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The greatest innings ever?

One of the greatest innings ever was played by Broadhalfpenny Down Trust Patron, Sir Garfield Sobers; but it's an innings few talk about as it wasn't played in an official Test Match.

In January 1972 in Melbourne, the South Africa tour to Australia was cancelled amidst anti-apartheid protests and a 5 Test Series against a Rest of the World side was arranged. The “Tests” were not official but the cricket was serious.

The first was a draw. In the second, Lillee took 8 for 29, and 12 wickets in the match, as Australia won by an innings.

In the Third Test, the Rest of the World team were all out for 184 as Lillee got 5 more wickets. Sobers had been annoyed by Lillee constantly bowling bouncers. He told rival skipper Ian Chappell “You've got a boy here called Lillee, Every time I have gone in, all I have got from him is bouncers. I want you to tell him that I can bowl quick too, and I can bowl bouncers.” He paused and added “And I think I can bat a little better than him, so look out for me when he comes in to bat.”

Australia were 285-9 when Lillee came in to bat. And the moment he did, Tony Greig shouted to Sobers “There he is. Let him have it! Bounce him!” And Sobers did! A shocked Lilllee managed to dodge a snorter. A furious Lillee slogged at the next delivery and was out.

A fired-up Lillee got in amongst the World batsmen. Ackerman, Gavaskar and Pollock went early. With Lillee baying for blood, Sobers who was next in said “We have to show them.” And walked out to bat.

Lillee bowled a bouncer. Sobers swivelled and hammered it savagely to the fence. As the ball ricocheted off the fence, Sobers marked his guard. And changed gear. The passage of play that followed has gone down in legend as unbelievable. Sobers literally hooked, pull, cut, and drove at will. Lillee was actually hit out of the attack.

On one of the largest grounds in the world, the ball kept hitting the boundary. Sobers ended the day at 139 not out. When Sobers was finally dismissed for 254 by Greg Chappell the following day, the crowd stood and applauded. So did the players. A chastened Lillee told Sobers as he walked off “I have heard about you. Now I have got my tail cut properly.” Indeed he had. His 30 overs had cost him 133 runs.

The momentum of the match had turned. The Rest of the World won the match and eventually the series 2-1.

With thanks to Nimish Dubey @nimishdubey for the research and this gem.

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