Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bizzare incidents in cricket

Reading about cricket is a favourite passion to millions of cricketers, cricket followers and cricket lovers. Numerous unusual incidents have happened ever since the game has been played. Though not exactly fun, they have made the game more interesting. So here are some of those bizzare incidents recorded in various places and here I bring them all what I have collected together. Christopher Martin-Jenkins, the famous BBC commentator has written a book with a fine collection of such incidents, but I have not laid my hands on it. But am able to collect just a handful of them published in a sports magazine and a majority are from my cricket reading/following. Most of the listed incidents are from the bygone era, quite obviously. Titles to each one have been given by me.

Here we go! 

Big hit:

The youngest of the Grace brothers, Fred, caught Australian big-hitter George Bonnor at point off a skier so high that the batsmen were well into their third run when the ball lodged in his hands. Bonnor said afterwards that he ‘ought to have it!’. 

Spare balls

E.M.Grace, in his appearances for Thornbury, struck so many balls so hard and so far, many of them never to be seen again, that one umpire, took to keeping up to nine spare balls. This worked well enough to preserve the continuity of play until the day ‘EM’ hit an earth-shaking double century and used up the entire quota in the umpire’s pocket! (With no buildings as obstacles, sprawling grounds In those days were common in England).

Biggest palms

Pat Morfee, who played for Kent between 1910-12 has been credited with possessing the largest pair of hands in first class cricket. It is said that he could hold six cricket balls in one hand, though the records do not say whether his ‘mitts’ were renowned for their safety (while fielding)!

Change of hands

L.O.B Fleetwood-Smith of Australia began his career as a right arm medium pacer but earned fame as a left arm wrist spinner!

One leg

A.D.Denton of Northamptonshire had only one leg and played county cricket in 1919.

Twin talents 

C.A.Aubrey Smith Captain of England that toured South Africa in 1888-89, later became a Hollywood film star.

Double Champion

J.W.H.T.Douglas, the England Captain was also an Olympic Boxing Champion (middleweight)!

Consecutive overs

Warwick Armstong of Australia bowled 2 consecutive overs (unintentionally from the same end) in a Test against England at Manchester in 1920-21. A.M.Moir of New Zealand for NSW and Australia repeated the feat at Wellington in 1950-51!

Better grip

C.B.Turner, who often opened the bowling for NSW and Australia with his medium paced off-spinners rubbed the ball in the dust so that he could grip it better. 

Courageous best

In 1904, left hander Gilbert Jessop batting for Gloustershire against MCC scored 61 runs with only one hand (his little finger of his left hand broken) with 13 fours. The MCC attack was spearheaded by the fastest bowler of the day, Charles Kortright!

The Steepest Delivery

The steepest delivery was bowled by Charles Kortright, playing at Wallingford in a club match. The ball rose so steeply that is passed over the batsman and ‘keeper and cleared the boundary without bouncing again. He thus registered the only known instance of six byes.


When S.M.J.Woods of Brighton College in 1880’s he bowled an over in which he hit the stumps 8 times but got only 3 wickets. The first 3 deliveries were no-balls, the 4th bowled a man, 5th touched the leg stump and went for byes, 6th an 7th bowled men and the 8th hit the stumps but failed to remove the bails and went for 4 more byes!


At Sleaford on August 20, 1892, a Mr.Aitken for the local side clean bowled 3 men with successive balls, each time breaking a stump in halves – the leg, middle and off stumps respectively!

Bowled from behind the wicket

In 1948, a ball from Jack Young of Midlesex hit Warwickshire’s M.Donnelly on the foot, bounced over his head, landed behind the wicket, spun back and removed the bails!


In the Harrow V/s Winchester match in 1965, R.N.Burchnall was struck on the head by a bumper which knocked his cap off his head onto the wicket where it hung without dislodging a bail!

The most exhausted batsman

T.A.Fison, batting for Hendon against Highgate School in 1879 hit 264 not out in 3½ hours and ran every one of them. He then left the wicket and the scorebook records his departure as “retired to catch train to continent”!


