The bizarre cricket match when New Zealand bowler Bert Vance gave 77 runs in an over knowingly!

Not many know about the bizarre match between Wellington and Canterburry

There have been instances where bowlers were hit for six sixes in a row. Yuvraj Singh, Ravi Shastri, Gary Sobers, Herschelle Gibbs and others have haunted the bowlers’ dreams with their attacking play. These instances made captains scratch their heads. But what if the captain himself wants the bowler to give away runs and bowl no balls. Sounds bizarre, right?

In case you are thinking that the match was fixed, no, it was not! It was a well-thought out move by the Wellington skipper. But you have to be patient to know the whole story.

The match —
It was a First-Class match between Wellington and Canterbury. Wellington needed to win the match in order to lift the Shell Trophy and that’s the reason why skipper McSweeney literally went all out to register a win.

What happened during the initial days of the match —
Wellington scored 202 runs in the first innings. Canterbury declared after scoring 221 for 7. Thanks to John Aiken’s 156, Wellington made a comeback and scored 309 in the second innings, setting a target of 291 runs. Canterbury never looked like chasing the target and the game was heading towards a draw.

Lee Germon and Roger Ford were batting well as they knew there was nothing much they could do with 95 runs needed off 12 balls. McSweeney wanted Germon to go after the bowler so that they sniff a win and lose their wickets in the process.

That’s when coach John Morrison and McSweeney had a chat and came up with a newfangled idea to give an insipid Bert Vance an over. Before this, Vance had bowled only 39 overs in a career span of 6 seasons.

When the madness started —
Vance came to bowl and bowled a stream of no balls. The first ball was a no ball, Germon did not try and hit him this time. The next one was a legal delivery, Germon scored a boundary off that one. After that, there was a stream of deliberate no balls. Vance’s front foot landed way ahead of the crease on multiple occasions. He bowled a total of 17 no balls on the trot!

A total of 72 runs had already been scored with just one legal delivery in the over. McSweeney may have realised that Vance needed to bowl at least a few legal deliveries otherwise they would end up on the losing side.

Surprisingly, Vance bowled two dot balls to Germon followed by another no ball off which a boundary was scored — 14th of the over. Only a single was taken off the next two balls. The umpire lost the count of the number of legal deliveries and called it an over after just five balls.

A total of 77 runs off 5 balls were scored from Vance’s over. It did not go down in the record books as the most expensive over but still. It was the second-most expensive over, the first being a Bangladeshi bowler’s 92 runs off 4 balls.

The finale over
Both captains did not know that only 18 runs were needed off the last over. Left-arm spinner Evan Gray was brought back into the attack. Germon did not know the target but he took a crack at the first five balls, scoring 17 runs off them.

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On the last ball of the over, Ford was on strike. He was incognizant of the fact that Canterbury needed just one run to create history. He ended up blocking the last ball and the match was tied. Had the batter and bowlers knew what was the target, the game would have climaxed altogether differently.

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Aftermath –
Wellington’s foolish plan to lure batsmen into losing their wickets backfired. They lost 4 points for slow over rate as Vance bowled 17 no balls on the trot. However, they still managed to win the Shell Trophy as other teams lost their last league match. The media did not let McSweeney and Morrison off the hook easily as they faced flak for their bizarre decision in a crucial stage of the league.