Not many things are deliciously naff and borderline appalling than well-staged send-offs. Inspired by Marlon Samuels’ moment of high comedy, here are some of the very best, ugliest and worst of the rest.
First published in 2015
10. Marlon’s salute
The Samuels/Stokes will-they-won’t-they affair added a certain Bogart/Bacall shimmer to the recent Test squabble and provided the moment of the year so far. The flame-haired fireball and the sultry vixen had been at each other for days, until in the dusk of an early Grenadan evening, Stokes bunts a rank long hop straight to deep mid-wicket. As Stokes drags himself off, Samuels stands alone, waiting for his man to pass. And as he does so, Samuels bows his head, like a serviceman by a graveside, and clasps his sunhat close to his chest. As his fallen soldier passes, Samuels raises his right hand in sombre salute. Stokesy, bless him, calls him a c**t. And they say love is dead.
9. Rod’s thumb
‘Rod Tucker’. Stage name, right? Like ‘Chopper Reid’ and ‘Dame Edna’? Must be. He’s meant to be an umpire, but he’s really a lab-produced Australian essence congealed into human form, never better exemplified than when Tucker squints down the pitch at the snivelling little weed at the other end and gives him the ‘on yer bike’ thumb gesture when the finger’s not quite enough. It’s got a Gene Hackman quality to it – our sheriff throwing open the saloon doors and with one thumby movement ridding the bar of unwanted failures. When the umpire sends you off with a sneer, you have to wonder for cricket’s soul.
8. Tickets please!
Sure, you’ve heard this one before, but it deserves many an airing. Merv Hughes, bushy of ‘tache and generous of girth, is bowling at Javed Miandad, similarly bushy and girthy. Despite appearances, it ain’t exactly a meeting of minds. Hughes, who valued sledging as highly as he did his subscription to Retro Facial Hair Monthly, was told by Mr Miandad that he was nothing but a fat bus conductor. Harsh, but half right. Fast forward a few deliveries and Miandad’s been dismissed by Hughes – presumably because he wasn’t carrying his railcard. ‘Ding, ding, tickets please!’ roared a very happy Aussie bowler. An oldie but a goodie.
7. Absolutely Batty
We had to get some county cricket in here. The preserve of the slow, the quiet, the antiquated; home to ladies pavilions, cake-lovers, deckchair owners and floppy-hat wearers. Not so when Gareth ‘really angry’ Batty is around. It’s 2013 and it’s Surrey v Somerset in a T20 quarter-final. Batty’s bowling, as he has done for many a year, and he’s all bouncy run-up and energetic action. Peter Trego – tattoo-sleeved and bulky – goes for the reverse-sweep and he’s bowled. Normal, everyday stuff. Until Batty goes totally crazy. He screams, he swears, he postures. Trego walks towards him – it’s the way off – and, while it’s not ice hockey, it practically all kicks off. Punches aren’t thrown but they look like they’re considered – it’s all very cricket. Batty’s banned for two games and we’re all left to wonder why he’s so furious.
6. Silly Billy
Australia are good at many things. Surfing, sport, surfing – they’re inevitably the life and soul of the hostel. Or hos-tel as they weirdly say. But one thing we reckon us Brits have got over them is a sense of humour. Sure, they can be funny, but there’s a weird relationship between blokiness and being Australian that doesn’t appear to lend itself to our obviously hilarious self-effacing ways. Cue the first ever T20 international and a different kind of send-off. It’s Australia v New Zealand, Billy ‘the personality’ Bowden is umpiring and the game’s in the bag for the Aussies. It’s the penultimate ball and Glenn McGrath pretends – he’s pretending, you see – to bowl an underarm delivery, à la the Chappells in 1981. Billy’s all over it, red card out, contorting his body like a drunk Andy Serkis, cavorting and performing to the crowd. Its unfunniness will have you in hysterics.
5. Aamir Blip
Aamir Sohail, languid left-hander from Lahore, with a temper to burn barns. Venkatesh Prasad, a gentle giant by pace-bowling standards, but buoyed by an electric Bangalore crowd (his home) in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final. A barney was in the offing. With Sohail going great guns on 55, he skips down and carves Prasad to the boundary, before wagging his finger at the bowler and pointing to the ball, which had shot through extra-cover – “Go fetch that!” Prasad, continuing around the wicket, cramps Sohail for room as he attempts a similar shot, and takes out his off-stump. Prasad tells him where to go – “home” – while questioning the nature of his parentage – as India go on to win by 39.
“We were shocked by the way he [Sohail] was behaving on the field. He was tonking the ball all over the park, why did he need to do that? I guess, the pressure got to him.”
Waqar Younis on The Greatest Rivalry podcast.https://t.co/ZZuV0QtmW7
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) July 9, 2020
4. Jimmy’s ‘finger-on-the-lips’
Remember that winter, when everything just worked? When the batsmen made the runs, the bowlers took the wickets, Steve Smith was rubbish, Clarke and Punter couldn’t buy a run and Mitch Johnson was more Village People than Village of the Damned? It’s England’s time. Mitch is desperately trying to keep face, and failing. “Why you chirping now, mate? Not getting any wickets?” he blusters, as Anderson walks back to his mark. Next ball, Jimmy cleans up Ryan Harris and turns in his follow-through to Mitch at the non-striker’s, giving him the full ‘Jim The Redeemer’ pose followed by the footballer’s favourite – the ‘finger-on-the-lips’ effort. It’s not big, clever, or witty in any conceivable way. But it’s still great.
3. Pigeon Coo
“That’s the first one!” cooed Glenn McGrath as he saw off Andrew Strauss at Bristol. The 2005 ODI Tri-series involving England, Australia and Bangladesh was as much a part of the summer’s narrative as Blair’s back garden or the Edgbaston practice ball – and Pidge knew it would be so. So when he had England’s opener bowled early on in the second game of the summer (following the T20 at the Rose Bowl) he waved him goodbye with a reminder: there’s plenty more where that came from. As it happened, Strauss would make two centuries in the subsequent Ashes series (the only bloke to do so) and the match at Bristol? That was turned by a 65-ball 91* from some young punk with a streak of blue in his hair.
2. Warne rocks Hudson
It was Australia’s first trip to South Africa since their readmission, and it was all a bit much for Warnie. During the first Test, Jo’burg, 1994, having bowled Andrew Hudson round his legs the young Shane charged towards him – adrenaline coursing through his ample cheeks – screaming: “F*** off. Go on, Hudson, f*** off out of here!” Even the Aussies hadn’t seen anything like it before. Ian Healy – ever the friendly mediator – restrained him. According to Wisden, “Rarely on a cricket field has physical violence seemed so close.” Warne apologised and, last time we checked, carried on bowling leg-spin.
1. “How many is that now?”
No bowler has dismissed a batsman more than Dale Steyn has seen off Mohammad Hafeez. In fact, the Pakistani batsman averages a paltry 10.53 against the South African menace. During 2013, Pakistan toured South Africa from late January, before the Proteas came to Abu Dhabi at the end of the year for a return series. Across those matches, Steyn dismissed Hafeez 10 times. In that March, during an ODI at Centurion, Hafeez was drawn into a false stroke to mid-wicket. As yet another defeat to Steyn sunk in, the Saffa pointed at him before using the fingers on one hand to work out what number it was…
First published in 2015