Australia news April 3, 2012

Test fast bowler Ron Gaunt dies at 78

The fast bowler Ron Gaunt, who played three Tests for Australia in the 1950s and 1960s and was later a valuable bowling coach for a young Merv Hughes, has died at the age of 78. Gaunt took seven wickets in his three Test appearances and was a formidable presence in domestic cricket for Western Australia and Victoria, collecting 266 first-class victims at an average of 26.85.

In Durban in January 1958, Gaunt took a wicket in his first over of Test cricket, that of the South African opener Dick Westcott, and it was all the more remarkable because he had only just flown in to South Africa to replace the injured Ian Meckiff. Australia's captain on that tour, Ian Craig, described Gaunt as a "top-rate fast bowler" and a fine team man.

"He flew in from Australia and didn't have an opportunity to settle down at all but he got a wicket pretty early on," Craig told ESPNcricinfo. "That was very exciting for him. He was a great guy, quiet and a good team man. I have very fond memories of him.

"He was quick and used to swing the ball about quite nicely. Especially on the Perth wicket where he used to get a bit of pace and bounce he was a nasty proposition for a batsman to face. He was certainly a top rate fast bowler."

But despite his good domestic record, Gaunt didn't hold down a place in the Test side and his three appearances for his country were sporadic. The Durban match was his only Test on his debut tour and he did not play again until The Oval Test on the 1961 Ashes tour, and his final Test came against South Africa in Adelaide in 1963-64.

"At that time you had Davo [Alan Davidson] as the top pace bowler and Ian Meckiff was in and out, and then Graham McKenzie came along, and that pushed Ron into the background a bit because they were similar bowlers," Craig said. "Graham being younger and stronger was probably given more opportunities."

Gaunt played the first five seasons of his first-class career for his native Western Australia but in 1960-61 he moved to Victoria and finished his career there. In Melbourne, he was a stalwart of the Footscray Cricket Club, where he remained active after his playing days and coached Hughes and his team-mate Tony Dodemaide, both of whom went on to play Test cricket.

"'Pappy' Gaunt was a terrific contributor to cricket, at international and state level and for his club Footscray," Dodemaide said. "He was a legend at the Western Oval, with his classical action and lion heart.

"His influence lived on well past his playing days at Footscray, being a patient and knowledgeable bowling coach for a young Merv Hughes and myself in those important formative years. He will be greatly missed."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here