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Cricinfo XI

I predict a riot

Cricinfo picks out 11 moments where tempers spilled over off the field

Andrew Miller and Martin Williamson

April 11, 2006

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Crowd trouble has often been perceived as a problem confined to the world of football, but as the scenes at Guwahati confirmed over the weekend, cricket has had its fair share of shameful incidents. Here, Cricinfo picks out 11 moments where tempers spilled over off the field. Scandalised by our selection? Send your thoughts to feedback.



The crowd throw bottles onto the outfield after the controversial run-out of Clifford McWatt © The Cricketer
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West Indies v England, Guyana, 1953-54
This was a dispiritingly dull series, although the scorecards don't reveal how mind-numbing England's tactics often were. Umpiring disputes earlier in the tour led to Len Hutton, England's captain, requesting that officials be specially flown in for the Guyana Test. The dismissal of local wicketkeeper Clifford McWatt - who was run out by some distance - started a spate of bottle throwing among locals. That might have been the extent of the trouble had the local board secretary not phoned the police who responded by firing tear gas into the crowd and thumping a few of them with truncheons for good measure. Play resumed the next day, but only after both teams had been promised danger money. At the height of the riot Hutton refused to leave the middle, arguing that he wanted a couple more wickets before the close.

New South Wales v England XI, Sydney, 1879
In the days when touring sides travelled with their own umpires, the run-out decision against local favourite Billy Murdoch by England's George Coulthard started a riot as thousands clambered over the fencing and made their way to the middle to extract revenge on Coulthard. The England players formed a square round their umpire and slowly made their way from the field, although Lord Harris, the captain, was still bashed with a stick before he reached the pavilion. Showing an admirable disregard for diplomacy, his lordship refused to countenance Coulthard's replacement, and no sooner had he and the players returned to the field than another invasion ended the day's play. The Times implied that the "ignorant larrikins'", upset at Murdoch's dismissal had more to do with betting than any perceived injustice. "It is evident," the paper added presciently, "that if betting is to be associated with cricket then all the established rules of propriety and fair play will be violated." Quite.

India v West Indies, Calcutta, 1966-67
Trouble at Eden Gardens started outside the ground after the local authorities sold many more tickets than they had seats available, and angry ticket-holders, barred access, stormed the fences and started setting fire to stands and the pavilion roof. As innocent spectators sought refuge by spilling onto the outfield, the local police lathi-charged them and fired tear gas for good measure, while elsewhere the mob carried broken benches to the middle and started a bonfire as well as gouging holes in the pitch with the stumps. Against this backdrop, Conrad Hunte was reported to have climbed the flagpole to save the West Indies flag, before fleeing the ground on foot. Local officials had to be smuggled out hidden on the floor of cars.



Players leave the field at Kingston after the police lobbed tear-gas into the crowd © The Cricketer
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West Indies v England, Jamaica, 1967-68
As West Indies battled to avoid the follow on, the dismissal of Basil Butcher triggered unrest and empty spirit bottles rained down from the stands. Colin Cowdrey and Garry Sobers, the captains, went and calmed the crowd, and peace seemed to have been restored. Unfortunately, the local police at that point decided their intervention was needed and started peppering spectators with tear gas. Sadly, no one had bothered checking the wind direction, and almost as soon as the canisters landed among the crowd, the clouds began drifting into the members' enclosures and pavilion leaving dignitaries and players spluttering and gasping for air. The Sun noted that it was a measure of local cricketing strength that the rioters had been able to throw the bottles almost 70 yards. The lost 75 minutes were made up on a hastily-scheduled sixth day and that almost cost England, who ended on 68 for 8, the match.

Pakistan v England, Karachi, 1968-69
England's tour of Pakistan was a hastily-arranged replacement for the cancelled series against South Africa, but it took place against a backdrop of serious political unrest and was dogged by problems from the off. The first Test was constantly interrupted by student demonstrations, and the second at Dhaka only took place when students replaced the police in protecting players. But so tense was the situation that few believed the third Test would be played to a finish, and on the third day the match and the tour ended as a mob from outside stormed the ground and wrecked the pitch as well as setting fire to the VIP enclosures. England flew home that night.

India v Australia, Bombay, 1969-70
The problems at the Brabourne were sparked by criticism of Venkat's dismissal on local radio. With large numbers of the 57,000 capacity crowd listening to the broadcast on transistors as India slid to defeat, that was too much, and bottles and stones started cascading onto the outfield. Before long, the traditional pastime of setting fire to stands had started, and the wind carried the smoke across the playing area. Amazingly, the game continued, even though the scorers had to walk out to speak to the umpires to complain that they could not make out the signals through the smoke! At the close, the Australians waited 20 minutes for police to disperse most of the mob. Even so, John Gleeson was struck by a bottle as he eventually walked off, and Bill Lawry had a whicker chair dropped on him from a balcony.



