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The most memorable moments of Bill Lawry's commentary

The best of Bill Lawry's commentary through the years

Daniel Brettig
Daniel Brettig
Bill Lawry is inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame  •  Getty Images

Bill Lawry is inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame  •  Getty Images

"Long discussion. Well, it looks to me as if they're going to bowl underarm off the last ball. Rod Marsh is saying 'no mate', I'm sure he's going to bowl an underarm delivery on the last ball and bowl it along the ground to be sure that it has not been hit for six. The umpires have been told, the batsmen have been told and this is possibly a little bit disappointing. Let's make sure it is an underarm, but I've got the feeling as an ex-Victorian skipper, they're going to bowl an underarm.
"Would you ever have believed it. That's a disappointing finish, a disappointed Brian McKechnie, the crowd boo, and it's all over."
Bill Lawry did not find his excitable feet as a caller overnight. Early glimpses of him as part of the World Series Cricket commentary team in 1977-78 show the nerves and uncertainty that he has spoken of since, with very little of the pep that would later become legendary. Even when he did begin to raise his voice towards the end of that first season, he was in the analyst's chair when Wayne Daniel hammered Mick Malone for a penultimate ball six to win a floodlit thriller over Ian Chappell's Australians. As Richie Benaud exclaimed "he's hit it many a mile", Lawry can be heard offering "that's six runs, the game's over!"
But by the end of 1980-81, Lawry was entrenched as a commentator, learning to marry his deep knowledge with the enthusiasm and accessibility that Kerry Packer strove for. His realisation that Australia captain Greg Chappell was about to bend the World Series playing conditions to breaking point in order to avoid a last ball New Zealand six and a tie is memorable for its restraint but also emotion. As Lawry's voice wavered, so too did the emotions of many thousands of viewers as they realised something underhanded was about to take place.
Terry Alderman to Chris Broad: "Close, that's got him yes he's plumb!"
To Kim Barnett: "Got him yes! Well caught by Mark Taylor, looking to force it across on the on side, changed his mind..."
And to Alan Lamb: "Got him, he's gone yes! From a good piece of bowling..."
As an Australian cricket follower, there wasn't a whole lot to get excited about for most of the 1980s, but when there was something to savour, Lawry was invariably on hand to call the final moments. At the SCG in January 1987, he made his voice heard as Allan Border's young team scrapped to victory over England in the penultimate over of a dead Test that ended a run of 14 without a win, but there was to be infinitely more meaning when he found himself in the Channel Nine commentary box at Headingley a little more than two years later. After a conservative Border declaration, Terry Alderman set-up a crushing opening win over an England team that had been widely favoured to retain the urn. For sheer elation it is hard to beat Lawry here, his own voice registering the fact that, yes, Australia was about to win a key Test match in England, at Leeds of all places. That result banished the team's considerable baggage from the "500 to 1" Test match of 1981, and set Lawry up for plenty more iterations of those "Got him, yes!" cries that were soon to be immortalised by the 12th Man, Billy Birmingham.
"That's up in the air, he's getting under it, this could be victory, it is! Pakistan win the World Cup! A magnificent performance in front of 87,000 people, Imran Khan has led his side to victory. What a great victory."
In terms of the number of people who watched it on the night and then in years to come, the closing moment of the 1992 World Cup decider at his beloved MCG was arguably Lawry's most heard piece of commentary. Again there is plenty of joy, not only for Pakistan and their captain Imran Khan but also the sheer size of the crowd for a neutral match. Melbourne's fickle weather turned perfect on the day, and the newly-completed Great Southern Stand made it the kind of day Lawry could be proud about, not only as a cricket lover but of course a Victorian.
"Two men in the deep on the on side... this time he goes CAUGHT! What a catch! That's the catch of the season! Mark Taylor, well, could it win the match? It was a gem, he hit that off the meat of the bat, it was only a foot off the ground, he dived forward and took a gem in front of 74,000 Victorians."
"This'll be close, he's gone, surely! Yes! Panic! Panic at the MCG!"
Another huge crowd, this time 74,450, were on hand to watch a largely dreary affair between Australia and the West Indies. The MCG outfield had been relaid for football, with it sandy countenance making run-scoring exceedingly difficult even before factoring in the vagaries of the pitch. But the same conditions that made life awkward for the Australian batsmen gave the team temporarily captained by Mark Taylor a chance, after they broke a staunch union between Richie Richardson and Brian Lara.
Lawry's role in the drama was to recognise it mounting and capture how swiftly it turned from a routine chase to a thrilling and unexpected defence. His frustration with an overawed Keith Arthurton is palpable, but so too his joy that, like the vast majority of those in attendance, his night had taken an unexpected and pulsating turn. Even so, Lawry called Australia's chance at victory when West Indies needed a mere 20 runs from 28 balls with five wickets in hand, and when Gus Logie's run out enhanced his read of the play, brought forth the "panic, panic at the MCG!" line before Australia went on to win. Morrissey could not have put it better.
