March 17, 2014

Takes a licking, keeps on ticking

A look at some brave efforts from injured batsmen who managed to return to the field to resume the fight
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Bert Sutcliffe smashes a six during his unforgettable 80 not out in 1953
Bert Sutcliffe smashes a six during his unforgettable 80 not out in 1953 © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Since their return to the international cricket family in the 1990s, South African sides have generally not been particularly popular with the wider Australian public. Captains such as Kepler Wessels set a tone in which they were often seen as negative and defensive. In the 2005-06 season Graeme Smith managed to alienate a large proportion of the Australian cricket-viewing population, and at the same time lost five of the six Test matches. Smith tried to talk tough, but that approach dramatically backfired. It would not be unfair to describe Smith back then as one of the most unpopular cricketers in Australia since Richard Hadlee hung up his boots.

However, the 2008-09 season saw a dramatic turnaround in both public perceptions of Smith and the South African team. Smith's performance in that series as a leader was exemplary. He remained calm, and managed the media particularly well. He succeeded in transforming himself into a considered and mature captain who rarely appeared flustered.

When he walked out to bat, injured hand and all, in the second innings of the third Test in Sydney during that 2008-09 series, Smith received a standing ovation from the entire crowd. It was reminiscent of the footage of the standing ovation for Harold Larwood at the same ground during the Bodyline series. While the public would have applauded Smith's bravery in 2006 if he had come out to bat in similar circumstances, he would not have won their hearts as he so clearly did in 2009.

Smith's recent retirement prompted thoughts about his cricketing legacy and my foremost memory was of him marching out to bat to try to save a match in spite of a serious injury. This resulted in consideration of other "brave" efforts from injured warriors who managed to return to the field to resume the fight.

One of the first examples that sprang to mind was that of Lionel Tennyson, grandson of the English poet. He captained the English team during the 1921 Ashes series against the ultimately all-conquering Australian team. His opponent, Warwick Armstrong, had at his disposal the first truly great fast bowling duo, of Ted McDonald and Jack Gregory. The pair terrorised the English batsmen with sheer pace. However, in the Leeds Test the Australian bowlers faced a fierce counter-attack by Tennyson. What made this innings remarkable was that he batted at No. 9 after the webbing in his right hand was ripped open while fielding and he had been thought unlikely to play any further part in the match. He scored 63 in rapid time and managed to scramble the home team past the follow-on mark, with Jack Hobbs unable to bat at all, and in the company of the No. 11, Cecil Parkin. Ultimately, England still lost the match but Tennyson's courage is remembered.

Another example by an injured English batsman came from the brilliant and unorthodox Denis Compton. Much like Tennyson's, Compton's performance came against a very strong Australian team, led by Don Bradman and featuring a pair of fearsome quicks in Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller. At the Old Trafford Test in 1948, Lindwall subjected Compton to a series of bouncers perhaps somewhat similar to the more recent Morne Morkel "assault" on Michael Clarke. Coming in to bat with the score a precarious 28 for 2 on the first morning of the match, Compton was struck on the arm and body before top-edging a hook shot into his head. In the pre-helmet days this type of injury was potentially fatal, and Compton was possibly lucky to escape with just a cut to his head that required him to retire hurt and get stitched up. Nonetheless, it was clearly a severe blow. Compton bravely returned to the pitch with England still in significant trouble at 119 for 5, and took his score from 4 to an unbeaten 145. The value of his performance is underlined by the fact that England's next best score in the innings was 37, but ultimately the weather won out with rain ruining any chance of a result.

One of bravest and most heart-rending performances in Test history occurred in South Africa in 1953, when New Zealanders Bert Sutcliffe and Bob Blair shared a last-wicket stand of 33. In the larger scheme of things, a partnership of less than three dozen doesn't appear significant. However, Sutcliffe had been earlier struck a very nasty blow on the head by South African quick Neil Adcock, with New Zealand's score at 9 for 2. He was taken to hospital as a precaution, but then returned to the middle at 81 for 6 with his head bandaged up. He then smashed an unbeaten 80 including an astonishing seven sixes in less than two hours. What makes this situation even more poignant was that Blair batted with the tragedy of having just learned that his fiancée had been among the 151 people killed in the Tangiwai rail disaster on the North Island of New Zealand after a train bridge had been washed away.

