This Day in History (5-Jan-1996) – Muralitharan no-balled for throwing in ODI v WI at the Gabba

During the second Test between Sri Lanka and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day 1995, Australian umpire Darrell Hair called Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing in front of a crowd of 55000. The off-spinner was no-balled seven times in three overs by Hair, who believed the then 23 year old was bending his arm and straightening it in the process of delivery; an illegal action in cricket.

Ross Emerson, an Australian cricket umpire, made his ODI debut in a match between Sri Lanka and the West Indies in Brisbane on 5th January, 1996. He immediately became controversial, no-balling Muralitharan several times, and continuing to do so even when he switched to bowling legbreaks, which are regarded as being impossible to throw. This led to Muralitharan being dropped by Sri Lanka for the rest of the tour, as he was unable to bowl without being called.

Just before the 98/99 tour, Muralitharan’s action was tested in Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The tests had concluded that Muralitharan could not straighten the elbow due to congenital deformity. The end result of the Test was that the throwing appeared as an optical illusion. The tests in Hong Kong and the green signal by the ICC allowed Muralitharan to play.

On 23 January 1999 in Adelaide, standing at square leg, Emerson once again called Muralitharan, leading to Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga to lead his team off the field in protest and consult team management and the match referee. The match later continued after Emerson threatened to award the match to England, with Muralitharan confined to bowling legbreaks; Emerson claimed that cricket was controlled by Asian countries. The match turned out to be the last international match for Emerson as an umpire.

Ross Emerson admitted in 2010 that his decision to call the bowler was not entirely his own. Emerson told the The Daily Telegraph in Australia that he no-balled Muralitharan due to orders from an unnamed Cricket Australia official.



This Day in History (19-Aug-1900) – Start of the one & only Olympic cricket match, in Paris

Cricket was also originally scheduled as an Olympic sport in 1896. Owing to insufficient entries, what would have been the only team sport at the first Modern Olympics was not held. Originally, teams representing Belgium, France, Great Britain, and the Netherlands were scheduled to compete in the 1900 tournament. Belgium and the Netherlands pulled out of the competition, leaving Great Britain to play France. In keeping with the informal nature of the Paris Games, two teams were enough to make an Olympic competition, which remains unique in Olympic history. The game was played at the Municipal Velodrome de Vincennes, which is still in use today, and the banked cycling track formed an unusual boundary for the cricket pitch.

France, the hosts, drew the team from just two clubs: the now defunct Union Club and the Standard Athletic Club which had been formed in 1890 by English workmen imported to construct the Eiffel Tower. Majority of the “French” team were, in fact, English expatriates. The visitors were the “Devon & Somerset Wanderers Cricket Club” a well established touring side. The match was originally arranged with the usual eleven players in each team but, an additional player was brought into each team at the last minute. Although the game was essentially between two club sides, posters and handbills give the occasion a flavor by announcing that it was a match between France and England.

The visitors were all out for 117 runs. The host team replied with a score of 78. With an overnight lead of 39 the “Wanderers” gave a vastly improved batting display in the second innings and declared their innings closed at 145 runs for 5 wickets. Needing 185 runs to win, the French batting completely fell apart in the second innings. “Wanderers” finally won by 158 runs with five minutes to spare. The Great Britain team was awarded silver medals and the French team bronze medals. The match was formally recognised as being an Olympic contest in 1912, and the medals were later reassigned as gold and silver.