappell and Graeme Wood scored the majority of the runs for the home side, with the captain scoring a 122-ball 90 and the opener contributing 72 from 114 balls.

New Zealand started their run-chase well, with John Wright and Bruce Edgar adding 85 runs for the first wicket before the former was dismissed by the older Chappell brother 42. While the southpaw continued to score at the other end, Australia kept chipping away at the other. Soon, the visitors found themselves at 172 for five, and struggling to find a stand to take them hope. John Parker stepped up and gave Edgar company which helped them reach 221.

A miscalculation from the Australian skipper left meant his ace bowler Dennis Lillie completed his quota of 10 overs on the 49th over of the innings, which meant Trevor Chappell had to bowl the final over.

And it started off poorly. Richard Hadlee smashed the medium-pacer down the ground for a boundary to bring the equation down to 11 from five balls. Chappell struck back, trapping the Kiwi all-rounder. The new batsman Ian Smith clipped his first ball off the pads for a couple, followed by another.

With seven needed off two balls, Smith went for a big heave towards the leg side but missed the ball completely and the ball crashed into the stumps.

With the score on 229 for eight with one ball to go, No. 10 batsman Brian McKechnie walked in.

Greg Chappell, Trevor’s elder brother was at mid-on, slowly walked towards him and asked, “How’s your underarm bowling?”

Trevor didn’t know what to say. His brother replied, “Well, you’re about to find out.”

The captain walked up to umpire Don Weser and informed him that an underarm delivery was on its way, who then walked to the square-leg to inform his colleague Peter Cronin.

McKechnie threw his bat in disbelief once he came to know of the plan. But nothing could stop this. There was no law against such a delivery.

Trevor, making sure that he was behind the crease, rolled the ball across the pitch and McKechnie put ball to ball, and then threw his bat again in disgust.

The New Zealand captain Geoff Howarth ran into the field to protest. He mistakenly believed that underarm deliveries were illegal but as many found out later, that was not the case.

The implications of that ball was felt beyond the cricket field as well.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon reckoned it to be “the most disgusting incident I can recall in the history of cricket … an act of true cowardice and I consider it appropriate that the Australian team were wearing yellow”.

His Australian counterpart Malcolm Fraser voiced that it was “contrary to the traditions of the game”.

ICC soon amended the Laws of Cricket to make underarm deliveries illegal in One-Day cricket.

And none of the views across the world put it across better than Australia’s Channel Nine’s Richie Benaud.

“It was a disgraceful performance from a captain who got his sums (over calculations) wrong. And I think it should never be permitted to happen again. We keep hearing and reading that the players are under a lot of pressure, and that they are tired and jaded, and perhaps their skill and skill is blunted. They might advance that as an excuse for what happened out their today. Not with me they don’t.

“I think it was a very poor performance. And one of the worst things I have seen on the cricket field.”

Brief Scores:

Australia 235/4 (Graeme Wood 72, Greg Chappell 90) beat New Zealand 229/ 8 (John Wright 42, Bruce Edgar 102*; Greg Chappell 3/43) by 6 runs

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 4659 119
2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 England 4366 104
4 South Africa 3177 102
5 Australia 3270 99
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8366 270
2 Australia 6986 269
3 England 5568 265
4 South Africa 4720 262
5 India 9349 260
see more