I grew up in Inverell in northern New South Wales. Inverell has one major cricketing claim to fame: it was the stomping ground of Rick McCosker before he moved to Sydney and eventually into Test cricket. It would therefore be almost sacrilegious of me not to mention McCosker's famous contribution in the Centenary Test in Melbourne in 1976-77. A first-innings bouncer from English fast bowler Bob Willis broke his jaw. With Australia in trouble in the second innings, McCosker joined Rod Marsh with the score at 353 for 8, his head covered in bandages. McCosker scored 25 and ultimately the ninth-wicket partnership of 54 runs proved highly significant in that Australia eventually won by 45 runs. McCosker is now largely remembered for that one iconic performance, but many people forget that he actually played 25 Tests and averaged around 40 as an opening batsman in a period dominated by exceptional fast bowling.

One of my favourite performances by an injured warrior occurred during the 1981 series between Australia and the touring Indian team. Notwithstanding the obvious talents of Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath, the Australian public did not expect much resistance from the Indian batting line-up when facing the home team's fast bowling talents of Dennis Lillee, Rodney Hogg and Len Pascoe. The first Test seemed to reinforce this belief, with Australia winning by an innings. One of the few Indian batsmen who appeared to take the fight to Australia was the newcomer Sandeep Patil. He had scored a good 65 in the first innings before being struck a fierce blow near his throat from Hogg. He shrugged that injury off, but was soon after hit again by Pascoe. This ball hit Patil over the ear, and he collapsed to the ground and was forced to retire hurt. These two blows must not have had an impact on his confidence, however, for in the next Test, just a few weeks later, Patil struck a magnificent 174. Coming in to bat with India struggling in response to a massive Australian first innings, Patil was subjected to more short-pitched bowling but he batted beautifully and showed great mastery of all the bowlers. While Patil's return from injury was not technically within the same game, as it was with the other players I have mentioned, the mental scars must have still been fresh following the two serious blows in the previous match.

Of course, there are many other worthy examples including Eddie Paynter leaving his sick bed with tonsillitis to score 83 against Australia, Colin Cowdrey batting with a broken arm against West Indies, Bill Lawry returning to top-score after having ten stitches inserted into his forehead following a bouncer against South Africa, and Malcolm Marshall, who batted with a broken hand against England. But of them all, I still consider Smith's performance as the most influential. It was a pivotal moment that we can identify as the point he moved from being generally disliked to being admired and respected as one of cricket's leading figures.

Stuart Wark works at the University of New England as a research fellow

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on March 22, 2014, 19:47 GMT

    what about yuvraj playing the whole worldcup 2011 and being the player of the tournament with symptoms of cancer. This bravery should be right at the top with others...

  • harshthakor on March 19, 2014, 7:40 GMT

    I always remember Alan Border's 123 not out at Old Trafford in the 1981 Ashes where he battled with a broken finger.He took the fight to the last battling like a crusader .

    In world series cricket I will always remember Ian Chappell's knock in 1978 versus Rest of the world after his finger was broken.

    In terms of comeback I will always remember Sandeep Patil's spectacular 174 at Adelaide after being felled in the previous test.

  • on March 19, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    Anil Kumble, if I remember correctly came out to bowl after a short ball broke his jaw while batting against the Windies?

  • on March 18, 2014, 21:07 GMT

    What about Sadiq Mohammed's 98* vs WI. Got smashed on the neck while fielding at short leg, taken to hospital and could not bend his neck.

    Came out to bat at no 7 when Pak were struggling and saved the match.

  • andrew-schulz on March 18, 2014, 9:56 GMT

    The one that sticks in my mind most is Talaat Ali of Pakistan, on Test debut mind you. Adelaide 1972/3, hit on the wrist by a full toss by Dennis Lillee and retired hurt. No one gave a thought that he could possibly bat in the second innings, and many had probably turned off their TVs, commentators well into final match summary, when out he walked with arm in plaster. Survived the last 20 odd minutes on day 4 and took the match into a 5th day, though there was never much chance of a washout in Adelaide. Out for a meritorious duck on the final day, which gave Ashley Mallet an 8 wicket haul.

    I'd seriously question your perceptions. I think there are at least 50 visiting cricketers disliked more than Hadlee and Smith over that period. And as for Smith being respected now? I think not after ridiculous comments in this last series. He took Warner to task for public comments, but Smith's comments that Johnson could only get tai lenders out, and only on bad wickets, were brainless.

