Australia’s Shameful Slowroll

July 31, 2011

When it comes to international sporting rivalries, there are few that compare to the one between Australia and New Zealand. Even if you’re not from either country, it’s not hard to get caught up in the cross-fire between the two nations.

No matter what the game – be it cricket, rugby, netball or soccer – those who don our national colours of green and gold are always up to show the “All-Blacks” just how it’s done, and vice-versa. It’s always a fierce contest, laced with the occasional dust-up, but always plenty of trash talk and chest-beating.

Come at me, bru!

Most of it, of course, is all in good fun. After all, we go way back and have been there for each other through thick and thin: the most-recognised bond between us is encapsulated in the ANZACs (Australia & New Zealand Army Corps), where our soldiers have served side-by-side in times of war.

However, there was one dark moment in our shared history that nearly tore the alliance – and the two countries – apart.

Rewind back to the summer of 1981 – almost 30 years ago to the day. The setting: the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was the third one-day international cricket match in a best-of-five finals series between Australia and New Zealand. The arena was packed with more than 100,000 screaming fans and it was do-or-die out there for both teams.

New Zealand were down by six runs with one ball remaining in the final over. Greg Chappell, the captain of the Australian side, called in his brother Trevor after using up his best bowlers. Despite Trevor having already taken two wickets, it wasn’t enough for Greg to be convinced that his younger brother could deliver.

In a moment of madness, Greg took it upon himself to do the unthinkable. In poker terms, he decided to angle-shoot for the win.

After consulting with the umpires and the New Zealand batsmen, Greg ordered Trevor to deliver the last ball of the over underarm, which at that time was technically legal, but in terms of playing in the spirit of the game – well, as the saying goes – it’s just not cricket.

The horrific images of “Underarm ’81” still make any Aussie or Kiwi sports fan cringe to this day

As their older brother Ian watched on helplessly in the commentary box, Trevor stepped up to the crease and proceeded to roll the ball down the pitch. The ball skidded along the ground towards Brian McKenchie (the New Zealand batsman on strike) and he was forced into playing a defensive stroke before tossing his bat away in disgust as he stormed off the field.

Although Australia won the game to take the lead in the series 2-1, even their fans booed the team as they headed back to the pavillion. In front of a sold-out crowd at the MCG, with millions more watching on television around the world, Australia had blatantly committed the sickest sporting “slowroll” in history.

The fallout from the incident was ugly. The Chappells became social pariahs and International Cricket Council, the sport’s governing body, immediately changed the rules to make it illegal to bowl underarm. Naturally, it became the major talking point at water-coolers and breakfast tables nation-wide in both countries and created a global media frenzy.

Even the leaders of both countries spoke out in condemnation of the team’s actions. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser said that it was “contrary to the traditions of the game”, but New Zealand Prime Minister was more blunt in his response: “[It was] the most disgusting incident I can recall in the history of cricket … it was an act of true cowardice and I consider it appropriate that the Australian team were wearing yellow.”

We’re hoping that nothing controversial like this occurs today at the final table of the APPT Melbourne Main Event, but one thing’s for certain – this Trans-Tasman battle will be one for the ages. Play will get underway at 2:10pm local time (GMT +10), so be sure to keep your browsers locked to the PokerStars Blog as we bring you live updates from Crown Casino!


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