Harold Charlwood, playing at the oval, gave a dolly catch in the deep and was dropped. He had already taken two runs and was run out when on his third. Meanwhile the second run had been signaled ‘one short’. He went down in the score book as “dropped made one run, ran one short and was run out - all in one hit!”

Wind trouble

During a Test in South Africa, there was such a strong wind that the ball bowled by slow bowlers against the wind often failed to reach the batsman! The bails were stuck on the stumps with chewed gum to prevent them from failing off too often!

Breathtaking sight 

One of the most breathtaking sights ever in cricket was Gregor McGregor’s wicket-keeping to fast bowler S.M.J.Woods for Cambridge when the Scot stood up for his bowler’s fizzing Yorkers and kickers. Only once was he hit on the big toe.

The big toe

Sammy Woods was considered to be among the fastest bowlers in the world even though he bowled off only two paces. His confidence depended upon his being able to ‘feel de pitch wid de toe’ and unless he could sense the big toe of his right foot against the turf he was lost. He was pursued by his captain to wear shoes. He would tear off the toe portion secretly, so that he could feel the turf. 

Fast bowling

‘Stringy Bark’ Woods, amused himself by bowling at the English team visiting Australia in the nets. The first ball cracked a post in an adjoining net. The next two hit the backnetting on the full. The batsman then retired, saying he had a letter to write to his insurance company. The story goes that when England lost the test series, ‘Stringy Bark’ said to his brother Sammy Woods “I told you they would. They don’t know the first bloody thing about fast bowling”.


Sunil Gavaskar batting capless on a windy day in the Manchester test of 1974 had his hair cut on the field by Umpire ‘Dickie’ Bird. The wind was blowing the hair into his eyes. 

Quickest pair

The record for the quickest ‘pair’ was achieved by Glamorgan’s Peter Judge, last man in against India at Cardiff. He was bowled first ball by Chandu Sarwate and to save time when the county followed on, Judge and Clay stayed on the field to open the second innings. Sarwate bowled Judge again, first ball!

Bad light 

The only occasion when a fielding side appealed for bad light was during the South Africa V/s Australia Test in 1935-36 at Johannesburg. The appealer was Herbie Wade, the South African Captain. His reasoning was that his fieldsmen could get hurt!

The Timeless Test 

The timeless test dragged on for 10 days, without a result at Durban from March 3 to 14, 1939. The touring England team had to catch the next boat home with the threat of World War II looming large! 

For the Ashes

The bodyline tour of 1932-33 has been discussed threadbare. It is, however, not widely known that because Larwood of the devastating speed has successfully used the most deadly and shameful weapon ever used in Test Cricket, Jardine, his captain under whose instruction he had done it, had presented him an ashtray, inscribed simply “For the Ashes – from a grateful skipper”!

The Finger 

The third test at Edgbaston in 1974 between India and England, was supervised by the most senior and most junior Test umpires – Charlie Elliott (43 tests) and Bill Alley making his Test debut, respectively. Alley gave Gavaskar out caught behind off the first ball of the match and he raised his finger again to uphold an ‘lbw’ appeal against Engineer to terminate the Test and the series!


By a splendid of coincidence, the Centenary Test at Melbourne in 1977 produced a result exactly identical to that in the first ever test match on the same ground exactly a hundred years before on March 17, 1877, Australia won by 45 runs after gaining a first innings lead of 49 runs. On March 17, 1977, Australia won once again by 45 runs after securing a first innings lead of 43 runs, against all odds!

Most Dreadful Delivery 

When ‘Punter’ Humphreys played in a trial at Tonbridge, he bowled a no ball and was immediately sent off by Lord Harris. Later his lordship explained: “I did that for your own good, Humphreys. A fast bowler can be excused a no ball occasionally, but not a slow bowler like you”!

Caught not with hands 

When fielding at shortleg for Surrey at Kingston in 1946, Alf Gover ‘took’ an unusual catch between his thighs while in the act of pulling on his sweater and dismissed R.N.Exton. He could see nothing as his sweater was over his head. It was Jim Laker’s first wicket in first class cricket!