  • PhilipEC on March 18, 2014, 5:49 GMT

    I forgot the best fast/express bowler of all time (at least in my opinion ) Mr Dennis Lillee, who could forget his efforts leading up to his back strain injury. Pure courage

  • jackiethepen on March 17, 2014, 23:27 GMT

    Ian Bell played an ODI against the West Indies in 2012 with a fractured jaw after being hit during net practice two days before the game. He was taken to hospital and was given 10 stitches for the deep wound under his chin. He got 126 and was Man of the Series which England won 2-0.

  • on March 17, 2014, 17:58 GMT

    Salim Malik coming out to bat one handed (other hand was in a cast) against Walsh, Marshall and Gray was the most heroic piece of batting I've ever seen. He stood tall while facing bouncers and even scored a couple of runs. That's one inning that should never be left out when heroic innings are discussed.

  • Suresh.Basappa on March 17, 2014, 15:33 GMT

    Players like these are rare and their passion for the game reflects in them. Michael Clark is another brave player who is currently in news. I was looking for cricket updates when I first saw the news about Clark's on starsports.cm. I got ball-by-ball updates on starsports site and the man's performance was commendable.

  • Bilal_Choudry on March 17, 2014, 13:24 GMT

    Salim Malik coming out with a broken arm to face Marshall and co was unforgettable .... Imran Khan played the entire 92 worldcup injured

  • on March 22, 2014, 19:47 GMT

    what about yuvraj playing the whole worldcup 2011 and being the player of the tournament with symptoms of cancer. This bravery should be right at the top with others...

  • harshthakor on March 19, 2014, 7:40 GMT

    I always remember Alan Border's 123 not out at Old Trafford in the 1981 Ashes where he battled with a broken finger.He took the fight to the last battling like a crusader .

    In world series cricket I will always remember Ian Chappell's knock in 1978 versus Rest of the world after his finger was broken.

    In terms of comeback I will always remember Sandeep Patil's spectacular 174 at Adelaide after being felled in the previous test.

  • on March 19, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    Anil Kumble, if I remember correctly came out to bowl after a short ball broke his jaw while batting against the Windies?

  • on March 18, 2014, 21:07 GMT

    What about Sadiq Mohammed's 98* vs WI. Got smashed on the neck while fielding at short leg, taken to hospital and could not bend his neck.

    Came out to bat at no 7 when Pak were struggling and saved the match.

  • andrew-schulz on March 18, 2014, 9:56 GMT

    The one that sticks in my mind most is Talaat Ali of Pakistan, on Test debut mind you. Adelaide 1972/3, hit on the wrist by a full toss by Dennis Lillee and retired hurt. No one gave a thought that he could possibly bat in the second innings, and many had probably turned off their TVs, commentators well into final match summary, when out he walked with arm in plaster. Survived the last 20 odd minutes on day 4 and took the match into a 5th day, though there was never much chance of a washout in Adelaide. Out for a meritorious duck on the final day, which gave Ashley Mallet an 8 wicket haul.

    I'd seriously question your perceptions. I think there are at least 50 visiting cricketers disliked more than Hadlee and Smith over that period. And as for Smith being respected now? I think not after ridiculous comments in this last series. He took Warner to task for public comments, but Smith's comments that Johnson could only get tai lenders out, and only on bad wickets, were brainless.

  • PhilipEC on March 18, 2014, 5:49 GMT

    I forgot the best fast/express bowler of all time (at least in my opinion ) Mr Dennis Lillee, who could forget his efforts leading up to his back strain injury. Pure courage

  • jackiethepen on March 17, 2014, 23:27 GMT

    Ian Bell played an ODI against the West Indies in 2012 with a fractured jaw after being hit during net practice two days before the game. He was taken to hospital and was given 10 stitches for the deep wound under his chin. He got 126 and was Man of the Series which England won 2-0.

  • on March 17, 2014, 17:58 GMT

    Salim Malik coming out to bat one handed (other hand was in a cast) against Walsh, Marshall and Gray was the most heroic piece of batting I've ever seen. He stood tall while facing bouncers and even scored a couple of runs. That's one inning that should never be left out when heroic innings are discussed.

  • Suresh.Basappa on March 17, 2014, 15:33 GMT

    Players like these are rare and their passion for the game reflects in them. Michael Clark is another brave player who is currently in news. I was looking for cricket updates when I first saw the news about Clark's on starsports.cm. I got ball-by-ball updates on starsports site and the man's performance was commendable.

