Bats Left Hand.
Bowls Left Arm Medium
Bats Left Hand.
Bowls Left Arm Medium
Ashes Tests: 29
Record: 1 win, 2 losses, 6 draws
Off the Mark
Few cricketers have had Bill Lawry’s will to win. In a trait he most certainly adopted from Bob Simpson, Lawry’s only goal was to ensure Australia didn’t lose. This didn’t always mean winning. In fact, it rarely did at all.
Lawry enjoyed a stellar Ashes career, hitting 2,233 runs from his 29 appearance. His average of 48.54 was aided by seven centuries, and a defiant approach that made him one of the toughest openers to dislodge. After becoming public enemy number one in England, Lawry was handed the title “the corpse with pads on.”
Lawry’s first full series in charge saw him take a youthful side to England in 1968. Eight of the 17 players on tour would make their Ashes debut that year, prompting most experts to forecast an easy English victory. Hardened by his predecessor, Bob Simpson, Lawry sought out to win the Ashes any way how.
At the first Test in Manchester, Lawry accumulated a vital 81 at the top of the order. Dog Walers (81), Paul Sheahan (88) and Ian Chappell (73) all chipped in to take Australia to a defendable 357. Bow Cowper and Graham McKenzie then combined for seven wickets to stun the hosts. A fighting 86 from Walters then handed Australia a 446 run lead, before his bowlers finished off the hosts for 253.
With the next three matches drawn, Australia had done their job and secured the Ashes with a game still to play. In typical Bill Lawry style, he fought to the bitter end to ensure Australia staved off defeat. Despite batting over seven hours in the first innings for a gritty 135, Australia lost the match with five minutes left.
The fourth Test in 1970/71 would be his last; not that he knew that of course. England made 332, with Gleeson and Mallett picking up four wickets apiece. Then, in a shock move, Lawry moved Keith Stackpole down the order, and promoted Ian Chappell to open with him. Chappell made 12 and 0 in a move that might have cost Australia the Ashes. Boycott’s unbeaten 142 left Australia chasing 416 for victory. They didn’t get close. Only two players reached double figures, with John Snow grabbing seven wickets. Fittingly, Lawry protected his wicket to the end, finishing on 60*, but England had won by 299 runs.
Lawry never had the chance to square the series, and was sacked by the Board before the decider. In a move led by Bradman, Lawry wasn’t even told about the decision. Rather, he learnt of his fate via the radio.
Australia’s stonewall leader didn’t deserve to be dismissed in such a manner. Although he wasn’t the most exciting player to watch, he had been a tremendous servant of Australian cricket. His dogged attitude at the top of an innings helped protect the middle-order from the new ball. His cunning and guile mightn’t have attracted big crowds, but it got the job done.
Similar to big soccer matches, Lawry was more than happy to get an early lead and defend his way to victory. That was certainly the case in 1968, when Australia managed to win the first Test, and ultimately the series.
His partnership with Bob Simpson was unrivalled at the time. The pair had identical mantras, which made their relationship even more special. Possibly born in the wrong era, Lawry’s style of captaincy would have been ideal in the 19th century. However, Australian crowds wanted to be entertained in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Lawry still remains an influential figure in Australian cricket. The advent of World Series Cricket saw him slot straight into the Channel Nine commentary box, where he has remained ever since. His love of pigeons has stayed strong over the years, even if his voice box hasn’t.
Played and Missed
Bill Lawry once declared when Rod Marsh was eight runs shy of becoming the first Australian wicketkeeper to score a Test match hundred.
Lawry was never adjudged LBW when playing in Australia.
Bill Lawry was often accused of favouring his Victorian teammates. He never denied it either.
Lawry fell two runs short of recording three centuries in as many Tests during a golden run of form in 1966.
Luckily for him, he only had to wait two more years to achieve the feat. Lawry made 135 against England, before scoring 105 and 205 against the West Indies.