Bowled, Off and Leg 

In the first Test between England and India at Old Trafford in 1974, Mike Hendrick bowled Madal Lal for 2 and had his off and leg stumps knocked out with the middle stump left intact!

Sportsmanship at its best 

Jubilee Test 1980, Bombay – G.R.Vishwanath, the Indian skipper calling back Bob Taylor of England at a crucial stage, when he was declared caught. He went onto make a century which helped them win the match!

The famous bouncer 

Ernest Jones, the Australian fast bowler is credited to have bowled one of cricket history’s most famous balls – a bouncer that went through Dr.W.G.Grace’s beard in 1896.

Two Matches a Day

Graham Gooch once played two first class matched on August 30, 1988. He fielded for Essex V/s Surrey at the Oval after batting for England in the Test Match at Lord’s against Sri Lanka.

Cricket Humour

In my opinion, no game other than cricket has the ability to produce incidents that are humourous. I hope not many will disagree! There are many on and off the field incidents and jokes that have been recorded in various places - in autobiographies, media, articles, books, magazines etc. Humour adds to the fun and makes playing all the more enjoyable. That's what the game is there for! Over many years of my not-too-voracious reading, I have collected a few and here they are. In the days esp. up to the 20th century, there seems to have been more incidents of fun rather than controversies triggered from on-field banter, esp. involving Australia [the present 2008 series with India Down Under]. So my small collection dates back to the days of yore.

Here they are: [I've given a title for each one of them]

Fine job:

One day, the great leg-spinner ‘Tich’ Freeman was bowling so badly that he was being hit all over the ground. After one such over his captain told ‘Tich’ that he was doing a fine job and having the batsmen in two minds – whether to hit for a six or a four!


Facing fast bowler Ray Lindwall for the first time Johnny Wardle’s bat was shaking in his hands as he took guard. “Now come on what do you want?” asked Ray. “A slow full toss down the leg side please.” came Wardle’s reply.

Long run:

Roly Thompson of Warwickhshire used to take an unnecessarily long run to bowl. Joe Hardstaff told “He takes such a long run that you are out of form by the time he reaches the stumps.”

Staying tactic:

In an England-Australia match, Ray Lindwall was bowling to a new batsman who knew that he would not survive the fury of Lindwall, decided to at least spend some time at the crease. He wanted the sight-screen to be adjusted. He was not satisfied with any position of the screen even after five minutes. The umpires got furious and asked him where exactly he wanted the screen. “In between myself and Lindwall” came the batsman’s witty reply.

Dropped catches:

On the famous occasion when Victoria amassed 1107 runs against NSW for whom Arthur Mailey was bowling, his figures were 4 for 362. He said afterwards “I should have had even better figures if a bloke in a brown trilby hat in the sixth row of the pavilion roof hadn’t dropped three sitters.”

But, is he out?

During an Indian tour of New Zealand an umpire was declining every appeal by the Indians. B.S.Chandrasekhar once bowled a batsman and appealed “Howzzaat?” The umpire retorted “Can’t you see he is bowled?” Chandra asked “ I know, but is he out?”


Australian captain Bill Lawry, the world knew, was no ‘walker’ when it came to being ‘out’. Once he was declared caught behind but stood his ground till first slip shouted “Move it Bill, waiting for a bus or something?”

Frequent appealing:

Ashley Mallett had the habit of appealing rather too often till umpire Cecil Pepper told him quietly “You will never die wondering, son”

Famous spoonerism:

Denis Compton, a fine commentator after his playing era, often got tongue-tied over cricketers’ names. The man who suffered most at his hands [or tongue] was Alan Connolly, the Australian quickie. Compton always announced him as ‘Anal Colony’, despite repeated corrections!

Hope realized:

When the bald Brian Close announced his retirement, a gushing reporter asked “Well Closey, have any of your childhood hopes been realized?” Close quipped “Yes, when my mother used to pull my hair, I wished I didn’t have any.”

