Skip to Content Sign In

Underarm
Premieres Monday 4 Feb 7.30pm

Underarm – The Ball That Changed Cricket is the story of the most infamous ball in trans-Tasman sporting history. The Underarm created an international incident, changed the rules of cricket and gave Kiwis the moral high ground over Australia. Now, for the first time on television, the full story of Trevor Chappell’s underarm bowl is told by the players from both teams who were there on the field on February 1, 1981. 
 
But what, on that scorching hot afternoon, possessed Greg Chappell to instruct his brother to roll the ball to kiwi batsman and All Black, Brian McKechnie? 
 
[Chappell] a man who was prepared to do whatever it took to win a game.”
Gideon Hague – Cricket Writer
 
Nearly forty years on, this one-hour documentary reveals that the ball that changed cricket was about much more than just winning at all costs. The underarm ball that continues to haunt both Greg and his little brother was a personal protest by the exhausted Australian captain. Greg Chappell candidly shares the struggles that led to his breakdown at the MCG, and the painful and sometimes hilarious fallout from his actions. 
 
I wasn’t fit. I mean, I was mentally wrung out, I was physically wrung out, and I was fed up with the whole system…and (the underarm incident) was a cry for help.
Greg Chappell
 
Underarm takes viewers inside the Australian dressing room with former players Kim Hughes, Graeme Wood and Trevor Chappell. Geoff Howarth recalls the secret apology an Australian player made to him between the dressing rooms, and for the first time, Greg reveals a touching act of sportsmanship from New Zealand captain Geoff Howarth. Ian Smith, Martin Snedden and Bruce Edgar reflect on the unique roles they each played in that unforgettable game. And Brian McKechnie gives the ultimate first-person account of one of cricket’s most extraordinary moments.
 
The underarm was bowled on the last ball of the third match in a best-of-five World Series Cup Cricket final. New Zealand had won the first game, Australia the second, and this crucial third game was destined to bring out the best and worst of cricket. There was Martin Snedden’s incredible outfield catch that was challenged by batsman Greg Chappell and denied by the umpires. Nearly 40 years later, Snedden and Chappell still can’t agree if it was out. Then there was Bruce Edgar’s 102. The innings that gave the underdog kiwis a chance is one of the most overlooked centuries in one day cricket. There was Trevor Chappell’s brilliant final over, where for a moment he was a cricket hero like his two older brothers. And then there was the Underarm. 
 
Despite obvious anger from other Australian players, Greg left his younger brother Trevor to become the most hated man in cricket. Underarm explores how the cricketing brothers came to be at the epicentre of a decades long scandal, and why the Underarm would never have happened were it not for the siblings’ relationship. 
 
The New Zealand Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, said it was ‘an act of true cowardice and I consider it appropriate that the Australian team were wearing yellow’. Former Australian captain Richie Benaud described it as, ‘one of the worst things I have ever seen done on a cricket field.’ 
 
But that was only half the story.
 
Australia’s biggest insult to its neighbour turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to New Zealand cricket, according to the Kiwis. Wicket keeper Ian Smith says: We’d gone to the MCG to win a game, and lost it, but we came home and we were like heroes. Heroes in a losing jacket.

Trailer