Ernie Toshack

Obituary, 2004

Ernie Toshack

TOSHACK, ERNEST RAYMOND HERBERT, died on May 11, 2003, aged 88. Ernie Toshack - "the Black Prince" - had the briefest career of Don Bradman's 1948 Australian Invincibles. He was almost 31 when he made his debut for New South Wales, in November 1945, and his career was ended by a knee injury barely four years later. But in the years in between, he was integral to Australia's formidable attack, containing opposition batsmen with his accuracy and stamina while Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller drew breath. Toshack was a 6ft 2in left-arm swing bowler, who made himself a specialist on rain-affected wickets by reducing his pace from fast to brisk medium and developing an armoury that included offcutters, in- and away-swingers, a quicker delivery and an orthodox left-arm spinner's leg-break to the right-hander. Bowling a leg-stump line from over the wicket to two short legs and a silly mid-on, he was almost impossible to get away in England in 1948. Bradman called him "unique in every way". Orphaned at six, Toshack had represented New South Wales Second XI before a ruptured appendix in 1938 left him in a wheelchair for months and kept him from active war service. After moving to Sydney, he made a slow but steady comeback and took six for 18, routing New Zealand in the March 1946 match at Wellington that was retrospectively elevated to Test status. In his first Test against England, on a Brisbane sticky in 1946-47, Toshack's line had been so leg-stump that Bradman took him out to the middle on the fifth morning to show him where he should be pitching the ball in such conditions. Without a wicket overnight, Toshack responded with nine that day as England followed on and were beaten by an innings. Two months later, in the heat of Adelaide, he bowled 66 eight-ball overs for match figures of five for 135. But later that year Toshack caught the Indians at Brisbane, wrapping up their first innings with five for two in 19 balls and taking six for 29 in the second. However, he was already having knee trouble, and he made the trip to England only on a 3-2 majority vote. By the time he broke down in the Fourth Test, Australia had retained the Ashes. In England's second innings at Lord's, with Miller unable to bowl, Toshack took five for 40. A born No. 11, he was the fifth Australian to average over 50 that series thanks to a series of notouts. Toshack's rugged looks and dry humour made him a great favourite with the crowds, as did his theatrical appealing and equally theatrical off-field props (bowler hat, furled umbrella and large cigars). But when he retired, he joined a firm of builders and dropped out of sight. When the Invincibles held a reunion fifty years on, Toshack - his hair by then as white as it had once been dark - had to be reintroduced to some of his team-mates.

© John Wisden & Co