David Lawrence’s knee-cap was completely broken. It had to be wired the following morning © Getty Images
David Lawrence’s knee-cap was completely broken. It had to be wired the following morning © Getty Images

On February 10, 1992 English fast bowler David Lawrence suffered a horrific injury. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at one of the most gruesome injuries ever in the history of Test cricket.

The series was already decided. England had romped to victories at Christchurch (an innings and 4 runs) and Auckland (168 runs), and the only bit of interest in the dead rubber contest was that it was going to be Ian Botham’s 100th Test. Graham Gooch won the toss and elected to bat.

Alec Stewart scored a defiant 107. Three other batsmen crossed 30, and despite a decent show by the demoralised New Zealand bowlers, the English managed to amass 305. New Zealand, in response, decided to crawl to a draw instead of putting up quick runs and going for a win: as a result, John Wright scored 116 in 334 balls and Andrew Jones 143 in 398 balls. Even after taking the lead, New Zealand did not look to accelerate.

Phil Tufnell and Graeme Hick bowled 140 overs between them, taking 6 for 273 in an excruciating phase of cricket that lasted for over two days. New Zealand batted for 192 overs before they declared at 432 for 9.

Trailing by 127, England lost a couple of quick wickets, but with Stewart and Robin Smith holding fort and Allan Lamb blasting his way to an aggressive 142 (his highest Test score, and his only Test hundred outside England and West Indies), the New Zealand attack lost its way — despite Dipak Patel and Murphy Su’a picking up three wickets each. When England declared their second innings, New Zealand needed to score 233 in 32 overs. Botham’s 100th Test had been generally forgettable till now: he had scored 15 and 1, and had taken 1 for 53.

The injury

Gooch decided to rest Phillip DeFreitas, and handed the new ball to the energetic David Lawrence, a fast bowler from Gloucestershire who generally bowled with hostile pace. In the previous year he had taken 5 for 106 (7 for 173 in the Test) to script a famous victory against a star-studded West Indies and square the series at The Oval. In his only ODI Lawrence had taken 4 for 67 to secure a victory against the same opposition. Earlier, in 1985, he and Courtney Walsh had bowled out Yorkshire for 83. A hardworking, honest trier, Lawrence was definitely one of the talents England counted on for the future, especially ahead of the upcoming World Cup.

As Lawrence ran in to bowl the first ball of his third over, it was already evident that New Zealand had given up on the chase. Lawrence ran up to the wickets, and as he released the ball, the spectators were horrified to hear two sounds: a spine-chilling crack — somewhat like the shot of a pistol — and an agonising scream. As Jack Russell collected the ball, Lawrence was found in a heap near the bowling crease.

The English players huddled around him; Laurie Brown, the English physiotherapist, rushed onto the field, and Lawrence had to leave the ground on a stretcher. The commentators had been contemplating a torn hamstring or a calf injury, but it had turned out to be much worse than that.

As the stretcher, escorted by Botham himself, reached the pavilion, a TVNZ cameraman Vaughan Scott tried to probe a bit regarding the injury. As a result the English manager Micky Stewart and Russell got involved in a brawl of sorts with Scott.

New Zealand ended up with 43 for 3 as Botham removed both openers in a spell of 8 overs.

What happened to Lawrence?

Lawrence was rushed to Wellington Hospital, where it was declared that his knee-cap was completely broken. It had to be wired the following morning. His Test career ended right there. His First-Class career seemed to over as well. Though he attempted a comeback in 1997 for Gloucestershire, he was never the same bowler again, and when his knee cracked again while working out in a gymnasium, he gave up the sport for good.

Lawrence’s injury has gone down as one of the worst in the histories of Test cricket — one that went on to nip a promising career in the bud.

Brief scores:

England 305 (Alec Stewart 107, Graeme Hick 43; Dipak Patel 4 for 87) and 359 for 7 decl. (Allan Lamb 142, Robin Smith 76, Alec Stewart 63) drew with New Zealand 432 for 9 decl. (Andrew Jones 143, John Wright 116; Graeme Hick 4 for 126) and 43 for 3.