"Bowled him! The last ball, can you believe that? Gatting hit over the yorker!"
A moment so exultant that Nine fused Lawry's call into their introductory montage for years afterwards. In a match largely remembered for Shane Warne's dismissal of Gatting in the first innings, it was Hughes who made the seismic contributions in the second innings to close out another opening victory for Australia in England. In the final over, he had worked at pushing Gatting onto the back foot, so much so that England's No. 3 was expecting another short one from the final ball of the day. What arrived was not quite the yorker Lawry described but instead a full, fast ball angling in towards middle and leg. More alert to a scoring opportunity and Gatting would have punished it. Instead, he allowed Hughes to bowl him off his pads, kicking the pitch in disgust as Lawry whooped up the success of Hughes in a manner that would have made Birmingham proud.
"So that's it, he's got to hit a boundary. Will he go over the top? The men are back, inside the circle, they're right on the line. He'll probably pitch it in towards leg stump, on the full... it's down the ground it's four! That's victory for Australia! What an effort, what a stroke! It's Michael Bevan's evening at the Sydney Cricket Ground! What a shot under pressure. the crowd is going mad at the Sydney Cricket Ground and why not? They've seen one of the all-time great one day innings from a young man, who's fought his way back into the Australian side, and a full house goes berserk."
There were times in the mid-1990s when Lawry's unsubtle ways were not to everyone's taste. Certainly, the South African tourists of 1993-94 were less than enamoured of some of his more openly partisan moments commentating on the first series between them and Australia since the end of Apartheid. But he still retained the knack for capturing the thrill of the close finish, and amid an otherwise dominant 1995-96 summer for Taylor's team, he was on hand to call Bevan's masterpiece.
The final ball set-up was nicely modulated, offering a glimpse of Bevan's options as the cameras fanned out to show the fielders on the edge of the circle that Lawry described. Then came Roger Harper's dart in at the stumps, Bevan's powerful response and the unrestrained glee of a packed SCG. The Australians had come from nowhere thanks to Bevan and also Paul Reiffel, another Victorian, who as a point of trivial pursuit somehow managed to make off with the match award.
"He's got him! Yes, he's gone! It's 6 for 140, Hick takes the catch, this game is alive, and kicking!"
"In comes Gough... hit on the toe! He's given him, England have won! A great win for England at the MCG! What a Test match, what a performance by the England bowlers, Mullally, Headley and in the end Gough, a magical moment for Test cricket on this ground once again."
Any questions about Lawry's true loyalties were to be answered later in the decade, as he called a pair of utterly compelling finishes in which he showed his greatest enthusiasm for the closeness of the contest. After numerous one-sided Ashes series, there was a sense of refreshment to Lawry as he depicted Dean Headley's marathon spell in an increasingly shadowy MCG after Boxing Day had been completely washed out.
The length of that final session was such that it forced a subsequent change to Test match playing conditions, but there was no flagging of Lawry's vocals as Headley pulled England back into the contest and then into favouritism with a rush of wickets. After the one-Test Matthew Nicholson kept Steve Waugh company to take Australia within sight of victory, Lawry was there again to capture Headley's final wicket to break that stand, and then Gough's one-two punch of reverse swinging yorkers to blast out Stuart MacGill and Glenn McGrath. At the finish, it was harder to decide who was more elated - Gough or Lawry.
"Klusener... Crash that could be four, that's hit like a rocket, that's four!
"He's hit it hard! There's Mark Waugh down there he won't get it, that's ... they're level!"
"Klusener on strike ... there it is, they go for it, this'll be out surely! Oh it's out! It's going to be run out! That's it! South Africa out, Donald didn't run. I cannot believe it. Australia go into the World Cup final, ridiculous running with two balls to go. Donald didn't go, Klusener came, what a disappointing end for South Africa, what a match for our viewers right around the world."
Finally to Birmingham, and arguably the best of all short-form matches. Lawry had ramped up the drama in the penultimate over bowled by Glenn McGrath, which saw the wickets of Mark Boucher and Steve Elworthy but also the dropping of Lance Klusener by Reiffel at long on, the ball tipped over the rope for six. The sheer physicality of Klusener's two boundaries the first two balls of Damien Fleming's final over come through in Lawry's words, as does the fact that South Africa are all but home. When Klusener and Alan Donald somehow manage to mess it up, Lawry makes his sympathies clear. While noting Australia's joy, his main thoughts are with the vanquished and then, as ever, the viewers.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig