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Full name Geoffrey Osborne Rabone
Born November 6, 1921, Gore, Southland
Died January 19, 2006, Auckland (aged 84 years 74 days)
Major teams New Zealand, Auckland, Wellington
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm offbreak, Legbreak
|Test debut||England v New Zealand at Leeds, Jun 11-14, 1949 scorecard|
|Last Test||New Zealand v England at Auckland, Mar 25-28, 1955 scorecard|
Geoff Rabone, who has died aged 84, represented New Zealand 12 times between 1949 and 1955, played his cricket as he fought his war, in two contrasting but complementary modes. As a fresh-faced 23-year-old he flew Lancasters for the RAF during the Second World War. According to his crew, Rabone and his men several times side-stepped disaster or death and, when his luck ran out, he parachuted
from his crashing bomber into the arms of a French family who hid him until the liberation of 1944. The other side of the Rabone wartime personality was the fun-loving lad, quick to smile, who loved a beer and a sing-song amid the strong fellowship that warfare brings. So it was with his cricket. Rabone had many arts - solid batsmanship,
useful medium-pace bowling, occasional legspin and long fingers that curled round many brilliant slip catches. He may not have been of Test quality in any cricketing art but few could match his determination. Rabone was 27 but perhaps lucky when he joined the New Zealand side which toured England in 1949. He did well as the spare-parts
player - batting anywhere between No. 1 and No. 7, bowling spin and snaffling 24 catches. The 49ers, led by Walter Hadlee, Merv Wallace, Tom Burtt and Martin Donnelly, were a happy bunch but their time was up and the early-50s men like Rabone, John Reid and Bert Sutcliffe had to fashion a new side to face the hard-headed power of West Indies, England and South Africa at home and South Africa on tour. Rabone won respect as captain in South Africa in 1953-54 but he was again the determined pilot trying to protect his men from the flak. In 1954-55 he spent the first three hours of the first Test scraping together 18 runs against the firepower of England, led by Frank Tyson, in what was merely the start of another losing crusade. A fortnight later came an innings defeat in the second Test at Auckland, when New Zealand were bowled out for 26 in their second innings. Rabone was second-highest scorer with 7. That was the end for the 33-year-old Rabone, who settled into family life and prosperity with Shell Oil. He became an Auckland and national selector and maintained the company of his friends of 1949. He had the final tribute of what might almost be termed a Viking
funeral, coming out of retirement for one of the great occasions in New Zealand cricket - the match between Lord Cobham's Governor- General's XI and MCC led by Dennis Silk. This was cricket as Rabone loved it - something to cherish, to put a smile on the face and bring a quick beat to the heart, and not a matter of sporting life or death. Geoff
Rabone, gentleman of cricket, deserved a farewell like that.
Don Cameron, The Wisden Cricketer
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