Bruised but not shaken

Famous incidents when batsmen were hit by bouncers

Steven Lynch

September 2, 2013

Comments: 35 | Text size: A | A

Denis Compton plays a bouncer from Ray Lindwall despite being hit on the face by the bowler previously, England v Australia, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 1st day, July 8, 1948
Denis Compton plays a bouncer by Ray Lindwall after being hit, Old Trafford 1948 © Getty Images

Devon Malcolm
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.

Rick McCosker
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.

Nari Contractor
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
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.

Bert Sutcliffe
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.

Sultan Zarawani
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.

Derek Randall
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."

Duleep Mendis
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.

Ian Botham
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).

Bert Sutcliffe lofts Hugh Tayfield for a six, one of three in an over, during his brave 80 not out, South Africa v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Johannesburg, December 26, 1953
A bandaged Bert Sutcliffe bats in Johannesburg © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Frank Tyson
"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.

Andy Lloyd
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 2013

RSS Feeds: Steven Lynch

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (September 4, 2013, 19:05 GMT)

No wicket-keeper? Might I suggest Bert Oldfield felled by a Harold Larwood delivery whilst trying to hook a regular ball and NOT a leg-theory delivery

Posted by EngineerKhan on (September 4, 2013, 6:04 GMT)

Where is Gary Kirsten?? In Faisalabad vs Shoaib Akhtar, he got 10 stitches but came back and really pushed the Pakistan

Posted by   on (September 3, 2013, 1:53 GMT)

Lahore 1974-75. Pakistani pening batsman Sadiq Mohammad, fielding at short leg was hit by a full blooded sweep by Vanburn Holder. Carried off the field. Came in to bat at seven in the second innings and scored a match saving 98.

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (September 2, 2013, 22:30 GMT)

Lance Cairns in Dunedin in 84-85 against Pakistan. Hit by a young Wasim Akram and that left Jeremy Coney and Ewen Chatfield to scrape the win by collecting 50 runs for what was effectively the final wicket. They kept showing Cairns sitting padded up but he was gone for all money.

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (September 2, 2013, 22:26 GMT)

Ewen Chatfield collapsing after being hit by Peter Lever. His heart stopped and he actually 'died' for a few moments. Revived by the England physio.

Posted by   on (September 2, 2013, 21:17 GMT)

Makhaya Ntini hitting Justin Langer. The ball re-bounded off his helmet, Ntini caught it on the full, turned around and walked back to his mark.

Posted by Darthbal on (September 2, 2013, 20:48 GMT)

The most famous incident? The most important bouncer ever bowled....David Hookes getting hit by Andy Roberts at World Series Cricket in 1977. Helmets had been around prior to this, but it was this incident that hastened the wearing of these by most batsmen around the world. Orders shot up after Hookes got hit!

Posted by thejesusofcool on (September 2, 2013, 19:59 GMT)

Lovely article-BUT:

Denis Compton's innings was in the First Test at Trent Bridge & nearly stopped England falling to a heavy defeat, but not quite. It was the 2nd innings,too & Australia won easily in the end anyway.

Posted by   on (September 2, 2013, 19:21 GMT)

Wasim Akram hits Srikanth with a nasty bouncer

Posted by browners76 on (September 2, 2013, 18:30 GMT)

Flintoff and Harmison giving Langer and Ponting some chin music at Lords 2005. The Aussies knew from that point they were in a dogfight.

Posted by timus6778 on (September 2, 2013, 18:16 GMT)

i do not see anil kumble in the list...a heroic dipslay by the bowler to bowler in WI..with a broken jaw.

Posted by TenDonebyaShooter on (September 2, 2013, 18:16 GMT)

@Stuart_online: the incident featuring the late, great Malcolm Marshall to which you refer occurred during the third England-West Indies test at Headingley in 1984 (the same series as the Andy Lloyd incident described in the list). Marshall was actually not injured batting but while fielding (attempting to take a catch). Marshall took seven wickets in England's second inninings, at the time his best test figures (until he bettered them also against England four years later), including one caught and bowled I remember scooped up in his one good hand. So it would not actually qualify for the list, but was certainly a remarkable incident.

Posted by mk49_van on (September 2, 2013, 16:08 GMT)

Holding, Marshall Garner vs. Mohinder Amarnath in '82-'83. Quite simply breathtaking against the greatest pack attack the world has ever known. Here is the Wisden Alamnack report.

Posted by Engle on (September 2, 2013, 15:56 GMT)

Salim Malik came out to bat one-handed in plaster against the mighty Windies and added 30+ runs for the last wicket in 1986. It unnerved the WIndies who were used to seeing batsmen leave the field injured, rather than entering. They afforded him no mercy, yet by standing up to their attack, it had the effect of galvanizing the side into dismissing the WIndies for 53 next innings.

Posted by Front-Foot-Sponge on (September 2, 2013, 15:22 GMT)

Brett Lee blasting Adam Parore's helmet off with a bouncer should be here. The helmet flew onto the stumps and he was out.

Posted by Hammond on (September 2, 2013, 14:55 GMT)

I had 2 teeth knocked out by Doug Bollinger in the cricket nets at Grantham High School when he was playing/training for Seven Hills in the PDCA. A beamer that swing in late.

Posted by   on (September 2, 2013, 14:52 GMT)

Mike Gatting vs Malcolm Marshall?

Posted by Stuart_online on (September 2, 2013, 14:49 GMT)

Cowdrey walked out to bat with a broken arm. He didn't have to face any balls, but kept the other end up for the remaining balls to secure a draw, so you could say he changed the outcome of the match.

I recall pictures of Malcolm Marshall bowling with his left wrist (hand ?) in a cast. I believe he took a hat full of wickets, but can't be sure the injury was from batting. Someone can no doubt fill in the details....

