Bowlers and their bunnies in Test cricket before Ravindra Jadeja’s hold over Michael Clarke

Harbhajan Singh (right) celebrates after dismissing Ricky Ponting for the umpteenth time this time on Day 4 of the 2008 Sydney Test © Getty Images

In the ongoing India-Australia Test series, Michael Clarke has been dismissed five times by Ravindra Jadeja, leading the media to brand the Australian captain as the ‘bunny’ of the left-arm spinner. Arunabha Sengupta looks at 10 notable cases of bowlers and their bunnies in Test cricket.

In the on-going series, Michael Clarke ran across an unlikely nemesis in Ravindra Jadeja. After amassing hundreds, double hundreds and triple hundreds in Tests back home, the Australian captain struggled when facing the unfancied left-arm spin of the Indian all-rounder, getting out in all possible ways. In all, he faced 190 balls from the young left-arm spinner, scored 72 runs and was dismissed five times. And although Jadeja himself has been hesitant to brand Clarke as his bunny, the sequence is too tempting for an alternative classification.

A particular bowler having the undisputed upper hand over a certain opposition batsman is not new phenomenon in cricket. Quite recently we have had Phil Hughes falling to the same combination — caught Martin Guptill bowled Chris Martin — four times in a row. It led Kerry O’Keefe to remark on ABC Radio: “If Phil Hughes gets a nick shaving tomorrow morning, Martin Guptill will appear from the medicine cabinet!”

In the 2009 Ashes series, Ravi Bopara was dismissed by Ben Hilfenhaus as many as five times, while the England batsman managed to score just 16 off the paceman.
Listed below are 10 notable cases of bowlers and their bunnies over the expanse of cricket history:

1.    Clarrie Grimmett and Wally Hammond

With Australia suffering from the prodigious blade of the great Wally Hammond in 1928-29, Clarrie Grimmett perfected the strategy for containing the Gloucestershire batsman when Bill Woodfull’s men toured England in 1930.

Pitching the ball on the leg stump the great leg-spinner cramped Hammond’s style, not allowing him to essay those legendary cover drives through the off-side. The canny Grimmett got his man four times in a row, five times out of the first six innings in the Tests.

2. Alec Bedser and Arthur Morris

Don Bradman considered Arthur Morris to be the greatest Australian batsman at the time of his own retirement. He also considered Alec Bedser the most difficult bowler he had faced. Bedser indeed got Bradman out on a number of occasions, in Tests and tour matches during his final visit to England in 1948. A good proportion of these dismissals were brought about by Len Hutton pouching uppish glances at leg-slip.
When Bedser and Morris faced each other, the dominance of the bowler was overwhelming, especially in the later years. The Australian media declared that Bedser was “Morris’s bugbear”. From 1946 to 1954, the two met in 21 Tests and Bedser dismissed the Australian opening batsman on 18 occasions.

In particular, Bedser capitalised on the Australian left-hander’s initial shuffle to play the balls outside off-stump defensively to the off-side. With the movement, Morris was rendered vulnerable to balls that dipped in towards his leg and middle stumps. Bedser was a good enough bowler to make full use of this chink in the otherwise excellent armour.

3.    Fred Trueman and Polly Umrigar

Umrigar was of the best batsmen ever produced by India, but his failures against Fred Trueman in the 1952 series were embarrassing, to say the least. Not only did he fall to the Yorkshire speedster time again in the Test matches while facing the pace like fire, but he also backed away towards square-leg to present an unedifying sight.

In his excellent biography of Fred Trueman, John Arlott writes of Umrigar: “At one point [he] retreated so far back that (Tony) Lock, at backward short-leg, said, ‘I say, Polly, do you mind going back. I can’t see the bowler when you stand there’ “.

Umrigar managed 43 runs in the series at 6.14, falling four times to Trueman — his stumps uprooted on three occasions and managing to get a nick to the wicketkeeper once.

Trueman tormented him frequently during their next showdown as well — in 1959, this time with Brian Statham at the other end. However, in his last innings against the fiery fast bowler, Umrigar did score a hundred in a losing cause at Manchester.

4.    Fred Titmus and Graeme Pollock

Early in his career South African great Graeme Pollock had his share of troubles facing Fred Titmus. In an interview given to The Sportstar years after his retirement, the brilliant left-hander stated that even if the score was 10 for two, Titmus would be put on especially for him and would almost always succeed in getting him out. Perhaps the off-spinner’s natural advantage over a southpaw was at work.

In the first Test of the 1964-65 series at Durban, Titmus dismissed Pollock for five and zero. In the second at Johannesburg, he had him for 12 in the first innings while fellow off-spinner David Allen dismissed him for 55 in the second.

Pollock put in extra effort to get out of the jinx, and succeeded with scores of 137 and 77 in the final Test at Port Elizabeth.

5.    Eknath Solkar and Geoff Boycott

The most unlikely bunny of all. Boycott would disagree vehemently, but it is true that the seemingly innocuous medium-pace of Eknath Solkar had him in quite a spot of bother during India’s 1974 tour of England. A lot of it, incidentally, had to do with beer.

India were playing Yorkshire at Bradford and Boycott was at the crease when Ashok Mankad supposedly came up to Solkar and said, “This is my Bhagwan [God]. If you can beat the bat, I’ll buy you a pint.”

