Popular New Zealand cricketer
Tuesday 24 January 2006
Geoffrey Osbourne Rabone, cricketer: born Gore, New Zealand 6 November 1921; died Auckland, New Zealand 19 January 2006.
Geoff Rabone deserves to be remembered for the part he played in leading New Zealand from Test match tiros to accepted members of the upper echelon of world cricket.
He played in all in only 12 Tests, none of which New Zealand were able to win, and captained them in five, but was a hugely popular figure in immediate post-war cricket. An attacking middle-order right-hand batsman, he was also a useful change bowler with the ability to bowl off-breaks and leg-spin or, if required, accurate medium-pace seamers, and a top-class slip fielder.
"Bones", or "Boney", first emerged with Wellington and in his twenties was a member of the New Zealand side that toured England in 1949, demonstrating their resilience by holding a much superior team of individuals to four successive draws. His value to Walter Hadlee's team was illustrated by his regular appearances as either opening bat, opening bowler, or both. He scored more than 1,000 runs, took 50 wickets and held 24 catches in that campaign.
Rabone led the team to South Africa in 1953-54, scoring his one Test century (107) in an innings of more than six hours in Durban. On the same tour, he took 6-68 in 39 overs in the third Test at Cape Town.
It was his misfortune to captain New Zealand when they made the lowest score in Test history, 26, against England in Auckland in 1955. Len Hutton's team had just retained the Ashes in Australia and arrived in New Zealand avid for fresh conquests. Facing a 46-run deficit at the start of their second innings, and on a lively pitch, against what was possibly England's best ever attack, the home side was humiliated in 104 minutes.
Frank Tyson and Brian Statham had three batsmen out before New Zealand had reached double figures. Their best batsman, Bert Sutcliffe, on 11, was lured out by a chinaman from Johnny Wardle before Bob Appleyard took three wickets in four balls and was on a hat trick for the second time in the match. Rabone batted for 53 minutes for his seven runs.
That was Rabone's last Test match, but he continued to play first-class cricket, with Auckland, until 1961. In his first-class career he scored 3,425 runs at an average of 28.30 and took 173 wickets at 27.94.
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