  • Bilal_Choudry on March 17, 2014, 13:24 GMT

    Salim Malik coming out with a broken arm to face Marshall and co was unforgettable .... Imran Khan played the entire 92 worldcup injured

  • J751 on March 17, 2014, 12:25 GMT

    Salim Malik is now remembered for the wrong reasons but his effort in the 1986-87 Faisalabad Test against the West Indies was memorable.He had a broken hand but came out as the last man to lend support to Wasim Akram who was hitting some lusty blows.He held the bat with his other hand and managed to return unbeaten with the the last wicket pair adding 32.

  • on March 17, 2014, 11:51 GMT

    Australia not really in trouble in the Centenary Test when almost 400 ahead. great iconic knock though.

    Max Walker bowling through the pain of extreme blisters to drag Australia across the line against the Windies in 72-3. one of the great untalkedabout wins.

    Kim Hughes made 80-odd in the second dig in 81-2 at Adelaide against a gun Windies team, with a broken foot/toe. still not enough but one of the great untalkedabout knocks.

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on March 17, 2014, 11:12 GMT

    How can you not mention cult hero Rhino winning Aus the game on 1 and quarter legs? And another bat comes to mind . Ranatunga batting with only top hand due to a broken left thumb in Pak v Waqar and co. - think it was drawn.

  • on March 17, 2014, 10:58 GMT

    What about Salim Malik batting with a broken hand in the 2nd Test against West Indies in the 1986-87 Series in Pakistan?

  • Farhan166 on March 17, 2014, 9:33 GMT

    In the 1974-75 Karachi test against West Indies Sadiq Mohammad was hit on the head fielding at short leg. He was taken to hospital but returned the next day scored 98 and saved the test match for Pakistan.

  • Vaughanographic on March 17, 2014, 9:16 GMT

    Yeah, I can't believe you missed out both Kumble and Mohinder Armanath. He must have been the most mental hooker, possibly ever. The dude had no fear and would carry on hooking even if hit.

  • on March 17, 2014, 9:08 GMT

    Two other Indians were missed in this list. First Mohinder Amarnath who was hit by WI bowlers during the match in Port of Spain..... still keep playing. Second again in West Indies - Anil Kumble, who broke his jaw unable to speak....... came to bowl and got the wicket of Prince Lara as LBW. The appeal for LBW was just a look at the umpire with keeping his hands up..........

  • kiwicricketnut on March 17, 2014, 8:47 GMT

    nz has had a few wounded warriors, chris cairns coming back from injury to bat with nathan astle who went crazy on his way to the quickest double century against england we didn't win but it gave them one hell of a scare, chris harris came back from a shoulder injury (dislocation maybe?) to try and win us a one dayer against the aussies but again we didn't quite make it, still one of the bravest innings ive seen, and then more recently against south africa, martin guptill on one leg came back to win us the game, that was a truely heroic innings, so weve definatly had our fair share if gutsy players putting there body on the line for there country, its good to watch and gives you a good gauge as to what it means to them to represent there country

  • on March 17, 2014, 8:43 GMT

    All the anecdotes are for the batsmen. Isnt there a bowler who was a match winner after he was injured. A couple of names come to mind. One is Anil Kumble who bowled with a fractured jaw. Don't have the details of the match. Another name is Kapil Dev in 1980 vs Australia in Melbourne. Aussies need 120 to win the match. Kapil was having a muscle pull or groin injury. Despite that he bowled his heart out & picked up 5-28 & Aussies all out for 87. That squared the series 1-1.

  • Katey on March 17, 2014, 8:32 GMT

    Remember Smith had a dicky elbow on the other arm to his broken hand ... had to be operated on not long after the Aus tour. So neither hand was working properly.

  • TheBangalorean on March 17, 2014, 8:23 GMT

    I recall reading in Gavaskar's autobiography that he had a very painful toothache during one of the tests in the Caribbean during his debut series in 1971. He apparently put off going to a dentist until after the test, and has stated that the pain helped him concentrate (if my memory serves me right).

    Also, didn't Malcolm Marshall bowl and bat with his broken left hand in a cast in a test match?

  • ilovetests on March 17, 2014, 8:08 GMT

    I would add an innings of 137 by an esteemed Cricinfo writer to your list:

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63422.html

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/wisdenalmanack/content/story/151978.html

  • junaid_bhai on March 17, 2014, 7:06 GMT

    Gary Kristen hit by fastest Shoaib on face in 2003 Lahore test & Gary came back strongly with the century in the next test.

  • Arslan_Javed on March 17, 2014, 5:39 GMT

    in 1986 Salim Malik's brave innings to bat with broken arm against West indian Pace attack lead by Malcom Marshel,was one of the bravest attempts in history of cricket.In that innings Malik faced bowlers with holding bat in one hand. It was remarkable.