In his second over, Solkar swung one away and the ball went past Boycott’s outside edge. Encouraged, the Indian all-rounder ran up to Mankad and asked him if he would buy him another round of beer if he managed to get the legend out. Mankad agreed. In the next over, Boycott shouldered arms to a ball outside the off-stump and it swung back and trapped him plumb in front of the stumps. The next week, when Boycott turned out for MCC against the Indians, he was out in both the innings edging Solkar to Sunil Gavaskar. The media took notice and blew it up, with Boycott identified as Solkar’s bunny.

In the second innings of the Old Trafford Test, Solkar got into some mind games with the Yorkshire opener, daring him to take a run after stopping a ball instinctively at short-leg. The following over, Boycott, batting on six, edged Solkar and Farokh Engineer dived in front of the first slip to take the catch. Solkar thus dismissed him four times in five innings. Whether the dismissals had anything to do with it or not we will never know, but Boycott went on a self-imposed sabbatical and did not play Test cricket for the next three years.

6.    Wasim Akram and Krishnamachari Srikkanth

Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Wasim Akram first crossed paths in Test cricket in 1986-87, on the placid tracks of India loaded in favour of batsmen. Yet, the fast angling deliveries of the left-arm fast bowler, with his infinite variations, created immense problems for the dashing Indian opener. Akram got him three times in the series, most tellingly in the decider at Bangalore.

The next meeting took place when Srikkanth led the Indian team to Pakistan in the winter of 1989-90. Akram was at his peak and literally toyed with the Indian captain. The dismissals followed a set pattern. A couple of balls would swing away, beating the outside edge and then one would nip back and either bowl the batsman or trap him plumb. In the first Test, Srikkath fell leg-before in both the innings. In the second he was leg-before in the first innings and bowled in the second. The third Test saw a tall scoring draw with just one innings of each team completed, and Srikkanth had his stumps rattled the only time he batted. In the final Test at Sialkot, Akram again got him leg-before in the first innings. Desperate to get some runs, Srikkanth hooked Imran Khan in the second innings. He succeeded in breaking the trend, if not his run of poor scores. The ball carried all the way to fine leg, and Akram held the catch, ending up having both his hands in the dismissal this time.

7.    Terry Alderman and Graham Gooch

During the 1989 Ashes series, the Australians always put a man at the short mid-wicket for Graham Gooch. With his heavy bat and big backlift, the drive through the on-side was always an important stroke for the English opener. With the man permanently posted there, Gooch had to adjust his game, looking to place the balls elsewhere. It worked like a dream.

Gooch kept falling to the pacemen, and “lbw bowled Alderman” became a recurring feature on the scoreboard. There was a point when English media complained that the English umpires were trying to appear too honest by giving decisions to Alderman at every request.

8.    Glenn McGrath and Michael Atherton

In the list of a bowler dismissing a batsman for the maximum number of times in Test matches, Michael Atherton occupies three of the top five places.

Opening for England in one of the most difficult eras for batsmen, Atherton was dismissed by the supreme West Indian fast bowlers Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh on 17 occasions each. However, it is with Glenn McGrath that he makes it to the very top of the list, having been the victim of the great paceman 19 times, pipping even the prolific pair of Morris and Bedser.

In Ashes encounters that did not feature McGrath, Atherton scored 1223 runs in 16 Tests with a hundred and 10 fifties, averaging 39.45. In the 17 matches in which McGrath played, Atherton managed 677 runs at 20.51, with five fifties in 34 innings.

Against Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Allan Donald, Atherton did have his moments of victory, with four hundreds against West Indies and three against South Africa. But, the best he could manage against McGrath was 77.

McGrath was ruthless against the Englishman, peppering him with bouncers, softening him up and then getting him to edge or trapping him plumb.

9.    Shane Warne and Darryl Cullinan

Cullinan just could not read Warne. One of the best South African batsmen of the 1990s, Cullinan played seven Tests against Warne and could score at only 12.75 in them. His overall career average of 44.21 would have been 48.36 if he had never encountered the leg-spinner.

The leg-breaks, top-spinners and flippers ultimately drove him to psychoanalysis. He never managed to find an answer to his nemesis. All he could come up with was the classic counter-sledge. Making his way to the wicket, he was informed politely by the leggie that he had been waiting two years for another chance to humiliate Cullinan. The batsman retorted, “Looks like you spent it eating.”

Other teams got wind of his recurrent nightmares. On one occasion when Cullinan played the first ball from Chris Harris very carefully back down the pitch, ’keeper Adam Parore yelled, “Well bowled Warnie!”

10.  Harbhajan Singh and Ricky Ponting

The turn, bounce, puffs of dust, cracks and bootmarks did not go down well with the Australian great. Ponting did not enjoy batting on the Indian tracks, and according to his own confession, Harbhajan Singh caused him ‘a lot of grief’.

The 2000-01 series was the nadir of a great career. Ponting batted five times, all his visits to the crease hardly summing up to an hour. His scores read 0,6,0,0 and 11, ending with 17 runs at an average of 3.40. Each and every time, Harbhajan Singh got him. He was beaten by the turn or lack of it, by the bounce and in the air. The most embarrassing was perhaps in the second innings at Eden Gardens when a last minute decision to sweep sent the ball straight into the hands of forward short-leg in a slow loop that would have a schoolboy cricketer hang his head in shame.

He had more success in subsequent tours, but in the 14 matches played against Harbhajan, Ponting scored at 30.64, averaging only 25.50 in India. The off-spinner accounted for him on as many as 10 occasions.


(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)