Posted by android_user on (September 2, 2013, 13:11 GMT)

I remember Shoaib Akhter hitting Brian Lara in the semi final of the Champions Trophy 2004.

Posted by android_user on (September 2, 2013, 13:09 GMT)

Shoaib Akhter hitting Gary Kirsten in a test match in 2003. Kirsten was bleeding badly once he was hit on his face. The match was being played at Gaddafi Stadium Lahore if I am not wrong.

Posted by Farhan166 on (September 2, 2013, 11:09 GMT)

If this list is not limited to injuries by bouncers only, then Sadiq Mohammad has to be included. In 1974-75 Karachi test against West Indies, Sadiq helped saved the test match by scoring 98 not out after being hit on the head fielding at short leg, went to hospital and returned to bat lower down the order.

Posted by android_user on (September 2, 2013, 10:31 GMT)

anil kumble?

Posted by Jonathan_E on (September 2, 2013, 10:12 GMT)

No mention of Bertie Oldfield during the Bodyline tour?

Posted by Bilal_Choudry on (September 2, 2013, 8:40 GMT)

missing in the list is Salim Malik in Faisalabad 86, his right arm was broken by a Walsh lifter in the first innings. In the second innings he came out to bat at the fall of the ninth wicket with one arm strapped. He held the bat with one hand and was facing Marshall. He allowed a young Wasim Akram to add valuable runs for the last wicket. Pakistan later dismissed Windies for 53 in the fourth innings

Posted by mrgupta on (September 2, 2013, 8:09 GMT)

I know people make a lot of fun for the fact that no list is complete without the mention of the great Sachin Tendulkar, but this list is indeed incomplete without his mention. No one from the mentioned list was 16yrs old playing test cricket. Not only Sachin was playing test cricket in his teens he was also facing probably the deadliest attack of those days. Getting hit on his nose he wiped out the gushing blood and battled on to save a remarkable test for India.

Posted by   on (September 2, 2013, 8:00 GMT)

Ewen Chatfield 1975 knocked "dead" against England. It took him a while to come back against the bouncer, but in 85 took a number of Akram blows on the helmet to see NZ home against Paistan

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (September 2, 2013, 7:55 GMT)

Also missing salim Malik against the West Indies, coming out with a broken elbow?

Posted by Nutcutlet on (September 2, 2013, 7:52 GMT)

All of the players above deserve our respect & admiration for facing often fearsome bowling & taking the ball on the head or upper body. All the same, some of these players, post 1970s, were wearing helmets, which, in most cases, reduced the effect of the impact of the ball. The first player to wear something more than a cap on his head was Patsy Hendren of Middlesex & England (170 fc centuries; 1889-1962). He designed his own. The photo of it looks like something a WW1 pilot might have worn, minus any face-guard/grill. He wore his only when facing the thunderbolts of Larwood & Yorkshire's Bill Bowes in the 1930s. Decades ago, before the age of helmets, I had an interesting conversation with Bob Barber. Asked about being seriously hit by fast bowling, he maintained that, provided the batsman watched the ball, this could happen only via a top edge (as in the case of Dennis Compton v Lindwall). Otherwise, the batsman's technique was at fault. Gone those days of watching the ball, always!

Posted by   on (September 2, 2013, 7:15 GMT)

As mentioned by Shubham earlier, this is a good compilation but the Anil Kumble incident and the aftermath of it, which followed with him bowling with a broken jaw and taking the wicket of Brian Lara was one of the great stories of courage. Its a disappointment that its been missed out in this article.

Posted by msm29 on (September 2, 2013, 6:41 GMT)

And what about the famous bouncer from Waqar Younis to 16 yr old Sachin Tendulkar?

Posted by   on (September 2, 2013, 5:02 GMT)

All these listed incidents and a few comments and nobody's thought of Ewen Chatfield? His heart stopped beating!

Posted by Faran on (September 2, 2013, 4:42 GMT)

How About Gary Kirsten Being Hit By Shoaib Akhtar during 20003 Test Series??

Posted by   on (September 2, 2013, 4:14 GMT)

The List is missing Graeme Smith vs Australia and Anil Kumble vs West Indies !!

Comments have now been closed for this article

Email Feedback Print
Steven LynchClose
Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.

Walking up the down escalator

2014 in review: Player strikes, defeats against fellow minnows, and mountains of debt for the board marked another grim year for Zimbabwe

    The first Boxing Day classic

Ashley Mallett: Nearly 150 years ago, the MCG saw the start of a much-loved tradition, with a match starring Aboriginal players

Hangovers and headaches

2014 in review: Embarrassing defeats, a beleaguered captain, a bitter former star, alienating administrators - England's year was gloomy. By George Dobell

Ten years later

Gallery: Efforts by Surrey have helped transform a coastal village in Sri Lanka devastated by the December 26 tsunami

Going for glory and falling just short

Anantha Narayanan: An anecdotal account of close finishes similar to the recent Adelaide Test

News | Features Last 7 days

Watson's merry-go-round decade

In January 2005, Shane Watson made his Test debut. What does he have to show for a decade in the game?

Power to Smithy, trouble for Dhoni

Australia's new captain admirably turned things around for his side in Brisbane, leading in more departments than one

Why punish the West Indies players when the administration is to blame?

As ever, the West Indies board has taken the short-term view and removed supposedly troublesome players instead of recognising its own incompetence

Gilchrist's conscientious moment

In the semi-final against Sri Lanka in 2003, Adam Gilchrist walked back to the pavilion despite being given not out by the on-field umpire

Australia's 50-50 lifelines

Three Australia players made half-centuries on day one at the MCG; for each of them, the innings' meant different things

News | Features Last 7 days