Geoff Griffin 1939-2006 November 18, 2006

Geoff Griffin dies aged 67

Cricinfo staff



Geoff Griffin in action during the 1960 tour of England which was the start and end of his international career © Cricketer International
Geoff Griffin, the former South African pace bowler, has died in Durban aged 67.

Although he played two Tests and was the first South African to take a hat-trick in a Test, Griffin will best be remembered as the man who was no-balled out of international cricket at Lord's in 1960.

A tall, blond, quick bowler who topped the national averages during the 1959-60 domestic season with 35 wickets at 12.23, his action had been the subject of debate from the moment the South Africans landed. In his defence, he had suffered an accident as a schoolboy which meant he couldn't straighten his arm, but he was playing at a time that there was considerable debate over suspect actions, mainly of Australian fast bowlers.

No-balled in warm-up matches, he underwent remedial work at Alf Gover's famous indoor school before returning to action, but a number of people were not satisfied.

At Lord's he took a hat-trick, the first by a South African, but that was completely overshadowed by him being repeatedly no-balled. His career was almost finished when, in an exhibition match played as the Test ended early, he was again called for throwing. Attempting to finish an over by bowling underarm, he was then rather cruelly called for not informing the umpire of a change of action. "We didn't take the warning seriously," he was to recall many years later. "It sounded so preposterous to use an exhibition match to do the dirty on me. He remained on the tour playing as a specialist batsman."

A good-natured and popular player, he was widely praised for the way he took this massive setback. Griffin was contacted by a lawyer who offered to take the matter to court, free of charge. "You'll win hands down and end up a wealthy young man," he said. But he declined. "I loved cricket too much to sully the great game further."

Many felt that the relatively unknown Griffin had been singled out by the authorities, who were desperate to send a message to the world that chuckers would not be tolerated. The fear was that a major row would erupt if Australia brought their batch of suspect bowlers in 1961, and so Griffin was used to show that umpires were prepared, if necessary, to act. If so, it worked. Australia omitted all their fast bowlers whose actions had caused such rancour in 1958-59.

"I was the victim of a thoroughly distasteful 'chucking' conspiracy," Griffin said earlier this year. "I was the fall guy. I attribute the blame to the SA cricket authorities and the MCC who should never have allowed things to develop as they did."

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

A superb allround sportsman, Griffin played hockey for Rhodesia as well as holding Natal titles for high jump, long jump, triple jump and pole vault. He also played Under-19 rugby for Natal.

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