Bats Right Hand.
Bowls Right Arm Leg-Spin
Bats Right Hand.
Bowls Right Arm Leg-Spin
Ashes Tests: 19
Record: 2 wins, 6 draws
Off the Mark
Bob Simpson has enjoyed one of the most storied careers in Australian cricket. Apart from having two stints as Australian captain, he was also one of the most successful coaches. He rescued Australian from the doldrums in the 1980’s, but it was his performances as a player that warrants the most attention.
The Marrickville junior played England on 19 occasions, scoring 1,405 runs at an average of over 50. His handy part-time spin also yielded 16 English wickets, while his fielding at first slip revolutionised the position.
Simpson took over from Richie Benaud when cricket was at an all-time high. Crowds were flocking through the gates, television audiences and radio listeners were glued to the coverage, and most importantly, the team was soaring.
The 1964 tour to England was a watershed moment for Simpson. In the third Test at Leeds, Australia slumped to 7/178 in reply to England’s 268. The English spinners were virtually unplayable, but their captain, Ted Dexter, opted for the new ball. Simpson told Peter Burge to go on the attack. Burge (160) obliged, and with the help of the tail-end, took Australia to 389. There would be no coming back from there, with Australia sealing a comfortable seven wicket win.
Knowing that a draw would then retain the Ashes for Australia, Simpson took it upon himself to bring the Urn back home. Despite reaching 50 on 14 occasions for Australia, Simpson had never scored a hundred. Pressure was mounting, and he answered his critics with one of the most famous knocks by an Australian skipper. He and Lawry added 201 for the first wicket at Manchester, before the latter was run out for 106. Simpson finally scored his drought breaking century, but he was nowhere near finished. He batted out the first day, and then the second. By the time he was out on the third, the series was over. His 311 was the highest score ever by a captain. The English media accused Simpson of trying to ruin cricket, but truth be told, he simply did what any desperate captain would have done. The tabloids had dubbed the touring party the weakest since 1912, so his knock proved even sweeter.
Injury and illness robbed Simpson of two matches in the 1965/66 series, but his return for the Adelaide Test couldn’t have been more timely. Trailing 1-0, the Simpson-Lawry partnership stepped up to once again save Australia. This time they put on an Ashes record 244 for the opening wicket, with Simpson scoring an impeccable 225. The duo worked almost exclusively in singles in a bid to fluster the English. It worked, with the tension between bowlers and fielders boiling over. The innings victory shifted momentum Australia’s way, with draws in the last two matches wrapping up another Ashes triumph.
Bob Simpson prided himself on performance, and wasn’t afraid to show his hunger for success. A disciplinarian, Simpson wanted his teammates to “live” cricket the way he did. While it didn’t always sit well with the other players, it achieved results.
The style of cricket Australia played was often seen as dour, especially when they played for draws. In an era where Australia lacked a spearhead, Simpson called upon players like Lawry and himself to dig in for lengthy periods of time. The public saw this as a far cry from the style encouraged by Benaud, which resulted in crowd numbers declining at a rapid rate.
Simpson bucked the trend as a skipper by fielding at first slip. Most captains would park themselves at mid-on or mid-off so they could talk to their bowlers. However, Simpson was too good to be wasted down the ground. He finished his career with 110 catches, including 30 against England.
For Simpson, cricket was everything. Even in his retirement, he couldn’t give it away. He returned in 1977 to lead the side after World Series threatened to tear Test cricket apart. He became national coach in 1986 at a time when Australia was at its lowest point. Simpson instilled his tough approach, and it worked wonders on the youthful squad. Australia won the World Cup, regained the Ashes, and even beat the formidable West Indies away from home.
Played and Missed
Simpson played 29 Test matches before reaching triple figures. It was an incredible feat, given he had already scored 37 first-class centuries.
His 1,381 runs in 1964 was a world record for a calendar year.
His partnership with Bill Lawry at the top of the order is rated as the best Australian opening combination in history.
In eight matches in charge, Simpson never lost a Test against England.
Former teammate Ian Meckiff sued Simpson for labelling him a “chucker” in his book “A Captain’s Story”.