Come in, Spinner: Lindsay Kline (1934-2015)

 

The Great Scorer has called him home.

‘Spinner’ Kline was the first Australian cricketer I ever saw. He came close-up via a television highlights package from the Brisbane Tied Test against the West Indies in 1960. I was fascinated by his action which involved a giant kangaroo-hop in his delivery stride. The hop was, in fact, a vertical leap and he would have landed heavily on his back foot and thus created momentum with his forward stride. I tried this hop a few times and found it expended a great deal of energy. How he as a left-arm ‘Chinaman’ bowler – and we can argue about that term until the cows come home – was able to use that action and maintain his accuracy throughout his seven-year first-class career is beyond me.

Because he was the first Australian bowler I saw – noting the foreshortening caused by the camera’s telephoto lens as a thing of wonder, and because of his action – Lindsay Kline briefly became a favourite player despite being a quiet performer on home soil. Australia’s three wise men selectors – Sir Donald Bradman, Jack Ryder and Dudley Seddon – had a notable preference for spin in Australia’s attack as in each of the Tests in the 1960-61 series the twelve players included two ‘Chinaman’ bowlers. Kline played in the first and fourth Test matches, and Johnny Martin in the second, third and fifth Tests. When captain and leg-spinner Richie Benaud was a leader of the attack, and batsmen leg-spinners Bobby Simpson and Norman O’Neill were added to the mix, Australia was effectively taking five wrist spinners into each match.

Lindsay Kline’s last Test match at Adelaide Oval in 1961 was my first.

My first day was actually the third day of the match, the Monday ‘Australia Day’ holiday celebrated on 30 January. Dad and I got to the Oval early to beat the crowd of 35 072 and take up seats on the concrete steps on the eastern side of the ground, three rows from the pickets.

Simpson was not out overnight on 85 and I was hoping to see him reach his first Test century. West Indian fast bowler Wesley Hall certainly put paid to that. I’d never seen any bowler like big Wes, who seemed to start his run at the northern sightscreen, build up momentum, was flying when he hit the crease, and from side on you saw nothing of the ball. Wicket-keeper Gerry Alexander appeared to be standing half-way back to the southern screen and all you noticed was him giving a slight wave of his gloves as the ball lodged there. How the batsmen saw the ball I had no idea. Simpson hadn’t much idea either but he was good enough to nick Hall to Alexander in the first over, and left without addition to his score.

Lance Gibbs took a hat-trick later that morning (Ken Mackay, Wally Grout, Frank Misson) and this caused a buzz among the spectators. I wondered what the big deal was until someone said it hadn’t been done in a Test match in Australia since before the First World War. The First World War! That really was ancient history.

The Australians took their score from 4-221 to 366 to trail the West Indies by 27 and the visitors rammed on 1-150 before stumps. I remember a bloke called Cammie Smith making 46 runs with 10 fours (one all run) and providing exhilarating stroke play. A little dasher, Rohan Kanhai, who’d made a hundred in the first innings, was well on his way to another century at the end of play. I can’t remember Kline bowling and perhaps that’s not surprising because I don’t remember anything of the Australian bowlers, not even Benaud.

The West Indies would bat until well after tea on the fourth day before Frank Worrell declared with a lead of 460 and had Australia reeling at 3-31 at stumps. The home side’s only hope was to bat throughout the final day’s play but the ninth wicket fell just after tea when Kline joined Mackay.

Kline had taken three wickets in Brisbane but his figures in Adelaide were 0 for 109 and 0 for 48 to give him 3 wickets for exactly 100 runs apiece in four home Tests over two series. Overseas in nine Test matches in South Africa, Pakistan and India he more than held his own with 31 wickets at an average of 15.35 including a hat-trick in his second game at Cape Town, and brilliant innings figures of 44/21/75/7 at Lahore. However, the most memorable moment of his Test career in Australia would now be achieved with the bat.

Kline was a genuine number eleven batsman. In 16 previous Test innings he’d made just 43 runs and only once before reached double figures. The story has often been told of team-mates Martin and O’Neill bowling to him in the nets on the last afternoon and dismissing him over and over. Now he supported Mackay for 102 minutes against all odds and the high quality versatile attack consisting of the world’s best fast-bowler Hall, Worrell (left-arm medium pace), three-in-one man Garry Sobers (left-arm fast medium, wrist spin, orthodox spin), Gibbs (off-spin) and Alf Valentine (left-arm orthodox).

