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Famous incidents when batsmen were hit by bouncers
September 2, 2013
A noted non-batsman, Devon Malcolm was not impressed when another member of the fast bowler's union, Fanie de Villiers, hit him on the head during the final Test against South Africa at The Oval in 1994. Brushing off the apology, Malcolm muttered, "You guys are history", and made good on his promise, claiming 9 for 57, the best Test figures by any genuinely fast quick bowler. Malcolm had a famously up-and-down career: his captains may have wished he had been clanged on the helmet more often.
It's one of the most memorable images from one of cricket's most memorable matches: during the Centenary Test in Melbourne in 1976-77, Australia's Rick McCosker went out to bat with his head swathed in bandages, after a bouncer from Bob Willis broke his jaw (and then rebounded into his stumps) in the first innings. Greeted with another bumper, McCosker survived to score 25 and help Rod Marsh put on 54 - vital in a match Australia eventually won by 45 runs.
After a bouncer from the fearsome Charlie Griffith fractured his skull during the Indians' tour match against Barbados early in 1962, the Indian opener Nari Contractor's life lay in the balance for several days: Frank Worrell, his opposite number as captain, was one of those who donated blood. Happily, Contractor survived, and returned to first-class cricket (although he never played another Test). The captaincy passed to the youngest member of the side, the 21-year-old Nawab of Pataudi, who remained in charge for the rest of the decade.
Denis Compton played several fine innings, but one of the bravest came at Old Trafford in 1948, when he put England into a strong position against Don Bradman's "Invincibles", only to be denied by bad weather. After scoring only four runs, Compton was hit during a bumper barrage from Ray Lindwall. Wisden reported: "After being struck on the arm he took a big hit at a no-ball bumper, but the ball flew off the edge of his bat on to his forehead. Compton staggered around and was led off the field with a cut head. Stitches were inserted and though he wanted to go back at the fall of the next wicket he was ordered to rest." He actually returned at 119 for 5, and went on to score a superb 145 not out: England led by 316 after three days - but only 61 more overs were possible and the tourists' unbeaten record survived.
It's one of the iconic images of New Zealand sport: Bert Sutcliffe, head swathed in bandages, hitting out against South Africa. The match was in Johannesburg over Christmas in 1953, and Sutcliffe was hit on the head by the pacy Neil Adcock before he had scored. He retired to hospital, but resumed at 81 for 6, and smashed an undefeated 80 out of 106 in 112 minutes, including seven sixes. The last-wicket partnership - 33 in ten minutes - was made with Bob Blair, who had just learned that his fiancée had been killed in a train accident back in New Zealand.
The UAE's captain Sultan Zarawani had an interesting introduction to World Cup cricket in Rawalpindi early in 1996: after his club-standard legspin had been knocked about a bit by South Africa (1 for 69), he came out to bat in a floppy hat rather than a helmet, inciting the bowler - Allan Donald - into unleashing a first-ball bouncer. With comic predictability it hit the batsman on the head, and he crumpled to the floor: when he was out for a duck, a few balls later, Zarawani was taken to hospital. He was the UAE's captain for two main reasons: he was one of only two Emirates-born players in the squad, and was also reputedly remarkably rich.
Another highlight of the 1976-77 Centenary Test was Derek Randall's 174 - his first Test century - which took England close to their lofty target of 463. Randall had a memorable duel with Dennis Lillee, at one point being clonked on the head by a bouncer: "No point hitting me there," chirped Randall, "there's nothing in it."
Before Sri Lanka became a Test nation, they were putting up a spirited performance in a World Cup match at The Oval in 1975. Jeff Thomson, bowling near his fastest, unleashed a nasty bouncer at Duleep Mendis, later to be a pillar (and captain) of Sri Lanka's batting in their early Tests: it hit the diminutive Mendis on the cap, and as he collapsed he called out "I'm going!" He was - to nearby St Thomas' Hospital, where he was joined by opener Sunil Wettimuny, thwacked on the foot by another Thommo cannonball shortly afterwards. Happily, both of them were soon back in action.
The first entry in the Ian Botham book of legends came in a Benson & Hedges Cup quarter-final in Taunton in 1974 - three years before his Test debut - when the 18-year-old Botham was smacked in the mouth by a bouncer from the moody and magnificent West Indian fast bowler Andy Roberts. Botham spat out a couple of teeth, and carried on to take Somerset to a narrow one-wicket victory (for more details, see this evocative Rewind article).
"Typhoon" Tyson is remembered as the hero of the 1954-55 Ashes series, in which England came from behind to win 3-1. But during the second Test in Sydney, Tyson was briefly unconscious after turning his back on a bouncer from Ray Lindwall and being smacked on the back of the head. Tyson isn't known to have said, "You guys are history," but he may have thought it: he took 6 for 85 to help England square the series, nine more (including 7 for 27 in the second innings) as they won the next Test in Melbourne, and six more as the series - and the Ashes - were annexed in Adelaide.
Several consistent seasons earned the Warwickshire opener Andy Lloyd a Test debut at his home ground of Edgbaston in June 1984, for the first match of the series against West Indies. England had already lost two wickets in a series they were destined to lose 5-0 when Lloyd (10) was clanged on the side of the helmet by a short ball from Malcolm Marshall. Lloyd was hospitalised for several days with blurred vision, and his eyesight was never quite the same again: although he returned to county cricket he never played another Test, and remains the only opener never to be dismissed in his Test career.
12th man - WG Grace
After all those direct hits, there's just room for probably cricket's most famous near-miss: in an early match on their 1896 tour of England, Australia's fast bowler Ernie Jones whistled a ball perilously close to WG Grace's head. FS Jackson, who was also playing, thought it went through his beard. "Steady, Jonah," said Australia's captain Harry Trott, whereupon Jones came up with the legendary apology "Sorry, Doctor, she slipped."
Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013Feeds: Steven Lynch
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