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Lindwall, Raymond Russell (Ray) (1921–1996)

by Greg Baum

from Times

Ray Lindwall was one of cricket's truly great fast bowlers, admired and respected by friend and foe alike. His total of 228 Test wickets was an Australian record, and, of those, 114 were taken in 29 Anglo-Australian Tests.

When first-class cricket was resumed after the Second World War, England had no bowlers of more than a brisk medium pace. Not for six years had their batsmen's reactions been genuinely tested, so that when, in the winter of 1946-47, an MCC side went to Australia, they were confounded by the sheer speed of Lindwall's bowling. With the equally dashing and popular Keith Miller, he formed a fast bowling partnership to compare with any there has ever been.

Raymond Russell Lindwall was born with a natural aptitude for games. By the age of 16 he was playing for St George, a first grade club in Sydney, captained at the time by the legendary leg spin and googly bowler, Bill O'Reilly. Although O'Reilly was then past his prime, Lindwall always said he owed much to his influence, and the two of them played a few games together for New South Wales in the early years of the war and briefly afterwards.

Lindwall surfed well, was a first grade rugby league full back and a sprinter who clocked 10.8 seconds over 100 yards. He was also no mean batsman. In his first Test series, against England in 1946-47, he scored a century at Melbourne in only 115 minutes. But it was as a bowler of infinite grace and rhythm and timing and menace and swing that he excelled.

There have been faster bowlers, men stronger and more fearsome, but there have been none cleverer. His arm was probably a shade low for his action to be perfect, yet this seemed, if anything, to make his swerve more subtle. He conserved his energy and changed his pace as it suited him, and used the bouncer sparingly enough for it to be a weapon of surprise.

From the time that he returned from service with the Australian Army in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands during the war until 1953, he was feared wherever he bowled. From 1954, when he was 33, it was more his love and enthusiasm for the game that kept him going. He was 38 when he played the last of his 61 Tests. When, reluctantly, he retired in 1962, he had taken 794 first-class wickets at 21.35 apiece, and had long since moved from his native New South Wales to Queensland, whose Sheffield Shield side he captained for five years.

Lindwall became one of the first full-time Australian professional cricketers when he went, in 1952, to play for Nelson in the Lancashire League. When there, he found that his natural outswinger beat the bat so often that he was obliged to perfect the ball that went the other way. He was soon so versatile that he could bowl six different balls in the same over, all on a length or thereabouts and all without seeming to stretch himself. When MCC was experimenting with a smaller ball it invited Lindwall to the Nursery ground at Lord's to see what he could do with it. The result was so devastating that the project was abandoned.

There are still many Englishmen who might say that if they could be granted one last wish in cricket it would be to see Lindwall opening the bowling in a Test match at Lord's with Len Hutton batting and Denis Compton to follow.

His playing days over, Lindwall became an Australian selector for a while, and with his wife he ran a florist business in Brisbane. He always kept his cricketing friendships in repair and came whenever he could to England. He was here for the last time towards the end of last summer as a supporter of the New South Wales side which was playing a match or two against Surrey. But though as cheerful as ever, he had suffered a minor amputation.

Lindwall's old partner, Keith Miller, has just been on a visit to England to see the current Test match. Cricket can never have known two more resplendent figures than he and Lindwall when they were hunting as a pair with Don Bradman's 1948 side to England, one of the strongest Australia ever fielded.

Ray Lindwall is survived by his wife Peggy and by their son.

Original publication

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Citation details

Greg Baum, 'Lindwall, Raymond Russell (Ray) (1921–1996)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/lindwall-raymond-russell-ray-31405/text39289, accessed 25 July 2021.

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