Greg Chappell had been going through one of the worst phases of his life.
On the final day of the Adelaide Test between Australia and New Zealand in January 1974, he had to fly home to Brisbane. He had moved to the city in the winter of 1973 with his pregnant wife — a lucrative offer to captain the Queensland side enticing him up north. And now the city had been hit by floods. As Australia sauntered to an easy victory, Chappell waded knee deep in his house. He spent his time assessing the damages and computing the costs of disinfecting, re-carpeting and repainting, looking at the muddy deposits left in the cabinets and, at night, joining the homeowners in their vigil to ward off looters.
He had put the incident behind him, and had gone down to Sydney to lead Queensland against New South Wales. Chappell’s wife Judy, four months into pregnancy, was living with her parents in the city and came down to watch the cricket. Queensland was not having a particularly good match against Gary Gilmour, Len Pascoe and Kerry O’Keefe, but Chappell played well enough to score 48 and 71. But, tragedy was waiting outside the cricket field. Judy did not come to the ground on the second day. Chappell, staying at the team hotel, played through the day with misgivings. In the evening he learned that she had miscarried.
It was an emotionally traumatic phase when Australia flew across the Tasman Sea to play New Zealand. The first Test was at Wellington and Chappell set himself the goal of moving on by concentrating on the game.
It was bad news for New Zealand. On a benign Basin Reserve wicket, Ian Chappell won the toss and Australia batted. Murray Webb removed Keith Stackpole and Dayle Hadlee had Ian Redpath caught to make it 55 for two after an hour and a quarter, and thus the Chappell brothers came together.
A strong wind bowling across the ground made it difficult for the bowlers to control the line, but according to Wisden, “Greg Chappell looked capable of thrashing (Ray) Lindwall and (Harold) Larwood.”
It was all poise and elegance, exquisite driving and superlative timing. At the other end, Ian Chappell looked far more aggressive with his savage hooks and pulls, but the sublime grace of Greg propelled his score much faster. All the while, even while dispatching short balls to the square leg fence, he hardly raised a sweat — the attire remained impeccable and not a hair looked out of place.
The captain raised his hundred in four hours and seven minutes of 207 balls. Greg Chappell reached there in two hours and 35 minutes, off 160 deliveries.
Towards the end of the day, Ian Chappell nicked Webb to Ken Wadsworth behind the wickets and huffed and puffed his way back to the pavilion with 145 against his name. The brothers had added 264.
It had little effect on Greg. Ian Davis was dismissed soon, but the mix of elegance and majesty continued to march on. The younger Chappell ended the day unbeaten on 162.
The next day, Greg Chappell carried on from where he had left off, in a sterling exhibition of grace and style. He went past his double hundred, and with first Doug Walters and later Rod Marsh staying with him long enough, was steadily marching on to further feats of run-making.
Three hundred looked just around the corner as he reached 247 at lunch. In his ghosted autobiography, Fierce Focus, Greg Chappell mentions a slight disagreement between the brothers. Greg was of the opinion that the runs were coming quickly and the wicket was placid enough to rule out any chance of a result. If he was ever going to score a triple century, this was the opportunity. He supposedly told his elder brother and captain, “We’re not going to get a result here, so we might as well get as many runs as we can.”
The skipper, however, disagreed. According to him, there was a Test match to be won. Australia declared at lunch. It was to remain the highest score of the greatest Australian batsman since Don Bradman.
A pair of hundreds for a pair of brothers
In hindsight, Greg Chappell had been spot on. Glenn Turner got 79, Brian Hastings and Bevan Congdon struck centuries. Additionally, a heavy overnight shower delayed the start of the third day till lunch, washing away the remaining chances of a result. Australia did well to skittle the last six wickets for 86, but by then the total was 484. Just 27 runs separated the teams and the wicket was playing the same way with just a day and a session remaining.
It was almost lunch on the final day when Greg Chappell got to bat again. By then, Ian Redpath had notched up 93 and Ian Chappell was heaving his way to his second century of the match. Australia led by 220 at lunch, but with just 22 wickets having fallen over four full days, they did not press for a result.
Ian Chappell cruised to his hundred and was the third out for 121. In their second big association of the match, the brothers had put on 86.
None of the other batsmen had the desire to stick around, and New Zealand finally ended up picking up some quick wickets. But, at one end Greg Chappell was steady as a rock — a brilliant sparkling one at that. It was another superb display of immaculate timing and his hundred came up in just two hours and 24 minutes.
Chappell finally fell in the dying stages of the game, flashing at one from Richard Collinge and getting an edge. He had batted four minutes short of six hours in the first innings. In the second, he had stayed at the wicket for 186 minutes and had scored a glittering 133 with 18 boundaries.
It was the first and only time two brothers had struck two hundreds each in a Test match. Greg Chappell’s total of 380 runs in the match remained a world record till 1990 when Graham Gooch plundered 333 and 123 against the Indians at Lord’s.
At least for the five days of the match, the personal sorrows of Greg Chappell were concealed behind a mountain of runs.
Brief Scores: Australia 511 for 6 declared (Ian Chappell 145, Greg Chappell 247*) and 460 for eight (Ian Redpath 93, Ian Chappell 121, Greg Chappell 133) drew with New Zealand 484 (Glenn Turner 79, John Morrison 66, Brian Hastings 101, Bevan Congdon 132)
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
First Published: March 2, 2013, 10:21 am