Bill Brown: One of Bradman's 'Invincibles'
Tuesday 18 March 2008
There are survivors and survivors, and Bill Brown was of the élite. The death of one of Bradman's "Invincibles" – the team that toured England unbeaten in 1948 – is a national occasion in Australia and Brown, one of the remaining five, was the only one left of those who played with Don Bradman before the Second World War, Bradman, Lindsay Hassett and Sid Barnes having predeceased him.
As a right-hand opening batsman Brown was very much a man of his time, a player who had no intention of ever appearing ruffled or perturbed by whatever was bowled at him, who took his time in seeing off the shine on the new ball and who displayed his strokes in the shy manner of a man uncovering the family jewels for a stranger. He did have a much more contemporary approach to training methods, working at his fitness and practising with professional sprinters; perhaps this was one reason for his first-class career of 17 years, which is lengthy for an Australian.
A.G. Moyes, the Australian writer who saw much pre-war cricket, wrote of him: "Always cool and thoughtful, he preferred finesse to force." He bowled the occasional off-break and was admired as a top-class fielder anywhere.
He first appeared for New South Wales in 1932 and made a duck in his first Sheffield Shield match but reached 154 in his seventh, and 205 in his 13th – this last score after a stand of 294 with Bradman. Brown later admitted the innings was of great value to him as he was chosen ahead of Jack Fingleton for the 1934 tour of England. His 105 at Lord's, on his Test début for Australia, was one of five centuries that summer. He was to win the distinction of passing 1,000 runs in each of his visits to England.
Averaging 59.57 in Tests in South Africa in 1935-36 he was a certain selection for England in 1938 where he finished second to Bradman in the averages, making 512 runs in the Test series at 73.14, including a century at Trent Bridge and 206 not out at Lord's in the first cricket match ever to be televised.
On return to Australia he was lured back to his native Queensland as player-coach and captained Australia in the first post-war Test, against New Zealand in Wellington. Against India, at home in 1947-48, he was controversially run out by Vinoo Mankad when backing up and was run out again, on 99, in the fifth Test.
By 1948, on his third trip to England, Brown had been usurped as Australia's opening bat by Barnes and Arthur Morris and, despite his high scoring (he was averaging 60), was not required in three Tests. He scored 39 centuries in his career, four of them coming in 22 Tests, during which he averaged 46.82. His highest first-class score, an unbeaten 265, came at Chesterfield against Derbyshire in 1938.
Bill Brown served in the RAAF in New Guinea during the war and on retirement became a selector.
William Alfred Brown, cricketer: born Toowoomba,Queensland 31 July 1912; married (three sons); died Brisbane, Queensland 16 March 2008.
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