End of a mighty innings for world's oldest cricketer

Ted Martin dies at 101

Christian Ryan

June 15, 2004

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Ted Martin, the world's oldest first-class cricketer and the first player in Australia to live to 100, has died in Perth at the age of 101.

A former West Australian legspinner, Martin lived to 101 years and 253 days, making him the fifth longest-living first-class player in history.

His first-class career, spanning two games and only eight days, was brief but eventful. Both his matches were against Douglas Jardine's reviled and revered England side in the Bodyline summer of 1932-33.

Picked for WA against MCC in the tour opener, Martin picked up three wickets in each innings at exorbitant cost, finishing with the extraordinary match tally of 6 for 165 from 23.6 eight-ball overs. Four times Freddie Brown, the England allrounder, was dropped off his bowling.

It was in this game that fast bowlers Harold Larwood and Bill Bowes first dabbled with some short-pitched bowling, later to blossom into full-blown Bodyline. The WACA crowd "became caustic" at one stage, reported a local newspaper, and Martin himself, batting at No. 9, received a brief and unpleasant bouncer barrage.

"Bowes gave me a couple of whacks ... they gave me a bit of it," he told The West Australian newspaper's John Townsend in 2001. "You only wore a pad, gloves and a box in those days, and the box wasn't much good."

Observers were sufficiently intrigued by Martin's productive but profligate debut for him to be picked for a combined Australian XI against MCC three days later. Again it was at the Waca and again Martin proved costly, going for 126 runs in 16 wicketless overs.

This time he played alongside Don Bradman, Stan McCabe, Vic Richardson and Jack Fingleton - but only Richardson spoke. "He thought he was an important man but he wasn't all that polite," Martin recalled. "He was quite rough actually." Meanwhile Bradman "did little but sit in his corner and keep to himself".

And that, so far as Martin was concerned, was that. It was still 15 years before WA would acquire Sheffield Shield status, and Martin retired immediately to focus on his accountancy career. A prolific wicket-taker at grade level, he was also a talented Australian Rules player until a pre-season ankle injury curtailed his footballing prospects.

On September 30, 2002, he became the ninth first-class player in history - and the first Australian - known to have lived to the age of 100. He had a party at home with family and friends, and quipped: "It's nice to have beaten Bradman at something."

He was still sprightly enough to pose for local newspaper photographers, showing off his leg-break grip, an enviable mane of white hair and the broadest of smiles. Behind his right shoulder, the WACA scoreboard read: "Martin, 100". "I'm old in time but not in mind," he said, inadvertently paraphrasing Bob Dylan.

The oldest living first-class cricketer is now believed to be Frank Shipston, the former Nottinghamshire batsman, who turns 98 on July 29. The oldest in history was the Derbyshire batsman JM Hutchinson, who died in 2000 aged 103 years, 344 days.

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Christian Ryan Christian Ryan lives in Melbourne, writes and edits, was once the editor of The Monthly magazine and Wisden Australia, and now bowls low-grade, high-bouncing legbreaks with renewed zeal in recognition of Stuart MacGill's retirement and the selection opportunities this presents. He is the author of Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket and Australia: Story of a Cricket Country
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