I continue my look through Australia’s cricket history with a look at the best men’s cricketers of 1963-83, which brings us into the era covered in this post.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
- Bill Lawry (left handed opening batter). He averaged 47 with the bat over a long test career, which ended with him being dropped from the team when the Aussie selectors decided they wanted a new captain in Ian Chappell and that they did not think Lawry should play under his successor. This resulted in a first and only test appearance for Ken Eastwood, another dour left hander of similar age to Lawry but possessed of about half his skill.
- Bobby Simpson (right handed opening batter, ace slip fielder, occasional leg spinner). He took until his 30th test match to reach three figures at that level. In that first three figure innings he went on to 311, batting until the third morning of a match that Australia only needed to draw to retain the Ashes. Simpson scored nine further test centuries, one of them in the Ashes (a score of 225). He and Lawry also became the first pair of openers to score double centuries in the same test innings, their opening stand against the West Indies being worth 382 on that occasion.
- *Ian Chappell (right handed batter, captain, occasional leg spinner). A fine test match number three and a great skipper who took Australia to the top of the cricket world before the rise of Lloyd’s West Indies with their pace battery.
- Greg Chappell (right handed batter, ace slip fielder, occasional medium pacer, occasional leg spinner). The best Aussie batter to play his cricket exclusively in this era. Leg spin was his first style of bowling, but he learned to bowl medium pace while playing for Somerset as an overseas player.
- Allan Border (left handed batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner). Although he had another ten years of test cricket ahead of him in 1983 he had done enough by then to warrant his place, and by the time of his retirement he would be remembered as an all time great, the first ever to score 11,000 test runs.
- Doug Walters (right handed batter, occasional medium pacer). Averaged in the mid-40s in test cricket, though he never quite cracked batting in England. His career best was 250 against New Zealand, and he also had a match in which he scored 242 and 103. He twice scored 100 runs in a single session of play in test cricket. As a bowler at test level he was mainly used to break awkward partnerships, though he was good enough as a youngster to take a seven-for on FC debut.
- +Rod Marsh (wicket keeper, left handed batter). At the time of his retirement he had made more test dismissals than any other wicket keeper and had also scored two test centuries. His departure left a hole in Aussie ranks that took a few years to properly fill, the search for decent test keeper only ending with the emergence of Ian Healy.
- Ashley Mallett (off spinner, expert gully fielder, right handed lower order batter). Very valuable in a supporting role when Australia had some serious fast bowling talent in the 1970s.
- Dennis Lillee (right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter). 71 test appearances yielded him 355 wickets, including 164 in Ashes matches, breaking a record that Hugh Trumble had held for three-quarters of a century. Lillee’s own tally was beaten in turn by Shane Warne.
- Jeff Thomson (right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter). The fastest bowler of the era, and possibly the fastest Australia has yet produced (Shaun Tait and the 2013-14 incarnation of Mitchell Johnson are possible rivals for this one). 200 test wickets in all, in spite of injury problems disrupting his career.
- Rodney Hogg (right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter). The 41 wickets he took in his debut series in 1978-9 were at the time an Australian record for an Ashes series. Injuries subsequently spoiled his career.
This side has a powerful top six, most of whom could also contribute something with the ball, a great keeper, a good off spinner and three genuinely fast bowlers.
The only other opening batter from this period who might have justified breaking the Lawry/ Simpson combo at the top was Keith Stackpole, but although his attacking approach may have made him a better foil to Lawry than Simpson, Simpson had the better record.
In the middle order there were two very near misses, Kim Hughes and Graham Yallop, but good as they were neither could realistically challenge either the Chappells or Border.
The main spin bowling challengers were two leg spinners, Terry Jenner and Kerry “Skull” O’Keeffe, but bearing in mind the spin bowling capacities of my front line batters I wanted on off spinner, and the only close challenger to Mallett on that basis was Bruce Yardley.
The pace bowling department was much more difficult. My decision to go for all out pace, with Hogg accompanying Lillee and Thommo meant that three guys with solid claims all missed out: Graham McKenzie was Australia’s best seamer between the retirement of Alan Davidson and the rise of Dennis Lillee, claiming 246 test scalps. Max Walker, the regular third seamer when Lillee and Thommo shared the new ball was also a candidate. Finally, brought into the picture by the fact that he bowled left arm fast medium which would have added variation and that he would have strengthened the lower order batting there was Gary Gilmour. In the ‘what might have been’ category is Bob Massie, who claimed 16 scalps on test debut, but then had a disastrous tour of the West Indies in which an attempt to generate extra pace led to him permanently losing his ability to swing the ball.
My usual sign off…