Australia’s 1948 Ashes hero Morris dies

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Sydney, Aug 22 (IANS) Former Australia Test cricket captain Arthur Morris, who was the leading run-scorer in the famous 1948 Ashes series in England, died on Saturday at the age of 93.

A member of Australia’s Test Team of the Century in 2000, left-hander Morris was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame in 2001.

“We have sadly lost a cherished link with our past. Arthur Morris was a great man and one of the true greats of Australian cricket who until now had been a treasured connection to an extraordinary era of the game. We extend our deepest sympathies to Arthur’s wife Judith and his family at this sad time. He will be greatly missed but remembered forever,” Cricket Australia (CA) chairman Wally Edwards said in a release.

“When Australia’s best openers are discussed his name will always be one of the first mentioned.An elegant, complete batsman, Arthur peaked in the late 1940s and was the most successful batsman during the series against England that would make him an Invincible,” added the CA chairman.

Born in Bondi in 1922, Morris moved around New South Wales with his schoolteacher father until settling back in Sydney as a teenager. His dad couldn’t afford to buy him a bat so he borrowed one from his St George club, and was still using it when he became the first player to post two centuries on his first-class debut. Morris was only 18 when he collected 148 and 111 against Queensland in 1940-41.

His steep rise was interrupted by the second World War and he had to wait until England arrived in 1946-47 for his Test debut. After scores of 2, 5 and 21, he roared with three consecutive centuries, including two in Adelaide.

Donald Bradman was Morris’ hero, but even the greatest player in history could not beat Morris, only two years into Test cricket, on Australia’s famous 1948 tour of England. Morris travelled home with 696 runs at 87 after striking three centuries in the campaign, none more important than his spectacular effort in Leeds.

After Australia were set 404 in less than six hours on the final day, Morris hit 20 fours on the way to his century, finishing with 182 before Bradman completed the job. In the next Test at The Oval he scored 196, gaining a close-up view of Bradman’s duck, the most famous of all time. When asked later by an unknowing businessman if he saw it, Morris replied: “I was at the other end.”

Bradman felt Morris was the best left-hander he had ever seen.

He was always at his best against England, even though he was dismissed 18 times by fast bowler Alec Bedser in 21 Tests.

A versatile and aggressive left-hander, Morris adapted to uncharacteristic conditions so well that he earned a deserving reputation for producing centuries on grounds the first time he played on them.

Most comfortable scoring on the leg side, he excelled with hooks, pulls, sweeps and on-drives. At the end of his career he had stroked 3533 runs at 46.46 in 46 Tests, a wonderful record in any era.

Morris also achieved Australian cricket’s highest office, becoming the 24th Test captain when he filled in for Lindsay Hassett in 1951-52. Another brief promotion came three years later when both Ian Johnson and Keith Miller suffered knee injuries, but both matches ended in defeat.

The highest of his 12 Test centuries came when he reached 206 against England in Adelaide in 1950-51, having been handed a coaching manual on how to bat by Bedser. He continued to make valuable contributions until he retired, aged 34, after going to the West Indies in 1955.

In 1956, his wife Valerie died of cancer. Morris remarried and he and Judith lived happily for many years in Cessnock and Erina, near Gosford.

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