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July 29, 2000
Jim de Courcy, who played for Australia on the 1953 tour of England, died at Belmont, New South Wales, on June 20 at the age of 73.
Nicknamed "Oxford Jim" in honour of a stylish century that he scored on tour against Oxford University, de Courcy was a talented right-handed middle-order batsman who failed to live up to his potential. His three Test appearances for Australia yielded just 81 runs at an average of 14.20.
James Harry de Courcy was born in Newcastle on 18 April 1927, and was playing grade cricket in the Newcastle district competition when he was first chosen to play for New South Wales at the age of twenty, making his first-class debut against Queensland on New Year's Day, 1948. It wasn't until the 1949-50 season that he became a regular in the NSW team, and he had to wait until late in the 1951-52 season for his maiden first-class century, 114 against South Australia at the SCG.
Consistent good form early in 1952-53 saw him earn selection in an Australian XI (effectively a national "A" team) against the touring South Africans, followed by his naming as twelfth man in the Second and Third Tests of that summer. Following a season in which he scored 503 runs at 41.92, he earned selection in the Twenty-first Australian team to tour England, led by Lindsay Hassett in 1953.
De Courcy received his callup into the Test eleven as one of three changes made to the team for the Third Test at Old Trafford. He scored 41 and 8 in a match ruined by the weather. Scores of 10 and 13 not out at Headingley were followed by 5 and 4 in the Fifth and final Test at The Oval. It was this Test that England won by eight wickets, the only outright result of the series, to regain the Ashes that Australia had held for the past nineteen years.
Despite the disappointments of the Tests, de Courcy did play some memorable innings in the first-class matches on tour. Against Oxford University, in the innings where he earned his nickname, "Oxford Jim" made 142 with thirteen fours.
Against Middlesex at Lord's, de Courcy hit five sixes and six fours in a brilliant innings of 74 in the first hour of the final morning. Against Essex at Southend he blasted 164, including four sixes - all from one over by leg-spinner Bill Greensmith (the complete over being 0-6-6-6-4-6).
With the Test series finished, de Courcy hit 118 against the South of England at Hastings in an Australian total of 564. But the best was yet to come. At Kingston-on-Thames gainst Combined Services - a team which included a number of county players called up for National Service - de Courcy registered his highest score, and only double century, of his first-class career. He scored 204 in four hours, hitting 26 fours and five sixes - three of them off Fred Trueman. His fourth-wicket partnership with Keith Miller (262 not out) produced 377 runs in 205 minutes.
By tour's end, de Courcy had made 1214 runs at 41.86, one of six Australians to top 1000 runs on tour. But with his disappointing form in the Tests, and Australia not playing any other countries for the next year and a half, he never played international cricket again. A duck for an Australian XI against the MCC at the start of the 1954/55 season put an end to any thoughts of further Test selection. Dropped from the NSW team later that season after scoring 1 and 0 against Queensland, he played just three more first-class games before making his final appearance for NSW in October 1957 at the age of thirty.
In 45 Sheffield Shield matches, de Courcy scored 2218 runs at an average of 36.96. In all, he appeared in 79 first-class games, scoring 3778 at 37.03, including six centuries.
The first player to represent Australia while taking part in the Newcastle district competition, de Courcy scored 9400 runs for the Lambton-New Lambton club, giving him the third highest aggregate in Newcastle district history. In the 1960's he played for Western Suburbs in the Sydney grade competition.
Jack Fingleton, writing in "The Ashes Crown The Year", his account of the 1953 tour, said the following of Jim de Courcy after his century at Oxford: "This chap is a brilliant stroke-maker - there's none better."
De Courcy, who died after a long illness, was survived by his second wife, two sons and a daughter.
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