Underarm incident of 1981: Trevor Chappell’s infamous moment

Greg Chappell, the captain of the Australian cricket team, directed his younger brother Trevor to bowl the final ball of a tight one-day international underarm in 1981.

Australia’s last-ball triumph over New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground devalued the game and harmed the country’s sporting image incalculably.

With New Zealand tail ender Brian McKechnie requiring a six off the final ball to draw the game, Australian captain Greg Chappell directed his younger brother Trevor to bowl under-arm along the ground.

What happened with underarm bowling?

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Australia played New Zealand in a one-day international cricket match in the final of the Benson and Hedges World Series Cup at the MCG on February 1, 1981, in front of a record ODI crowd of 52,990. The final ball was bowled underarm along the pitch by Trevor Chappell to New Zealand batter Brian McKechnie. Greg Chappell, his elder brother and the Australian captain, gave him these instructions. Greg Chappell decided to order the underarm delivery with New Zealand requiring a six from the last ball to draw the match, much alone win it.

It is quite impossible to strike an underarm bowl as a batsman. As a result, Australia won the game as well as the series 2-1. At the time, the underarm ball was not against the rules. It was, however, deemed unsportsmanlike.

What happened as a result of the underarm bowling incident?

The International Cricket Council banned the underarm bowl as a result of the incident.

According to Scribd, the council deemed the underarm bowl to be “not within the spirit of the game.” 

Australia embarked on a visit to New Zealand in 1982. During the first ODI of the trip, a spectator rolled a lawn bowl onto the ground as Greg Chappell stepped out to bat, mocking the previous year’s episode.

What was the reaction of the public to the underarm bowling incident?

The incident drew international notice, with then-Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser describing it as “against the traditions of the game.”

The underarm bowl was described by New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon as “the most disgusting incident I can recall in the history of cricket” and “an act of true cowardice, and I consider it appropriate that the Australian team was wearing yellow.”

Former Australian captain Richie Benaud, according to the February 2, 1981 issue of Christchurch newspaper The Press, remarked in his television commentary that the underarm bowl was “gutless.” While Smith and Bancroft may have relieved Chappell of the title of most despised man in sports history, the underarm incident will remain a blot on Australian cricket history.

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