In his book Slasher Opens Up Mackay described a form of telepathy he used to coax and advise his partner to keep him going towards the end. I wasn’t at the game on Wednesday – Dad had Holdens to sell at Dutton Motors, Murray Bridge. But Dad was home and he, Mum and I were tuned into our Schaanberg Strauss radiogram when Mackay survived Hall’s final over. As a trio we danced with joy around the dining room when the match was saved.

Next day the headlines ran: ‘Slasher the maligned to the rescue’, ‘Last ditch stand full of merit’ and ‘Mackay, Kline heroes of torrid Test match draw.’ The irony for Kline was that his highest and undoubtedly his best Test innings of 15 not out, was also his last.

The West Indies tour was the first time the ABC had broadcast all five Tests of a series ball-by-ball. The richness of the radio commentary along with a single day’s experience of live Test cricket captured my imagination that summer.

Lindsay Kline played a part in that experience. Although he beat Martin for a position on the Australian tour of England in 1961 and captured 54 wickets in 19 games he was not called on for those Ashes Tests. He played one final Sheffield Shield season in 1961-62 before retiring aged twenty-seven.

 

 

Bernard Whimpress

© October 2015

 

About Bernard Whimpress

Freelance historian (mainly sport) currently writing his 20th book. For the previous 15 years was Curator of the Adelaide Oval Museum and Historian for the South Australian Cricket Association. Will accept writing commissions with reasonable pay. Most recent books - The MCC Official Ashes Treasures and The Greatest Ashes Battles.

Comments

  1. bob.speechley says:

    I remember the series well and the blasts of fresh air blown on cricket by the West Indies. I listened to that Adelaide Test match on the ? (can’t remember the make) throughout travelling from the city to Williamstown after work whilst “Slasher” and Lindsay held it together for Australia. In retrospect this series has to have been the best ever as an ongoing contest. Melbourne farewelled them in a celebratory way. Sobers, Hall, Kanhai and Gibbs all returned to play cricket in Australia afterwards?

    Lindsay Kline became etched in cricket history via those 15 hard earned runs.

  2. Dave Brown says:

    Good stuff, Bernard. Pretty special test to be your first. Equivalent experience from my youth was working at John Martins while Shane George & Peter McIntyre held on for a draw to win the shield for SA in 1996. Frequent trips to the electronics department and the radio in the store room as they batted out those last 10 overs.

    Thing that strikes me watching tests from that era, when ABC used to show what was in their archives late at night, is the huge variety of bowling actions, very much including Kline. These days despite different bowlers’ quirks, techniques are comparatively much more homogenous.

  3. bernard whimpress says:

    Thanks Bob
    As you say four of the West Indies returned to Australia and wein SA were lucky enough to have Garry Sobers for three years while Lance Gibbs played for us in 1969-70, the last purely domestic cricket season, when Ashley Mallett was touring India and South Africa with the Australian side.
    And Dave
    Wow! working in Johnnies – a sad loss to the retail trade. Our last Sheffield Shield win, was similarly dramatic, and as a staffer at SACA I was there to see it and write about it – first in the SACA newsletter Long Boundary (which I edited) and subsequently in my first sporting anthology, Off Cuts.

  4. Paul Buxton says:

    That was my first ever day at a Test match too! Must have been sitting fairly close as I was also on those concrete steps on the eastern boundary. Not related are we? Remember the Gibbs hat trick and the mighty Wes pushing off from the sight screen. If you can, get hold of the recording of his dinner speech describing the last over of the tied Test. Pure gold. Great memories of Adelaide Oval, later years I migrated to the Moreton Bay figs on the southern end, then the John Creswell Stand, thanks for reviving them.

  5. bernard whimpress says:

    Paul
    Fancy being neighbours on that day. Of course after that hat-trick Des Hoare came in and made a good 35, supporting Benaud in a partnership of over 80. He was probably pretty unlucky to play his only Test match on a batsman’s paradise at the Oval.

  6. Peter Flynn says:

    From somebody who wasn’t alive, I really enjoyed reading this Bernard.

    Did Slasher just chest the last ball or last couple of balls?

