The true story of the day after Jeff Thomson's most devastating spell

Former Australian opener Rick McCosker recalls the day Jeff Thomson destroyed Sri Lanka – and an unexpected discovery 24 hours later that put it all in perspective.

Things started to heat up in our second game at the 1975 World Cup, on and off the field.

It was against Sri Lanka, who were really new to international cricket and nowhere near the force they’d later become.

We batted first and made over 300, with Alan Turner and I putting on something like 180 for the first wicket. But it was our session in the field that turned out to be the headline-grabber.

It was when Jeff Thomson got stuck into the Sri Lankan batsmen and put a couple of them in hospital.

It’s not that it was an especially vicious spell by Thommo.

It was more that the Sri Lankan batsmen had never faced anything like his exceptional pace.

Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson were two of the most feared bowlers in their day. Pic: PlayersVoice
Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson were two of the most feared bowlers in their day. Pic: PlayersVoice

There were a couple of factors that spurred Thommo on in that game.

He was under a bit of pressure, as he’d been having problems with no balls and had taken few wickets leading into the tournament.

It was a pretty flat wicket at The Oval and, to some extent, the Sri Lankans were lucky it wasn’t a faster pitch.

Even so, it didn’t help them much. They just kept getting hit.

I remember one of the two batsmen who retired hurt being down for the count after copping one.

His captain was at the other end, walked down the pitch and told him to get up. The player, on the ground, said ‘no skipper! I am going!’ – he’d clearly had enough!

Duleep Mendis was carried off the field after being hit by Jeff Thomson. Pic: PlayersVoice
Duleep Mendis was carried off the field after being hit by Jeff Thomson. Pic: PlayersVoice

When I’d batted earlier in the day, I’d strained a muscle in my back.

The next day I went to a physiotherapist in London, who was recommended to us by the cricket board over there.

When I walked into the office, there were four players from the Sri Lankan team sitting there waiting for treatment. It was quite a sight!

That next day, there was a mixed reaction. The headlines were all about how fast Thomson was and questioning whether it was the right thing to really lay it on hard and fast against the Sri Lankans.

The thing is, we had to go pretty hard at them because, despite struggling with the pace of Dennis Lillee and Thomson, they showed tremendous courage and kept fighting.

For quite some time they were going very well. We had to make sure we won.

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