Rewind to Rewind toRSS FeedFeeds

1960

A tour too far

The subject of questionable bowling actions has dogged cricket since its earliest days

Martin Williamson

September 3, 2004

Text size: A | A



Geoff Griffin bowling in the first Test at Trent Bridge © The Cricketer
Enlarge

The subject of questionable bowling actions has dogged cricket since its earliest days. Initially it was roundarm, and then overarm, bowling which caused much gnashing of teeth, and then in the last century, throwing. There have been three peaks - the late 19th century, the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the last few years. But few cases have been as sad as that of Geoff Griffin, the young South African fast bowler whose career was so publicly ended in a Test match at Lord's.

Griffin's inclusion in South Africa's 1960 squad to tour England was controversial in itself. The vexed subject of illegal actions was high on the agenda - Ian Meckiff, Graham Rorke and Charlie Griffith were all under the spotlight - and Griffin had been called in domestic matches the previous winter. But tall, blond and fast, he headed the national averages in his second season with 35 wickets at 12.23 for Natal and could not be overlooked. He also suffered from a physical defect, having been handicapped by an accident when a schoolboy which left him unable to straighten his right arm fully..

No tourist had been called for throwing in England up to then, but in the South Africans' early matches Griffin's bowling attracted muttering among the media. Ian Peebles, who sat side-on in the game against Essex, wrote that he was much perturbed by what he saw and that "there was something amiss." At Lord's in May, against MCC, Griffin was no-balled for throwing (in one instance he was called for throwing and dragging) and the genie was out of the bottle. At Trent Bridge a few days later Griffin was again called.

The affable Griffin retreated to the internationally famous Alf Gover Indoor School in south-west London, where a three-day coaching session appeared to have ironed out the problem. Although Gover did his best, he later admitted that the arm was unquestionably bent.



Fred Trueman becomes the final victim in Griffin's hat-trick at Lord's © The Cricketer
Enlarge
Griffin played in the first Test at Edgbaston, where there were again mumblings but no action. He cut down his speed, but his penetrativeness went with it. The only time he really opened up, late on the first day, the old problems appeared to return. At Southampton a week later, he was once again no-balled. It was to general surprise that he was named in the XI for the Lord's Test.

What followed was a match of mixed fortunes for Griffin. On the plus side, he became the first South African to take a hat-trick in a Test. But that was scant consolation for the events that ended his Test career.

In the third over of England's innings Griffin was no-balled by Frank Lee, who was standing at square leg, and after a break for rain, he was called again by Lee. Onlookers commented that while his action was suspect, there was no discernible difference between any of the deliveries. In all, Griffin was no-balled five times on the opening day.

On the Friday (the second day) Griffin didn't bowl until the new ball was taken after lunch. He managed four deliveries before he was again no-balled in successive balls by Lee. The next delivery was fine according to Lee, but the hapless Griffin was called for dragging by Syd Buller at the bowler's end.

In between these battles with the umpires, Griffin bowled well, giving the batsmen a real going-over. In the dying overs, Mike Smith chased a wide one from Griffin and was caught behind by John Waite for 99; the first ball of Griffin's next over bowled Peter Walker, and when Fred Trueman was bowled heaving, Grffin had his hat-trick, the first in a Test at Lord's.

His euphoria was short-lived. South Africa were twice bowled out cheaply, and by 2.25pm on Monday (the fourth day) had lost by an innings. But with the Queen was due to visit Lord's at tea, both sides agreed to play a 20-over exhibition match. Griffin was brought on to bowl at the Pavilion End - where Lee was standing - but this time he fell foul of Buller. Buller watched the first ball from square leg, then ambled across to point, and, satisfied with what he had seen, called Griffin's next three half-paced deliveries as no-balls.



A sad farewell to international cricket: Griffin completes his final over underarm © The Cricketer
Enlarge
Jackie McGlew, South Africa's captain, consulted with Buller who refused to compromise, merely suggesting that Griffin could finish the over bowling underarm. Buller allowed the next - overarm - delivery as fair before again calling him for throwing. A disconsolate Griffin switched to underarm - and was promptly no-balled by Lee for not notifying him of his change of action. That was his final act as an international player.

Perhaps the most damming evidence came from Gover. He explained that he had remedied the problem ahead of the first Test, but that Griffin's "consequent loss of pace at Birmingham made him ineffective. At Lord's he put all he could into his bowling and slipped out of the groove into which he had been put."

Griffin received the full support of the South African management and remained with the tour, but did not bowl again. He played as a batsman, making one or two useful contributions from the No. 9 spot. He was widely praised for what The Cricketer described as "the superb manner in which he has taken this misfortune", and there is no question that his behaviour was always polite and measured.

He returned home and moved from Natal to Rhodesia, but within two years - and still only 23 years old - his career ended when he was repeatedly no-balled against North-Eastern Transvaal at Salisbury.

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

RSS Feeds: Martin Williamson

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Martin WilliamsonClose
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.
Related Links

    Question marks over West Indies' ODI batting

Tony Cozier: The sequence of stuttering starts, with the middle and lower orders picking up the pieces, does not bode well

    We need sophisticated technology to deal with chucking

Darren Berry: Still images and slow-motion replays are more effective than lab testing

    India's Constant problem

Rewind: How a row over the appointment of an umpire in 1982 led to the Shakoor Rana-Mike Gatting stand-off

Aftab's unfulfilled talent

Mohammad Isam: Aftab Ahmed could have been a superstar for Bangladesh, but he didn't have the desire and work ethic to follow through

Analysing the unexplainable

Anantha Narayanan: Sequences as bad as, or worse than, India's five-innings streak of sub-200 scores

News | Features Last 7 days

India disgraced themselves by not competing

MS Dhoni and the BCCI are to blame for a touring party that became too comfortable and compliant

'I couldn't bring myself to set a batsman up by giving him runs'

Glenn McGrath talks about the method behind his metronomic consistency, visualisation, and why aggression isn't about sledging

Dhoni doesn't heed his own warning

Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff

Test cricket's young Fab Four

Kohli, Root, Smith and Williamson will take turns as the No. 1 Test batsman. So far each has shown only one technical weakness

Starting and ending with half-centuries, and 99 on debut

Also, Tamim's share of Bangladesh's runs, run out for a duck on debut, most Test wickets against Pakistan, and 40-year-old captains

News | Features Last 7 days