This post was originally published on All Out Cricket on June 21st 2013.
With a slinging, javelin action and a deep loathing for batsmen, Aussie quick Jeff Thomson is regarded by many as the fastest bowler that’s ever lived. In the 1974/75 Ashes series he and his partner in crime Dennis Lillee terrorised England, taking 58 wickets between them. Here, Thommo remembers with relish one particularly painful moment for England batsman Keith Fletcher.
It’s Sydney, 1975, and it’s Keith Fletcher’s turn to come out to bat. I’m bowling a million miles an hour and I’ve already put somebody in hospital, there might have even been blood on the pitch. So Fletcher comes out and the crowd are yelling ‘Kill, kill, kill’, you couldn’t hear yourself think. Dennis Lillee is down at third man and he runs up from bloody fine leg to Fletcher, who was at mid wicket walking in, to abuse the shit out of him. Finally Dennis lets him go, this poor bloke, after telling him he’s going to kill him if I don’t.
So I come into bowl – there were two gullys, four slips, a leg slip, a leg gully, there’s nobody in front of the wicket except myself, the umpire and the other batsman – and I missed him with the first ball. It really shits me missing with the first ball because I’m a lazy fast bowler and I don’t like wasting my energy, so I dropped the sights a little lower and I just hit him right between the eyes. I thought it hit the bat handle because it’s gone to the bloke behind point on the 30-metre circle. I’ve appealed and the umpire’s gone, “What are you appealing for?” I said, “He’s out caught dd, can’t you see?” “He didn’t hit it,” says the umpire. “It’s hit his head, go and have a look.” So I walked down to Fletcher and he’s got the best six stiches you’ve ever seen in your life on his forehead – he doesn’t know what’s going on.
Bernard Thomas the physio comes out to the middle with an ice pack and spray. Bernard says, “He can’t go back in, there’s already two of them in hospital!” So he actually stood Fletcher in front of the stumps – he doesn’t know what is going on – and made him take block. Next ball the stumps go everywhere, Greg Chappell runs up, spins him round and pushes him back to the changing room.
Note: We hate to stand in the way of a good story but Fletcher was out caught for 11. But there is some truth in it. The Wisden Almanack reported that Fletcher was “shaken by a deflection on to his forehead two balls before his dismissal.”