    The radio commentary I’ve heard from this series is exceptional.

    Michael Charlton(?), AG Johnny Moyes etc.

  7. bernard whimpress says:

    Thank you Peter

    Slasher chested one of the balls at least and one has heard it said that this might have contributed to his early fatal heart attack – who knows?

    I haven’t heard the commentary since so was it Michael Charlton at the finish? Perhaps McGilvray got the flick or left early like he apparently did at the Tied Test in Brisbane. Johnny Moyes was an excellent ‘special comments’ man as was Lindsay Hassett who followed. So different from K O’K and others in the modern era.

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Thanks Bernard great read learning more about,Lindsay Kline and a test match that is such a famous part of cricket folklore ( I was there for the brilliant partnership re George and Macca to win the shield that was nerve wracking )

  9. Andrew B Bishop says:

    I was there for every ball of that extraordinary test. To my 12 year old eyes the LBW in Gibbs’s hat trick looked dodgy (but not as dodgy as the LBW with which Greg Matthews completed his match winning hat trick in India!) And mention should surely be made of Sobers’ catch at silly mid off (or silly point in the old parlance) towards the end – Worrell bowling Mackay batting) that CJ (I think Egar was at the bowler’s end) that was ruled a bump ball).

  10. bernard whimpress says:

    Thanks Malcolm
    Fine piece on Chocka by the way. Yes, the George-Macca stand was something special too, 59 ball countdown and all. The crowd swelled to something like 12,000 at the finish.

    And Andrew
    Did you have a seat in the John Creswell Stand or in front of the Moreton Bay figs to make that LBW call? I trust you weren’t side-on like I was.

    On Greg Matthews do you mean the ball he produced to tie the Test in Madras? I remember seeing a clip of that film at a cricket society function in Melbourne a few years ago and there were roars of laughter as the umpire’s finger went up almost before the ball landed. He obviously wanted to be part of history.

    Regarding Sobers ‘catch’ of Mackay when he had made 17 – he went on to 62 – I remember you providing physical ‘evidence’ – Sober’s broken finger-nail with grass beneath it – which you presented to the Adelaide Oval Museum in the late 1990s. This was displayed (albeit not prominently) for the next ten years or so.

  11. Bob Morrow says:

    I remember listening to this last day ,I think in a Pub but because of the time difference between Vic & SA I couldn’t have heard the end in those 6 O’clock closing days. We & my mate were barracking for Australia & Lindsay as not only was he a Victorian but we played footy with his brother [ a fine Ruckman ] at Ashburton FC.

  12. bernard whimpress says:

    Thanks Bob
    Ah, the romance of the Six o’clock Swill and being turfed out before the end of the game. However, glad to know the story brings back some good memories.

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Loved this Bernard and the comments. As you well know, there have been some stirring tests at Adelaide Oval (ever considered updating your book?)

  14. Luke Reynolds says:

    Wonderful story Bernard, a fitting tribute to Kline. ‘Chinaman’ bowlers are almost always fascinating characters. Lindsay Kline had such an intersting career yet was retired at just 27, when bowlers of his type usually start coming into their peak. Fleetwood-Smith is such an interesting story, the boundless energy and fizzing googlies of GB Hogg, the frog in a blender Paul Adams.
    Any story featuring that 1960/61 series always has my interest too. The “Calypso Summer” series is the best cricket documentory I’ve seen.
    Vale Lindsay.

  15. bernard whimpress says:

    Thanks Swish
    Certainly have thought about updating Adelaide Oval Test Cricket – there have been more than 30 Tests since 1984 then but no one seems to want to pay me for these things these days. The same goes for The South Australian Football Story. I’ve made three approaches to the SANFL over the years but haven’t even had the courtesy of a reply. Can’t even get interest in my big history of Adelaide Oval – cricket, footy, other sports/events, architecture – although I may produce a limited edition. I’m obviously a poor salesman.

    And Luke
    We also had a very interesting bowler here in SA in the 1960s too. David Sincock was probably the biggest spinner of the ball each way and rather like Michael Bevan had a medium-pacer’s run-up and got a lot of bounce as well. Sincock lacked control but could be devastating on his day. He played 3 Tests against Pakistan, West Indies and England across 3 series but his first-class career was over at 24.

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