Bats Right Hand.
Bowls Right Arm Leg-Spin
Bats Right Hand.
Bowls Right Arm Leg-Spin
Ashes Tests: 27
Record: 6 wins, 2 losses, 6 draws
Off the Mark
Possibly the most iconic man in Australian cricket, Richie Benaud enjoyed a career spanning nearly 70 years in the game. On the field, he scored 767 runs at 19.66 in his 27 matches against England, while he also picked up 83 wickets. Off the field, he has been just as important. His commentary has been second to none since making his radio debut in 1960.
While playing for Australia, fans flocked to the cricket to watch Benaud led sides dominate whoever they played. The late 1950’s to early 1960’s was a golden period in Australian cricket, with players such as Simpson, Lawry and Harvey scoring runs, while Benaud and Davidson did the damage with the ball.
Benaud’s first series in charge, the 1958-59 Ashes, was expected to be a tough initiation, with England sending a formidable side to Australia. Benaud, ably supported by Neil Harvey and others, trounced England 4-0. The new skipper was the star, taking 31 wickets and averaging 26.4 with the bat. They may not have had champion players at that stage, but they certainly played like a champion team.
The Manchester Test in 1961 was arguably Benaud’s finest moment as a player, and captain. With the series locked at one win apiece, Australia knew victory would ensure they retained the Urn. Things didn’t start well, with Bill Lawry’s 74 the only shining light in a paltry 190. England’s middle-order then got stuck in, with Peter May’s 95 guiding the hosts to a commanding 367. Lawry again stood up when it mattered most, adding an invaluable 102. However, it was a last wicket stand of 98 between Davidson (77) and McKenzie (32) that gave Australia any chance. England needed just 256 for victory, and looked set for a comfortable run chase when they coasted to 1-150. With his quicks proving ineffective, Benaud brought himself on to bowl around the wicket. The unprecedented move sparked a shocking collapse for the hosts, with Benaud snaring five wickets in the space of 25 deliveries. Australia’s 55 run win would not have been possible had it not been for Benaud’s astute tactics. His 6-70 would go down as one of the best spells of leg-spin bowling seen in England; until a spritely Shane Warne arrived 30 years later.
Richie Benaud was responsible for resurrecting cricket in this country. The world was changing at that time, and so was cricket. It was being shown on television for the first time, while radio coverage was becoming more advanced. Benaud felt he had a duty to the Australian public to make the game more entertaining. Sure, you could argue that the 1961 series was dull, but at least Australia retained the Ashes. Nobody will forget the tied Test against the West Indies, or Benaud’s audacious move to bowl around the wicket in Manchester.
Benaud is credited with popularising the tactics we see today. Huddles after a wicket were born in the Benaud era. Declaring just before stumps in a bid to steal a late wicket was something he thrived upon. Bowling into the rough is now seen as common practice.
Benaud was also prepared to try new things with the ball. He worked very hard on perfecting his wrong’un, the flipper and the top-spinner. His leg-spinner even had variety to it, making him one of the most complete tweakers at the time.
His leadership earned him respect immediately. Players loved being guided the likeable larrikin from Penrith. He looked after everyone both as a team, but also on an individual basis. His teammates trusted his innovative ideas, while he trusted them to execute them to the fullest.
For most Australians, summer means cricket. And cricket means hearing the dulcet tones of their favourite commentator, Richie Benaud. From the cream coloured suit, to the witty repartee with his colleagues, Benaud is the complete package
Played and Missed
Benaud never lost a series as Australian captain.
He was the first player to reach 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in Test cricket.
He captained the first ever Tied Test in history in 1960-61 against the West Indies.
Unlike other captains who were pushed from the job, Benaud voluntarily handed the role to his successor, Bob Simpson.
Fittingly, Benaud was in the commentary box when Shane Warne bowled what has been dubbed "the ball of the century" to Mike Gatting in 1993.