'Invincibles' opener Arthur Morris dies at 93
Arthur Morris, the former opening batsman who was the leading run-scorer in the famous 1948 Ashes series in England, has died at the age of 93. Morris was Australia's oldest living Test cricketer and one of only two surviving members of the 1948 Invincibles squad captained by Don Bradman; Neil Harvey, 86, is now the only living player from that touring party.
One of Australia's finest batsmen of all time, Morris was a left-hand opener who made his Test debut at the Gabba in 1946 in a home Ashes series, and went on to play 46 Tests for 3533 runs at an average of 46.48, including 12 centuries. He captained Australia twice and in 2000 was named in Australia's Team of the Century, where he was listed to open the batting with Bill Ponsford.
"We have sadly lost a cherished link with our past," Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards said. "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. When Australia's best openers are discussed his name will always be one of the first mentioned."
Morris scored centuries in three consecutive Test innings during his debut series, against England in 1946-47, and he was especially prolific on the tour to England in 1948. In later years Morris liked to tell the story of how he was often asked where he was when Bradman made his famous final-innings duck at The Oval. His response: "I was at the other end". Morris made 196 in that innings.
However, it was his performance in the previous Test at Headingley that truly impressed Bradman. Set a target of 404 for victory on a dry, dusty pitch, the Australians reached what was then a Test record for the highest successful fourth-innings chase with only three wickets down, and most impressively they managed the entire score on the fifth day. Morris made 182 in just under five hours.
"He showed that day every quality demanded of the real champion," Bradman wrote in Farewell to Cricket two years later. "A rock-like defence, powerful but studied aggression and a perfect temperament. Considering the situation and the state of the wicket, I doubt if a more valuable innings was ever played."
Morris was described by Bradman as having the ideal temperament, quiet and unobtrusive in manner and displaying no nerves, and possessing outstanding courage. Bradman wrote that technically, Morris was "a player of individuality - of distinctive style", and "a genius [who] does things others could not, and should not, try to emulate".
"The way he holds his bat is unusual," Bradman wrote. "He plays with stiff forearms when driving on the off, but despite the lack of wristiness, gets the power just the same. Often he will play with the bat well away from the pads when trying to cover drive. Technically, it is wrong, but he seldom makes an error."
One of the most impressive aspects of Morris' record was the way he quickly adapted to foreign conditions. He averaged 41.18 in Test matches at home and 53.78 away. Remarkably, he played first-class cricket in four countries and managed a century in his first match in each nation: at home in Sydney in 1940-41; against Worcestershire in 1948; against Natal in 1949; and against Jamaica in 1955.
His highest Test score came against England at Adelaide Oval in the 1951 Ashes, where he made 206 in 462 minutes as part of Australia's first-innings total of 371. The next best score was Keith Miller's 44. Australia went on to win the match to secure a 4-0 lead in the series.
Morris will also be remembered as the 24th man to captain Australia in Tests, after stepping into the role for the third Test against West Indies in Adelaide in 1951 when captain Lindsay Hassett was a last-minute withdrawal due to injury. Morris led Australia a second time against England at the SCG in 1954, when captain Ian Johnson and vice-captain Miller missed with injuries.
Born in the Sydney beach suburb of Bondi in 1922, Morris was the son of a schoolmaster and made his debut in Sydney's first-grade cricket at the age of 14 as a left-arm wrist-spinner. He gradually moved up the order and became an opener, and became the first player in history to score hundreds in both innings on first-class debut - when at age 18, he made 148 and 111 for New South Wales against Queensland.
However, World War II interrupted his career - he served in New Guinea during the war - and he had to wait until he was 24 to make his Test debut. He married showgirl Valerie Hudson, whom he had met during the 1953 tour of England, but after Morris returned from the West Indies tour in 1955, he discovered Valerie had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
She had delayed telling him for fear that it would affect his performance on the field. Morris retired from cricket as Valerie's health deteriorated, and she died at the age of 33, only 18 months into their marriage. He married his second wife, Judith Menmuir, in 1968.
An impeccably polite man with a good sense of humour, Morris was interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald in 2008, the day before a Twenty20 match between Australia and a Cricket Australia All-Star XI. Asked if he was going to watch the match the following day, Morris replied: "I might. But not if I am going to miss The Bold and the Beautiful."
Only last week, the new Arthur Morris Gates were unveiled at the SCG, and although Morris was too ill to attend the event himself, he was represented by his wife Judith. She said that when she had asked Morris why he had gates named after him, he replied "because I was an opener".
With Morris' passing, wicketkeeper Len Maddocks, 89, is now Australia's oldest living Test cricketer.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale