When the Steve Waugh-Jason Gillespie collision rattled Australia
The Australia tour of Sri Lanka will get underway with the first Test at Pallekele next week. And as the tourists look to stamp their authority over the hosts, their prolific vice-captain Dave Warner will be playing after recovering from a broken finger.
While injuries are common in cricket, Australia will certainly be hoping that this injury doesn’t upset their plans for the three test series. For it was 16 years ago that the Aussie’s touring strategies were severely hampered by a bizarre on-field incident that left not just one but two vital members of their touring party badly scarred.
Australia was the all-conquering side in 1999 and when Steve Waugh won the toss, he trusted his batsmen as he elected to bat. But Chaminda Vaas, Nuwan Zoysa and Muttiah Muralitharan had other ideas and bundled the visitors out for a mere 188.
In response, Sri Lanka was 139/3 and Colin Miller sent down the 38th over. A top-edged sweep from Mahela Jayawardene sent the skipper and Jason Gillespie into action. While the former scampered from wide square-leg, the tall fast bowler charged in from deep square-leg. The iconic Tony Greig sprang up in the commentary box - “Oh, this is going to be safe, no, it’s going to be out”. The crowd held its breath.
What happened thereafter was a sickening to watch. “Oh, there’s a dreadful collision down there”, screamed the Englishman on-air as cameras zoomed in to reveal Steve Waugh’s disfigured nose. Nearby, Gillespie was writhing in pain while clutching his right leg.
Soon enough, the skipper was covered in blood as the rest of the contingent converged to investigate and offer first-aid. The fast bowler was carried off while Waugh’s nose was temporarily strapped up. Despite the searing pain, the gusty skipper walked off the field to encouraging applause from his teammates as Greig remarked, “that was one of the worst that I’ve seen”.
Soon after, as the crowd looked on in astonishment, a helicopter arrived and subsequently took off with the injured Aussie duo on board. Everything went downhill thereafter for the visitors. And despite the acting-captain Shane Warne’s heroic 5/52, the Australian batting crumbled in the second innings for just 140 to hand the game on a platter to the hosts.
While Jason Gillespie suffered a broken right tibia, Steve Waugh’s nose was well and truly crushed. But as the former was flown back home, the skipper lived up to his reputation as a fighter. Waugh defied four broken bones in his nose and the doctors to return for the second Test match at Galle. But the series will always be remembered for the horrific collision that disturbed all involved.