Almanac Cricket – The best and worst* at the Gabba

In a summer where it’s still not quite clear who Australia’s best Test XI is, let’s have a fanciful look at the numbers for the Gabba and pull together Australia’s best and worst Test XIs.

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An interesting opening combination with Slater and Lawry getting Australia started. The Gabba a happy batting ground for Slater with 176 against England in the opening Ashes demolition of 1994 and 169 against Pakistan in a 10 wicket victory in 1999. The pigeon fancier, meanwhile, scored 166 in the first innings of the rain affected drawn Ashes Test of 1965.

No surprises at number three as our Don scored three centuries in his five Tests at the Gabba. Not overly small ones either with 226 against South Africa in 1931, 187 against England in 1946 and 185 against India (dismissed hit wicket) in 1947.

Meanwhile, Greg Chappell and Michael Clarke hugely prolific in the middle order. Chappell’s valedictory 150 not out against Pakistan in 1983 doing his average the world of good. However, it’s worthwhile noting his other three centuries at the venue came against the West Indies, including his twin 100s in 1975 (although, oddly, the Windies went into that Test with only Roberts and Holding bowling pace).

If Chappell’s undefeated 150 helped his average at the venue, Clarke’s 259 not out against South Africa in 2012 and 145 not out against Sri Lanka in 2007 were also more than handy. His second innings 113 in the 2013/14 Ashes series also guided Australia to a 381 run first Test victory; although his ‘on mic’ run in with Jimmy Anderson, perhaps, sticks slightly more firmly in the memory.

At No. 6 Dougie Walters provides some batting allrounder class. Apparently the English didn’t rate him, but they must have forgotten his 155 on debut in the 1965 Ashes, sharing a 187 run partnership with Lawry in his highlighted innings above. They also didn’t see his 3-12 accompanying a first innings 112 in the 1970 Gabba Ashes Test – another one drawn.

Adam Gilchrist takes the keeper’s gloves with centuries against New Zealand in 2001 and 2004 alongside his 39 catches and 5 stumpings at the venue. His best match behind the stumps coming in an innings victory against the West Indies in 2000 as c.Gilchrist b.McGrath featured six times across the two innings (McGrath with the memorable match figures of 10-27). The combo nabbed Lara for 0 and 4 so would have been more than happy with their three days’ work.

With the ball we have the all New South Welshman opening combination of Ray Lindwall and Geoff Lawson. Despite his imposing average of 17 at the ground, Lindwall only took one bag of five, taking 5-60 leading Australia to a 96 run victory against South Africa in 1952. All the more impressive as a throat infection prevented Keith Miller from bowling in South Africa’s second innings, leaving Lindwall and Bill Johnston as the only pace options.

Lawson, meanwhile, gets a gig thanks to that throat infection as Keith Miller does not qualify for the side with only 19 wickets at the Gabba. Henry’s finest hour at the venue came in the 1982 Ashes with match figures of 11-134 complementing Kepler Wessels’s 162 and 46 on debut to lead Australia to a seven wicket win.

First change bowler is the very intriguing sinister Ernie Toshack. In a Test career that only saw 12 Tests between 1946 and 1948 (debuting at 31), Toshack, known as the Black Prince, took 47 wickets at 21. He was twice able to take advantage of sticky Gabba wickets in 1946 and 1947, taking 9-99 against England and 11-31 against India respectively, leaving him with an impressive venue average of 6.50.

And finally, making up the spin component of the team, despite Australian selectors’ threats to pick four quicks, is Warnie himself with a lazy 68 wickets at 20. Warne’s good days are too numerous to list but it’s hard to go past his 11-77 (out of 19 possible wickets) against Pakistan in 1995 as Australia won by an innings and 126 runs.

 

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As always, the disclaimer right up front. This isn’t actually the worst, in this case nowhere near it. This is the XI that meet the criteria (five tests for batsmen or 450 balls delivered) with the ‘worst’ really being the worst averages of a very select group.

So, opening the batting we have Ian Redpath and Graeme Wood. Redpath got plenty of starts at the Gabba, only failing to reach 15 in two of his 10 innings. However, he was dismissed seven times between 17 and 41 – 79 against India in 1968 his best showing. Wood fared better with a century against New Zealand in 1980 but his last four innings at the ground all came against the West Indies, yielding just 29 runs.

Batting at three we have Shane Watson with just a horrid record at the ground. In 10 innings at the Gabba he was dismissed for six or fewer five times, with 41 not out against England in 2010 his best effort. Thankfully he offers this team a bit with the ball and amusing LBW reviews.

At four and six we, incredibly unfairly, have the two blokes who usually top the ‘who would you want batting for your life’ charts with AB and Steve Waugh. It is only by their own extremely lofty standards that these two fall slightly short. In his 22 innings Border fell for less than 10 eight times – six of those against the West Indies or England. This was balanced by a superb 152 not out against New Zealand in 1985.

Waugh, meanwhile, fell for fewer than 10 in nine of his 26 innings. Efforts like rescuing Australia from 4-106 to 6-365 with 112 against England in 1998 (including a 187 run partnership with Ian Healy) should not be ignored, however.

In between the two great captains we have Dean Jones, who has earned his place in this side with a meagre average of 17.28 at the Gabba. A bit like Redpath (must be a Victorian thing) Jones got starts, with at least 15 in five of his eight innings, but could not carry on with 38 not out against New Zealand in 1987 his highest score at the venue.

Rod Marsh gets to chatter away behind the stumps, averaging 20 with the bat at the Gabba and the bowling will be opened somewhat surprisingly by hometown heroes Messrs Kasprowicz and Bichel. Neither had much fun in Gabba Tests, picking over Warne and McGrath’s scraps. Bichel’s average was ruined by the 2003 India Test where he took 1-142 across the two innings thanks to Ganguly and Laxman. Kasper meanwhile started poorly with 0-89 against the West Indies in 1996 and didn’t substantially recover after that.

Bowling first change we, incredibly, have another Queenslander with Slasher Mackay bowling his medium pacers. Perhaps it is more surprising that he bowled that much at the Gabba and he offers signficantly more with the bat.

And finally, another Queenslander believe it or not. Tom Veivers is available to bowl some offspin. Another allrounder he also offers more with the bat than ball, his 0-86 in 1965 against England causing his inclusion in this team.

So there we have it – Australia’s best and worst* at the Gabba. At the end of the day you’d probably be happy to have either team play for you, particularly given the joy that Watto brings. Enjoy your cricket!

*not really the worst

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About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"

Comments

  1. Just be glad that Bradmans debut in 1928-29 was not at the Gabba.. That test was one of the two played at the Brisbane’s Exhibition Ground.

    ground that none of us remember.

    Glen!

  2. G’day Glen, true – Bradman’s average would drop to a measly 97.80 if you include the Exhibition Ground Tests – which is below average for him.

  3. Ta Dave. It also wouldn’t have enhanced Bill Ponsford’s average, though Bill Woodfull, following his duck, redeemed himself by carrying his bat int the second innings.

    Oh for the days of a sticky wicket.

    Glen!

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