1984

Three legends bow out at the SCG

As was the case in 2007, in 1984 Australia bade farewell to three legends at the end of the Sydney Test

Martin Williamson

January 6, 2007

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Rod Marsh, Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee relax after their final Test © WCM/The Australian
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The retirement of three Australian greats at the SCG has attracted obvious comparisons with a similar event 23 years ago when, on January 6, 1984, Australia bade farewell to Dennis Lillee, Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh. Their's was a void Australia struggled to fill, and it took three years of wretched results before the side turned the corner.

With this year's crop of retirees, there was enough notice for the tributes to start long before the match itself, although Justin Langer only confirmed rumours of his retirement the day before the game.

In 1984, it was rather more haphazard, and the final Test of the summer was into its second day before Chappell made his announcement, a day during which he equalled Colin Cowdrey's record of 120 catches by a fielder. His interest in the game had, The Times reported, "been on the wane since 1981", and he had hinted throughout the summer that he was ready to quit.

The timing surprised the media, as Chappell had gone into the match with 6928 runs, 68 shy of Don Bradman's then-record aggregate by an Australian. "If you're playing for records then you shouldn't be playing," he told them. "Catches and runs are not that important."

The timing came as something of a surprise to Lillee. He had told Chappell on the eve of the match that it was to be his last Test, and said that he would tell the media at the end. "He promptly went out and, without telling me, announced he was going to retire," Lillee recalled. "That was fine by me because, as a former captain, he deserved the first announcement."



Chappell clings on to an edge from Mohsin Khan to break Colin Cowdrey's catching record © WCM/The Australian
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Lillee himself had been increasingly injury-prone, but the more his obits were written, the more determined he seemed to be to plough on. And he was on the brink of a landmark. With 347 Test wickets, he was within touching distance of becoming the first man to pass 350. Like Chappell, had he not lost two years to World Series Cricket, his record would have been even more impressive.

With Chappell's announcement made, Lillee followed suit 24 hours later, after taking 4 for 65 to take his total of wickets to 351. He did so with a dig at the media who had repeatedly written him off. "It was those people who helped me keep going," he said. "I knew I was good enough."

Even then, Chappell again dominated the headlines. Given a standing ovation all the way to the middle, he reached the close on 79 not out, passing Bradman's record shortly before the close courtesy of three overthrows. Bradman had been a selector when Chappell made his debut in 1970-71, and he was quick to send a telegram of congraulations.

The following day, Chappell went on to make 182, becoming only the third Australian to score a century in his first and last Tests. And then, when Pakistan batted for a second time, he took his 121st catch to overtake Cowdrey. Both he and Lillee had been given a guard of honour by team-mates as they took to the field.

Not to be outdone, Lillee grabbed 4 for 88, including 4 for 22 in his last 58 balls, fittingly one of them to a catch by Rod Marsh, one of five victims in the innings for the wicketkeeper. Marsh's catch was his 95th off his colleague. He ended with 355 dismissals, the same number as Lillee had wickets.



Lillee leaves the field for the final time© WCM/The Australian
Speculation was rife that Marsh would also quit, and in the post-match celebrations he effectively did so by announcing that he was not available for the tour of the Caribbean two months later. "Why now, Rod?" Marsh was asked. "'Because all my mates have gone," was his honest reply.

The celebrations went on late into the night, and Lillee recalled one moment when someone brushed into him at the pub. It was Geoff Lawson. "Excuse me, weren't you Dennis Lillee," he grinned.

The media heaped praise on the trio, although in Lillee's case this was somewhat muted because of his ongoing clashes with authority. Indeed, if anyone thought that Lillee would go quietly into the night, they were to be disappointed. At the end of January he was reported by the umpires when, captaining Western Australia against Queensland, he twice demanded drinks be brought on despite instructions to the contrary from the umpires who were looking to make up time lost to rain. He was banned for two matches.

Is there an incident from the past you would like to know more about? E-mail us with your comments and suggestions.

Bibliography
Menace Dennis Lillee (Headline, 2003)
Wisden Cricket Monthly Various

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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