Bad patch:

Once, JWHT Douglas was in a ‘bad patch’. In a match he was just blocking the balls. Someone in the crowd shouted “Johnny Won’t Hit Today.” referring to his initials.

Not out:

When another LBW appeal was negative, Fred Trueman, the bowler asked the umpire icily “I think that’d have hit the bloody wicket. Where do you think it would have hit, huh?” “How the heck should I know? The batsman’s leg was in the way.” replied the unruffled gentleman!

Biggest hit:

When asked which was the biggest ever hit made by Gilbert Jessop himself he was fond of saying “The one that went from Beccles to London.” A reference to a ball he had once hit into a railway truck passing by!

Grand piano

A batsman had played and missed a number of times. Someone in the crowd shouted “Send him down a grand piano and see if he can play that.”

Fear of Typhoon

During a Test Match in Australia when a particular Australian batsman was going out to fact Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson, he was so nervous that he could not close the latch of the pavilion gate after him. A voice from the crowd shouted “Leave it open buddy, you won’t be long.”

Worthy bruises:

During the ‘Bodyline’ series Bill Ponsford frequently turned his back and let the ball hit him on his backside or shoulders was once bowled by behind his legs by Bill Voce to a ball that did not rise as he expected. This was at Adelaide where he made a courageous 85 and reckoned his bruises were worth 2-10-0 each. The Australians were paid 30 shillings per Test.

Which is Hobbs?

In 1920, JWHT Douglas led the Englishmen on to the Melbourne field for the first time in 8 years. Most were of average height, including Hobbs, the world’s premier batsman of that time. So an onlooker called “Which is Hobbs?” A barracker’s instant reply: “The one in white pants.”

Taste of own medicine:

Arthur Carr, the Notts captain had encouraged Larwood and Voce to bowl bodyline in several matches. Carr himself once fell flat on his posterior in dodging a bouncer from Surrey’s Maurice Allom, saying as he got up, “This is no way to play cricket.”

Testing Cricket:

The most famous cricket ignoramus was probably George Bernard Shaw, who on being told that England won the Australian Tests asked “What have they been testing?”


Notts ‘keeper Tour Oates was happy to become an umpire at the end of his playing career, when in one of his early matches as umpire at the bowler’s end saw the batsman hit squarely on the pads. “Owzzaat?” he shouted, filled with sudden excitement! “Out” said the bowler. And out it was!

Coffee apartheid:

During the 1970-71 World XI vs Australia series, Clive Lloyd was having black coffee. Richard Hutton remarked, “Don’t be racial, have some milk too!”

Radio-active Rohan:

During the 1970-71 World XI vs Australia series at Perth, Rohan Kanhai was yet again hit on the chest. When he came back after an X-ray, he was greeted by Richard Hutton with the remark “Don’t come near me with all the X-rays you’ve taken so far, you must be radio- active!”

Most garbled call:

In a letter the “The Times” in 1935, Mr. Charles Ponsonby wrote “I was playing in a match last year, and as the bowler delivered the ball the umpire muttered “B-v-v-v..” and after a sudden pause, added “I beg your pardon, I meant to say no-ball. But I dropped my teeth!”

Cunning Grace:

Bobby Abel was all set for a ton, on 96 at lunch. The fielding captain Dr.W.G.Grace told Abel that he’d help him reach his century by bowling a slow full toss just after lunch. Abel happily hit the ball from Dr.Grace not knowing he had a fieldsman placed on the mid-wicket boundary for that very purpose, only to be caught easily. Abel while walking back grumbled at Grace that he was a ‘big old toad’.

Handsome Hendren:

There was a rumour that an English team was picked merely on the players’ good looks. Later when Patsy Hendren was fielding on the boundary, someone asked him on what grounds he was picked. Hendren replied “On good looks!” A fine batsman that he was, he was certainly undeserving to be listed there!

