The finale to the greatest Australian Test of all, the Brisbane tied Test, had a comic ending. Bosum buddies from Melbourne, tailenders Ian Meckiff and Lindsay Kline met in mid-pitch and vowed to play tippetty run.
“If Lindsay hit it, I was off,” said Meckiff.
“Wes Hall bounced in and I got such a shock when Lindsay actually got bat to ball, I hesitated and was run out by a couple of feet.
“Lindsay always accused me of daydreaming. At the time I thought we’d lost and I was devastated. I always had 233 to win in my mind and as we got only 232, I thought that was it. We’d thrown it away. Being part of the first tied Test never entered the equation.”
Weeks later in Adelaide, listed as usual at No.11 Kline batted 109 minutes on the final session of the fifth and final day to help force the most celebrated draw of all against Frank Worrell’s visiting 1960-61 West Indians.
Kline had ducked into the nets at the back of the rooms at teatime for an impromptu hit against the wrist-spin of Johnnie Martin and Norman O’Neill. Having seen the slender Victorian dismissed nine or 10 times in quick time, a women standing behind the nets said: “Well we can’t rely on you can we.”
Afterwards, having made a career-best 15 not out, a jubilant Kline was tempted to head back down the back stairs to see if the lady was still present. Having helped snatch the most unlikeliest of draws, he’d re-entered the rooms with beer bottles everywhere, Wally Grout having playfully announced he’d down a beer each and every over Kline lasted.
Kline’s Test average was just six, but he had opened the innings for the Melbourne CC’s second XI and his average of lasting 45 minutes per innings was better than most Test No.11s. For the last gripping hour he stayed at one end facing the mediums of Frank Worrell and Co., while Mackay handled the more troublesome spinners of Lance Gibbs, Garry Sobers and Alf Valentine.
The Adelaide Test was his 13th and final match. He’d been selected as a specialist bowler, had taken none for 157 and was dropped to 12th man, never to return.
Lindsay’s life is to be celebrated at the MCG on Monday from 2.30 p.m. Meckiff, just about his closest mate, will speak as will family members.
Kline’s Test CV includes a rare hat trick to finish the Cape Town Test in 1957-58.
He could spin the ball sharply both ways – and took a Test-best seven for 75, including Pakistani master Hanif Mohammad bowled for 18 at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium in 1959. But his chances were limited with Australia’s frontline spinning option always being captain Richie Benaud.
“Lindsay was unlucky,” said his club, state and Test teammate Colin McDonald. “While Lindsay was a good bowler, Richie was a great bowler and I was on several selection committees where was he was omitted. He’d always take it on the chin. There was a never a murmur of discontent.”
During this sub-continental series, Benaud put Kline in charge of supervising the laying of the matting. Instead of having breakfast with his teammates Kline would dart down to the ground, making sure the matting was as tight and taut as possible, helping to negate the menace of the great Pakistani Fazal Mahmood, a master of the mats.
Kline was farewelled by 100s of his old buddies at the MCG in October. He’d been ill for several years.
It’s amazing just how resilient Australian supporters are. Not that long ago at Trent Bridge, our elite Test XI was bowled out in 90 minutes in the Ashes decider. There had not been a blacker opening to any Test involving the baggy green.
Now with a new summer in full swing, under a new in-form captain, the wintertime embarrassments have been shunted aside as Australian fans and the team look forward to fresh challenges and regaining some lost ground and ranking.
Having succeeded a dispirited and horribly out-of-touch Michael Clarke, Steve Smith continues to play with alacrity and adventure. It seems he thrives on the responsibly and is only getting better.
The improved showing at The Oval and 2-3 overall Ashes scoreline hid some of the festering problems.
During the bowler-dominated summer, the BBC’s Geoff Boycott took delight in sledging Australia’s plight. He couldn’t remember any Australian top-order in the last 50 years looking as frail or vulnerable. With the departure of Clarke, average 49, those cracks, he believes, could yet widen.
But will they? The Australians may be lambs away but they are lions at home not having lost a series on home soil in more than 25 years. All the rhetoric and promotion in the world can’t mask the fact that this summer’s ‘feature’ tourists the West Indies have never ever been weaker. It could easily be a 3-0 walkover approaching what shapes as the most competitive Tests of the extended summer, from mid-February in Wellington and Christchurch.
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