Richie Benaud

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Richie Benaud : biography

6 October 1930 –

Benaud’s bowling reached a new level on the return leg of Australia’s overseas tour, when they stopped in the Indian subcontinent in 1956-57 en route back to Australia. In a one-off Test against Pakistan in Karachi, he scored 56 and took 1/36 as Australia fell to defeat. He claimed his Test innings best of 7/72 in the first innings of the First Test in Madras, allowing Australia to build a large lead and win by an innings. It was his first five-wicket haul in a Test innings. After taking four wickets in the drawn Second Test in Bombay, Benaud bowled Australia to victory in the Third Test in Calcutta, sealing the series 2-0. He took 6/52 and 5/53, his best-ever match analysis, ending the series with 113 runs at 18.83 and 24 wickets at 17.66. It was the first of his successes against India, against whom he took his wickets at an average of 18. This put him in a small group of spinners whose career averages were inferior to their performances against India, generally regarded as the best players of spin in the world. At this stage of his career, he had yet to perform consistently with bat and ball simultaneously, apart from his breakthrough series in the Caribbean. He had managed, in the 14 Tests since then, 559 runs at 27.95 and 67 wickets at 24.98.

Later career

Benaud took over when Australian cricket was in a low phase with a young team. His instinctive, aggressive captaincy and daring approach to cricket – and his charismatic nature and public relations ability – revitalised cricket interest in Australia. This was exhibited in the 1960–61 Test series against the visiting West Indians, in which the grounds were packed to greater levels than they are today despite Australia’s population doubling since then. The First Test in Brisbane ended in the first tie in Test history, which came about after Benaud and Alan Davidson, rather than settle for a draw, decided to risk defeat and play an attacking partnership, which took Australia to the brink of victory. Australia had fallen to 6/92 on the final day chasing a target of 233 with Benaud and Davidson at the crease. Australia’s chances of winning looked remote when they reached tea at 6/109 with 124 runs still required with only the tailenders to follow. Despite this, Benaud told chairman of selectors Don Bradman that he would still be going for an improbable victory in accordance with his policy of aggression. With an attacking partnership, the pair took Australia to within sight of the target.Benaud, p. 86. Both men were noted for their hitting ability and viewed attack as their most effective chance of survival. Regular boundaries and quickly-run singles took the score to 226, a seventh-wicket partnership of 134. Only seven runs were required with four wickets in hand as time was running short. Benaud hit a ball into the covers and the pair attempted a quick single when a direct hit from Joe Solomon saw Davidson run out. Australia needed six runs from the final over, in which Benaud was caught and the last two wickets fell to run outs while attempting the winning run.Fiddian, p. 90. The Test was tied when Solomon ran out Ian Meckiff with a direct hit. Benaud had an unpenetrative match with the ball, taking 1/162. He took 4/107 in a seven-wicket victory in Melbourne, before the West Indies levelled the series with a 22-run win in Sydney. Benaud had a heavy load in the match taking 8/199 after Davidson tore a hamstring mid-match.Benaud, pp. 186–189. In Adelaide, with Davidson absent, Benaud bowled long spells to take match figures of 7/207 in addition to a score of 77 in the first innings. With Davidson back, Australia won the final Test by two wickets, after a controversial incident in which Australian wicketkeeper Wally Grout was not given out hit wicket when a bail was dislodged and the umpires did not notice. Australia won the series 2–1, and although Benaud was below his best, scoring at 21.77 and taking 23 wickets at 33.87, the series was a success for cricket. The unprecedented public interest saw the Caribbean tourists farewelled with a tickertape parade by the Australian public. Along with the West Indian captain Frank Worrell, Benaud’s bold leadership enlivened interest in Test cricket among a public who had increasingly regarded it as boring.