Grace ball:

Once, Dr.W.G.Grace was a guest player against a village team. Their fast bowler uprooted Grace’s , middle stump first ball. Grace fixed a piercing eye on him and said “That was a very good trial ball, and now let’s begin.”


In the match between Sussex and West Indies at Hove, N.I.Thomson hit a ball from Valentine to leg and a black dog bounded on the field, seized the ball and carried it over the boundary, hotly pursued by players and umpires. The four runs were credited to Thomson, not the dog.


Before the start of the 1970-71 World XI vs Australia series Perth “Test”, the World XI players had gone to have a look at the wicket. England’s Richard Hutton threw the ball on the wicket and when it bounced back, he quipped “Eh, it came back! At Leeds it would have got stuck!”

Thompson’s catch:

Long ago, a batsman lifted the ball high into the clouds. A few fieldsmen got underneath it in an attempt to catch it. Suddenly, someone shouted “Leave it to Thompson.” None tried to catch it and the ball fell in a ‘forest of legs’. Thompson was not playing!

Monkey tricks:

In a country match in some English village, Dr.W.G.Grace had made 20 runs or so when he played out at a ball and missed it. The local ‘keeper snapped up the ball, whipped off the bails and screamed at the umpire in appeal. The umpire said “Not out, and look ee’re, young fellow, the crowd has come to see Doctor Grace and not any of your monkey tricks.”

Give it back in the same coin:

Eric Hollies [the bowler who bowled Bradman in his last Test innings] to a barracker in Australia who had asked sarcastically “Do they still bury their head in Birmingham?” The barracker replied “No, they stuff them and send ‘em out here.”

Australian creatures:

During the Ashes series in England, Norman Yardley the England captain got a letter from an old woman like this: “I have no interest in cricket and I do not care who wins. But the other day, quite by accident, I listened for a few minutes to the Test Match commentator. He said that someone or something called Lindwall bowling. It sounded purely a name to me, but when he proceeded to say this bowler had two long legs, one short fine leg, I was shocked. Tell me Mr.Yardley, what kind of creatures are these Australian cricketers? No wonder our Englishmen can’t win!” [From a book “Too many legs”]

Bert's batting reputation:

Bert Ironmonger, not the best of batsmen, had just gone in to bat when his wife rang up and wanted to speak to him. The room attendant said “I’m sorry, Bert has just gone in to bat” Mrs.Ironmonger replied “Don’t worry, I’ll hang on, he won’t be long.”

Not only these, there are many places where cricket humour, jokes and whatnot are available. Some of them for you in one place:

Humour at cricinfo

[some lovely jokes here]

[lists some 250 of them!]

Indian cricket jokes

[Roy Ullyett's cartoon celebrating Jim Laker's 19 wickets in 1956]

[off subject... look at the items that are in auction!]

Arthur Mailey, the famous Australian leg spinner was a famous cartoonist too. Here is one featuring the cover of a book.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Joy of TV-watching Cricket

Watching a cricket match on TV is not just sitting back, with some junk food by the side, counting runs, overs and wickets [not calories either!]. Cricket is for enjoyment of both the player and the beholder. In my opinion, this element of enjoyment will be missed if we take sides while watching. It would not have been cricket if Tendulkar scored a century each time he walked out to bat, or if Anil Kumble took a wicket with every ball he bowled, or India won each and every game! This is what the fanatics foolishly expect. Siding makes one tense esp., if the favoured team does badly. I know some friends who stay away from the TV when India is playing, just for that reason! "Result-in-favour-of-India-oriented" watching is no fun. It is here people miss the wonderful nuances of this great game. We must learn to recognize and appreciate the finer points of good cricket, be it from any team. That can be more pleasurable than mere statistics. Patriotism should not be taken too far while watching a cricket match. We must always keep in mind that Cricket is a hard-fought game played between two teams and the winner is always the one who performs better than the other on that day. So much involved are many, that they watch the game as if they are commanding the actions on far away grounds! One has to experience the enjoyment of watching cricket sans siding! Foolish things and brilliant acts happen and no body knows when they are coming by! After all, not for nothing, cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties.