In the Australian summer of 1980-81, New Zealand and India joined Australia to play the World Series Cup, the annual triangular series which was going to become a norm in the coming years.
Despite some good performance from India, it was Australia and New Zealand who qualified for the final series. It was a best-of-five match series and any team winning 3 matches would have been announced the winner. After the end of the first two matches, the score was 1-1, when on 1st February 1981, the teams met in Melbourne Cricket Ground and the third final was underway.
Australia won the toss and decided to bat. Sir Richard Hadlee gave the first breakthrough to New Zealand when he got Allan Border out for just 5. The fellow opener Graham Wood and Captain Greg Chappell built a partnership close to 150 runs and when Wood was out for 72, Australia were already set for a good total. Chappell scored 90 and post his dismissal Kent and Marsh played handy cameos to take the team total to 235 for 4 in 50 overs. For New Zealand, Sneden took 2 wickets and McEwan took the other wicket. Till then it was a pretty regular One day match.
It remained pretty normal even when New Zealand started their chase. Openers John Wright and Bruce Edgar gave a good start and although wickets were going from one end, Edgar reached his 100. He and Parker added 49 runs in the sixth wicket and took New Zealand close to the target. With 15 required from seven, Lillee got Parker caught by Trevor Chappell, the younger brother of Captain Greg, a relatively unsuccessful all-rounder who played a huge role in erupting the controversy.
He was given the responsibility of defending 15 in the last over. Hadlee was the new batsman, who hit his first delivery to the boundary before getting leg before in the next ball. New Zealand’s live wire wicketkeeper Ian Smith was the next to come in who scored a couple of two’s and brought the equation to 7 of two balls. In all that time, Edgar was stuck in the non-striker end. Smith was bowled in the 5th delivery by Chappell which brought New Zealand number 10, Brian McKechnie to the crease. McKechnie was an out bowler with a First class average of 8. Now he needed to do the improbable task of hitting a six on the only delivery he will face to get a tie for his country.
Greg was in lots of pressure and too many things were in his mind. Earlier in the summer, the test series against India was drawn 1-1 and he was desperate to win this tournament. Before the final delivery, he called his brother and had a long discussion. In a shocking move, it looked from their body language that Greg was suggesting his younger brother to bowl underarm. By that time, underarm bowling was already banned in England. Although it was allowed in Australia, it was obviously considered to be highly against the spirit of the game. And hence, at the heat of the moment there was a ‘Brain fade’ moment for another Australian captain and despite disapproval from his own players, Greg asked Trevor to go ahead and bowl the last delivery underarm.
Both McKechnie and Edgar were visibly disgusted. Trevor duly bowled the ball underarm along the ground. Mckechnie defended and while walking out threw his bat out of anger. This shook the entire cricket world as the news was spread. Underarm bowling was immediately banned from the series and later from all forms of cricket. There was huge criticism against Chappell who was not reprimanded by the board as he did not break any written law or regulation. But it was a new low for the overall game and Greg and Australians lost a few friends on that day. The incident resulted in statements from both country’s prime ministers and still considered as one of the most controversial incidents in a cricket ground ever.