On this day: Trevor Chappel bowled the infamous underarm delivery

On this day: Trevor Chappel bowled the infamous underarm delivery

The 1st of February 1981 has been termed by many as the death of One Day Cricket. In spite of the MCG crowd witnessing a plethora of batting displays, the fixture will be remembered for one particular incident that threw a wrench into the diplomatic relations between the trans-Tasmanian rivals.

Playing at the MCG cauldron, as it was known, was always a difficult task. Captaining an Australian side in an extremely tight match against a fierce rival had definitely taken its toll on Greg Chappel. As recalled by Aussie wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh, “He (Greg Chappel) looked exhausted. At the 40 over mark, he wanted to get off the field. I told him that the match was going to wire and he needed to be there. Finally, he ended up fielding along the fence.”

Death bowling was Trevor Chappel’s forte. With an ability to bowl off-cutters at a teasing medium pace, it was certainly no surprise that Greg tossed the ball to his brother in the final few overs of the New Zealand innings. After dismissing the dangerous Richard Hadlee and wicketkeeper Ian Smith in the final over, Trevor Chappel faced the daunting prospect of bowling to Kiwi pacer Brian McKechnie.

Upon seeing McKechnie make his way out to bat, Greg Chappel had a rather uneasy feeling. His mind rolled back to the days of World Series Cricket when the Aussies had been in the same situation against the West Indies.

As described by Trevor himself, “It was a hot day at the MCG cauldron. After the wicket of Ian Smith, I saw Greg sitting at mid-off with his head in his knees. I started to walk back to my bowling marker when Brian McKechnie made his way out to bat.  I looked up and noticed that Greg too was walking towards my bowling mark. He came up to me and asked me, how I was bowling my underarms. I said I don’t know.”

The images of Trevor Chappel bowling the underarm delivery and Brian McKechnie throwing his bat have been played over and over again. “The boundary was the fence in those days. There weren’t any ropes, so it was almost 100 metres to the boundary,” he said.” I decided I wasn’t going to have a swing and get bowled. Throwing the bat down was just in frustration. It was a hell of a good game of cricket.”

In later interviews, Trevor Chappel admitted that the idea to bowl underarm seemed like a pretty good idea at the time. However, as the Aussie players strolled off the field to a crescendo of boos, Greg Chappel finally came to terms with the impact of the infamous incident. As out by Greg Chappel, One little girl ran beside me and tugged on my sleeve and said, ‘You cheated’,” he recalled. “That was [when] I knew it would be bigger than I expected.”

In a fitting conclusion by legendary Australian batsman Keith Miller, “Yesterday one-day cricket died, and Greg Chappell should be buried with it”

What happened next was the amendment of the rules of cricket by the MCC. Underarm deliveries were eventually made illegal and were deemed “not within the spirit of the game”. As for Greg Chappel, he won the crowd back with a match winning 87 in the following match, thus securing the Benson & Hedges World Series title.