Burge leaves indelible legacy

John Polack

October 5, 2001

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To younger members of the world's cricketing community, the late Peter Burge will be best remembered as the tough but fair match referee who has presided over international fixtures for the last nine years.

Those slightly older will also remember him as a determined, ruggedly built first-class batsman of the 1950s and '60s.

And many more in his home state of Queensland will remember him as one of the finest cricketing identities the state has ever produced.

His passing today closes the book on a career in cricket which began nearly all of his 69 years ago.

Schooled in the game by a father who had himself been a Queensland selector and Australian tour manager, Burge began his life in cricket as a wicketkeeper-batsman. He showed significant prowess in both aspects of the game - to the extent that he had already reached the heights of Brisbane grade cricket by the time of his last year at school.

He began to challenge for a position in the state squad in the early 1950s, but no longer as a wicketkeeper. The fact that Don Tallon and Wally Grout were also based in Queensland at the time had by now discouraged the young Burge from continuing the pursuit of a role behind the stumps.

The decision proved a wise one. Concentration on his batting helped him to make his interstate debut in Queensland's final match of the 1952-53 season, and he made a favourable impression immediately with scores of 54 and 46.

He complemented that start by striking a century against a full-strength New South Wales attack at the beginning of the 1953-54 summer and duly cemented a berth in the Queensland team that was to remain his for the best part of the next 14 years.

Test selection followed for the first time in 1954-55, though it was not for another five years that he made his biggest strides as an international batsman.

A powerfully built strokemaker blessed with the ability to play fearsome shots, he hit memorable centuries in successive series against England in 1961 and 1962-63. Many among his contemporaries rated his 181 at the Oval as one of the finest Test innings of the era.

In a Test career that spanned 11 years and included 42 matches in total, he reserved more punishment for the old enemy in further series in 1964 and 1965-66.

His team had been in a serious predicament before he crashed a magnificent 160 at Headingley in the first of those battles to assist Australia to victory and the retention of the Ashes. It also helped to win him nomination as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year in 1965.

He then produced the last of his four Test centuries (all came against the same opponent) at Melbourne 18 months later.

His career with Queensland also hit a number of memorable high points, perhaps the most significant coming when he plundered a score of 283 against New South Wales in 1963-64. It remains the highest score ever made by a Queensland batsman in interstate competition and was an innings which featured the authoritative approach to batting that was his trademark.

He was last year named a member of Queensland's official 'Team of the Century'.

A year after his retirement in 1967-68, Burge followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a Queensland selector. Around a professional career in the finance industry, he ended his involvement in that role in 1979, but turned his hand to cricket administration again in 1990.

It was then that he became a vice-president of the Queensland Cricket Association (QCA), a post in which he served until he was elected to a position on the QCA Board in 1994.

By this time, Burge had also begun his work as one of the International Cricket Council's first-ever international match referees. From January 1992 until his last match in February this year, he oversaw 25 Tests and 63 one-day internationals in such a capacity.

Arguably the most memorable of them came in July 1994 at Lord's, when he was forced to reprimand Mike Atherton over the infamous 'dirt-in-the-pocket' incident that placed the then-England captain at the centre of a maelstrom of ball-tampering allegations.

Throughout his long association with the sport, Peter Burge was a popular and enormously respected figure. Followers of Queensland cricket, Australian cricket and international cricket - young and old - will greatly miss him.

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