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The Underarm Bowling Incident of 1981

The Underarm bowling incident of 1981 occurred on 1 Feb, 1981, when Australia were playing New Zealand in an ODI match, the third of five such matches in the final of the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup, at the MCC. In order to prevent New Zealand from scoring the 6 they needed to tie, the Australian captain, Greg Chappell instructed his bowler (his younger brother, Trevor Chappell) to deliver the last ball underarm, along the ground to prevent the Number 10 New Zealand batsman (Brian McKechnie) hitting a six from the last ball to tie the match. This action was technically legal, but seen as being unsporting.

As the ball was being bowled, Ian Chappell (older brother of Greg and Trevor, and a former Australia player) who was commentating on the match, was heard to call out "No, Greg, no, you can't do that" in an instinctive reaction to the incident, and he remained critical in a later newspaper article on the incident. Australia won the game, but were booed off the field by spectators. The New Zealand batsmen walked off in disgust, McKechnie throwing his bat to the ground in frustration. Ironically, McKechnie was censured for bringing the game of cricket into disrepute by doing so.

Brian McKechnie bears no ill will over the incident, but both Chappell brothers have publicly stated their embarrassment over the incident and almost thirty years later are still reluctant to discuss it. Unfortunately for Trevor Chappell, the "Underarm '81" incident remains what he is best remembered for.


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