Lillee had been persuaded by a friend that an aluminium bat, inspired by baseball, was a great idea. The Combat had previously been used in a game against the West Indies at Brisbane without incident but, on this occasion, at the WACA ground in Perth in December 1979, it sparked complaints not just from the opposition but from the Aussie captain Greg Chappell.
After just four balls of the second day Lillee hit a straight drive down the ground which failed to reach the boundary. Chappell, convinced that the ball should have made the ropes, immediately asked 12th man, Rodney Hogg, to hand Lillee a traditional bat. This was bluntly refused by Lillee.
In the meantime, England captain, Mike Brearley, complained to the umpire that the metal bat was damaging the ball. At this point Chappell lost his patience and walked onto the ground to present Lillee with a traditional willow bat. Lillee then hurled the aluminium cricket bat into the air. He added three more runs to his total before being caught.
The Combat was subsequently banned.
That bat used by Lillee was offered at auction as part of the Duncan Fearnley collection of cricket bats, several of which have been sold by the John Goodwin saleroom in Worcestershire. Fearnley, a cricketer who played for Worcestershire (and was later chairman), became a very successful manufacturer of bats. The company’s heyday was in the 1980s but it continues to make bats today on a smaller scale.
It sold for a mid-estimate £5200 via a phone bid to a private buyer against a local cricket enthusiast.
Also sold on June 20 was another banned bat, previously used by Sunil Gavaskar. It was used by the Indian cricketer in the first test at Lord’s in 1979 but banned by the TCCB and MCC for causing damage to the ball. It had holes drilled to make it lighter. This bat made a low-estimate £2000.