Call it a head, a diff, a melon, a noggin, a pip or whatever you like, but when that skull of yours gets peppered by a 156 gram leather cherry it hurts like hell. So let’s take a look at the Top 10 Diff Shots in cricket…
Firstly I know that there were plenty more vicious bouncers in the ‘good old days’ of uncovered pitches and no helmets. Ah those were the days! Men in white kit, flaring locks, lush mustaches and brown sugar all over the chest. I’m sure Big Merv, Jeff Thomson and the Windies lads ripped many a head off its shoulders in their time, however I have chosen to take a more contemporary view of things. I almost expect a sponsorship from a helmet company for all the free advertising I’m doing here!
10. Ahmed Shehzad vs Corey Anderson – 2014: Monday 10 November was a day to remember and forget for Ahmed Shehzad. The Pakistani opener registered his highest Test score before being felled by a Corey Anderson bouncer. Shehzad was unbeaten on 176 off 371 balls when Corey Anderson cranked in an effort ball that hit Shehzad so hard that his bat fell onto the stumps. A glorious day for the Pakistani ended with a hit-wicket dismissal and a minor skull fracture that ruled him out for the rest of the series. Anderson’s ball clocked in at 135km/h making it quite easily the slowest on the Top 10 Diff Shots list.
9. Craig Cumming vs Dale Steyn – 2007: It was a really difficult tour for the Black Caps in which they lost both Tests by some margin in South Africa. Dale Steyn, a lethal bowler at the worst of times, was on song taking 20 wickets in the two Tests. Cumming was batting well on 48 in the second Test when he tried to take on a Steyn bouncer. Within a flash the Kiwi was on the ground, blood pouring from his cheek. The result: Cumming suffered a broken jaw, New Zealand lost by an innings and 59 runs, whilst Steyn claimed 10 wickets in the match as well as the Man of the Series award.
8. Ryan McLaren vs Mitchell Johnson – 2014: Mitchell Johnson had just sent the Poms packing in the Ashes, quite literally actually, considering that was the last time any of us saw KP, Trott or Swann in a Test match. Then the rampant Aussies came over to tackle the best Test team in the world with the most dangerous fast bowler on the planet leading the charge. So what do the South Africans do? They prepare the quickest bounciest wicket possible at Centurion. The Baggy Greens romped to an emphatic 281 run win and one of the biggest casualties for the South Africans was Ryan McLaren. The allrounder playing in his first Test in nearly four years was smashed on the pip by Johnson and fell to the ground. Blood seeped from behind his ear and the brave Bloem boy stood up, however Johnson still peppered him and he was caught down leg off a rising short one four balls later. He was ruled out of the series with concussion and hasn’t played a Test since. To make matters worse, Johnson broke his arm with a bouncer a few months later in Zimbabwe!
7. Stuart Broad vs Varun Aaron – 2014: Broad was on fire in the 4th Test of the 2014 England vs India series at Old Trafford. The Pommie quick had skittled India for 152 in the first innings with his 6/25 before coming out to bat and hooking two consecutive Varun Aaron deliveries out the park. It was not to be third time lucky for Sally who top edged the following short ball into his helmet. He was forced to retire hurt with a fracutred nose, but nonetheless was awarded Man of the Match for his first innings heroics. The Draco Malfroy doppelganger played in the final Test a week later scoring 37 and taking three sticks to help England to a second innings victory in a row and with it a 3 – 1 series win.
6. Gary Kirsten vs Shoaib Akthar – 2003: Gazza was a man known for his steely reserve and dogged determination, but not even he could withstand the brute force of a Shoaib Akthar bouncer. Shoaib was one of the quickest bowlers if not the quickest bowler to ever play the game. At 159/3 on Day One of the first Test in 2003, the Proteas were looking good. That was until a Shoaib bouncer floored Kirsten and opened his cheek up like a piñata, before clean bowling Neil McKenzie with his very next ball. Kirsten was forced to retire hurt with a broken nose, damaged eye socket and 10 stitches. Although he battled bravely to score 46 in the second innings, it was not enough to prevent an eight wicket loss. Typical of the man, Gazza played in the drawn second Test a week later where he registered scores of 54 and 118 to claim the Man of the Match award. It also helped that Shoaib didn’t play in the second Test after being banned for using abusive language against Paul Adams on the same day he knocked over Kirsten.
5. Shivnarine Chanderpaul vs Brett Lee – 2008: This one is not pleasant to watch at all. In fact it is quite sickening. The Aussies posted 431 in their first innings and the Windies were in a spot of bother at 276/8, even with Chanderpaul on 86. Then one of the greatest hitmen of the modern game, Brett Lee, produced a snorter that hit Shiv on the back of the diff. The Windies stonewall collapsed to the deck, lying motionless as if he were unconscious. Despite not knowing if it was half past six or Thursday, the gutsy Guyanese left-hander continued batting as he knew his team would be doomed without him. Shiv battled through to reach his ton, scoring 118 to take the Windies through to 312. They lost the 3-match series 2-nil, however Shiv picked up the Man of the Series award for his 443 runs at an average of 147.
4. Sultan Zarawani vs Allan Donald – 1996: Sultan Zarawani is known for only two things in cricket history: knicking Sachin Tendulkar off in his first ODI and coming out to face Allan Donald with only a wide brim on. By 1996, helmets were part and parcel of cricket, but clearly not so in the UAE. Facing Donald with only a wide brim hat is about as sensible as walking around Hillbrow in the middle of the night flashing your iPhone about. Needless to say, Donald bounced him, hit him on the melon and just about killed him. Sultan refused a helmet and carried on batting – for only six more balls without scoring a run – but he’d already made his mark in cricketing folklore.
*Watch from 1:48
3. Kevin Pietersen vs Dwayne Bravo – 2007: This one is very similar to Ahmed Shehzad’s diff shot in many ways. Dwayne Bravo, like Anderson, is by no means an express pace bowler, but his effort ball did have some serious zip. Bravo’s bouncer hit KP on the head and in the process knocked his helmet right of his noggin and onto the stumps. KP didn’t sustain any serious injury, but his pride took a dent…for a few brief moments. He had already scored 68 and England went onto win the match and the series (3 – 0).
2. Craig Kieswetter vs David Willey – 2014: This one looked like something out of a Quentin Tarantino film. Playing for Somerset against Northants in the County Championship, Kieswetter was struck in the face by a David Willey bouncer. The ball came through his visor, broke his nose and fractured both his cheek and eye socket. Kieswetter was forced to retire on 26, but Somerset nonetheless went onto win the match by 58 runs. Just watch Willey (the son of former England cricketer and umpire Peter) he just about vomits at the sight of Kieswetter’s misfortune.
1. Alex Tudor vs Brett Lee – 2002: Brett Lee could just about have a top 10 on his own, the man had a knack of knocking a bloke’s block off. The Aussies were 2-nil up heading into the third Test of the 2002 Ashes at the WACA in Perth. Anyone who has half a clue about cricket knows that the WACA is pretty much the fastest pitch in the world and what worse for a struggling England team than to have McGrath, Gillespie and Lee to contend with. The game (and the series) was dead and buried by the time Tudor came to the crease on Day Three with England more than 60 runs behind in their second innings with just three wickets intact. Lee bowled an absolute rip snorter of a bumper that cannoned into Tudor’s grill. The impact was so hard that the grill pushed back into Tudor’s face, knocking him to the pitch with blood spewing everywhere. Tudor was completely and utterly pole-axed by Lee’s delivery and it was to be his last ever act in Test cricket as the medical team stretchered him from the field. Fortunately all Tudor needed was six stitches to the eyebrow and there was no other serious damage.