The Australian players take refuge from the mob at Georgetown © WCM
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West Indies v Australia, WSC SuperTest, Guyana, 1978-79
The last hurrah of World Series Cricket should have been its finest hour as the top two sides went head-to-head in the Caribbean. But bad weather and lousy administration led to crowd trouble in Trinidad and Barbados. Those incidents were completely overshadowed by a full-scale riot in Guyana after a delayed start to the fourth SuperTest. Enflamed by alcohol and sunshine and angered by endless inspections, the crowd ripped up seating and fencing, and then ransacked the pavilion, destroying the ground's archives as the two teams sheltered in the dressing rooms, wearing helmets and brandishing bats for protection. As the tear gas was deployed, the teams fled under armed guard. A truncated three-day match started inside the remains of the Bourda two days later.

Pakistan v England, NatWest Series, 2001
The NatWest Series in 2001 was one long, simmering stew of crowd disturbance, instigated by some over-exuberant ex-pat supporters of Pakistan, who ran riot in a series where England lost six matches out of six, in the midst of a run of 11 consecutive defeats. Full-scale pitch invasions took place at Edgbaston and Headingley, and in the second of these a steward had two ribs broken as the fans swarmed onto the field, and Alec Stewart opted to concede the match even though Pakistan were still four runs from victory. Unaccustomed to such problems, the ECB's response was widely lampooned, particularly the pathetic orange mesh fence that was brought in to hold back the crowd at Trent Bridge. Australia won the series at a canter, but the last word still went to the crowds, as Michael Bevan was struck on the cheek by a full can of beer, during the post-series presentations at Lord's.

Pakistan v Commonwealth XI, Dacca 1971
March 1971 was a time of extreme unrest in East Pakistan, the former name for Bangladesh. The region was on the brink of civil war following a sweeping election victory for the independence movement, and against a backdrop of political manoeuvring and civil unrest, a touring Commonwealth XI arrived to take play Pakistan at Dacca [sic]. It was an unremarkable contest, to which Wisden adds little but a scorecard, although it does state enigmatically - on page 976 of its 1972 edition - that the match was abandoned on the fourth and final day, when "the crowd invaded the field". It was a little more dramatic than that. On that final afternoon, Pakistan's president, imposed martial law and the effect was dynamite. All across Dacca, hundreds of Bengalis swarmed onto the streets in a spontaneous display of outrage, and the National Stadium became a focal point for the fury. "The student politicians were livid," recalls Raquibul Hasan, who remains the only Bengali to have played for Pakistan. "They set fire to the stands, and burned down the marquees as we fled back to our hotel. Right then, we knew ... that was the end of it."



Sri Lanka's players are led to safety by riot police. Minutes later the 1996 World Cup semi-final was abandoned © Getty Images
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India v Sri Lanka, World Cup semi-final 1995-96
India's progression to their second World Cup final seemed preordained when Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana both fell to the first four balls of the day. By the time India themselves had lost seven wickets for 22 runs, however, to slip to a hopeless 120 for 8 chasing 252, the fury among the Calcutta faithful was too great to ignore. Bottles rained onto the outfield and fires were lit in the stands as the players left for a 15-minute cooling-off period, and when the match could not be restarted, Sri Lanka were declared winners by default. India's captain, Mohammad Azharuddin, bore the brunt of the wrath for his decision to field first, and an armed guard had to be placed outside his house. Shameful though the scenes were, Wisden cautioned that the blame should not fall exclusively on the rioters. "They were merely responding to the seductions created for them by the promoters of the Wills World Cup, an event that plainly, disastrously, put money-making above all the fundamentals of organising a global sporting competition."

Pakistan v England, 3rd ODI, Rawalpindi, 2000-01
The Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium lies almost equidistant between Rawalpindi and Islamabad and when, in their wisdom, the authorities decided to sell the same tickets in both cities simultaneously, the upshot was a predictable disaster. Twice the capacity of fans turned up at the ground, and while the lucky few made it into the stadium and watched in contentment as Pakistan came from behind to seal the series 2-1, those on the outside were not so chuffed. As the events on the concourse escalated from playful irritation to a full-scale mob assault on the nearby army compound, England's openers, Marcus Trescothick and Alec Stewart were forced to shield their eyes as tear gas wafted across the field of play.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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