  • vatsap on March 17, 2014, 4:58 GMT

    Just read in SMG's biography yesterday, that Patil came onto bat in the 2nd innings of the first test after he was retired hurt when he was clearly not in a good shape to bat. The article said Patil got a great ovation from the crowd. Considering the early 80s when the cultural difference between the Aussies and Indians were huge that must have been some sight to see the Aussies applauding an Indian.

  • ambsmams on March 17, 2014, 4:33 GMT

    As an Indian, I would remember Anil Kumble the most whose photographs are still fresh when he played inspite of a broken jaw.

    I would also like to add Mohinder Amarnath to this list when India overhauled the score of 400+ in the last innings in Port of Spain to win the Test. He may not have had anything broken, but he was subjected to a lot of body blows by the WI pacemen.

  • R.Jayanth on March 17, 2014, 3:40 GMT

    You may also want to consider adding Anil Kumble, who bowled with a broken jaw (by Merv Dillon) and claimed a wicket.

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  • R.Jayanth on March 17, 2014, 3:40 GMT

    You may also want to consider adding Anil Kumble, who bowled with a broken jaw (by Merv Dillon) and claimed a wicket.

  • ambsmams on March 17, 2014, 4:33 GMT

    As an Indian, I would remember Anil Kumble the most whose photographs are still fresh when he played inspite of a broken jaw.

    I would also like to add Mohinder Amarnath to this list when India overhauled the score of 400+ in the last innings in Port of Spain to win the Test. He may not have had anything broken, but he was subjected to a lot of body blows by the WI pacemen.

  • vatsap on March 17, 2014, 4:58 GMT

    Just read in SMG's biography yesterday, that Patil came onto bat in the 2nd innings of the first test after he was retired hurt when he was clearly not in a good shape to bat. The article said Patil got a great ovation from the crowd. Considering the early 80s when the cultural difference between the Aussies and Indians were huge that must have been some sight to see the Aussies applauding an Indian.

  • Arslan_Javed on March 17, 2014, 5:39 GMT

    in 1986 Salim Malik's brave innings to bat with broken arm against West indian Pace attack lead by Malcom Marshel,was one of the bravest attempts in history of cricket.In that innings Malik faced bowlers with holding bat in one hand. It was remarkable.

  • junaid_bhai on March 17, 2014, 7:06 GMT

    Gary Kristen hit by fastest Shoaib on face in 2003 Lahore test & Gary came back strongly with the century in the next test.

  • ilovetests on March 17, 2014, 8:08 GMT

    I would add an innings of 137 by an esteemed Cricinfo writer to your list:

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63422.html

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/wisdenalmanack/content/story/151978.html

  • TheBangalorean on March 17, 2014, 8:23 GMT

    I recall reading in Gavaskar's autobiography that he had a very painful toothache during one of the tests in the Caribbean during his debut series in 1971. He apparently put off going to a dentist until after the test, and has stated that the pain helped him concentrate (if my memory serves me right).

    Also, didn't Malcolm Marshall bowl and bat with his broken left hand in a cast in a test match?

  • Katey on March 17, 2014, 8:32 GMT

    Remember Smith had a dicky elbow on the other arm to his broken hand ... had to be operated on not long after the Aus tour. So neither hand was working properly.

  • on March 17, 2014, 8:43 GMT

    All the anecdotes are for the batsmen. Isnt there a bowler who was a match winner after he was injured. A couple of names come to mind. One is Anil Kumble who bowled with a fractured jaw. Don't have the details of the match. Another name is Kapil Dev in 1980 vs Australia in Melbourne. Aussies need 120 to win the match. Kapil was having a muscle pull or groin injury. Despite that he bowled his heart out & picked up 5-28 & Aussies all out for 87. That squared the series 1-1.

  • kiwicricketnut on March 17, 2014, 8:47 GMT

    nz has had a few wounded warriors, chris cairns coming back from injury to bat with nathan astle who went crazy on his way to the quickest double century against england we didn't win but it gave them one hell of a scare, chris harris came back from a shoulder injury (dislocation maybe?) to try and win us a one dayer against the aussies but again we didn't quite make it, still one of the bravest innings ive seen, and then more recently against south africa, martin guptill on one leg came back to win us the game, that was a truely heroic innings, so weve definatly had our fair share if gutsy players putting there body on the line for there country, its good to watch and gives you a good gauge as to what it means to them to represent there country