Wisden Obituary

Lindsay Francis Kline


Wes Hall and Lindsay Kline at the 40-year reunion of the tied Test, Brisbane, November 20, 2000
Wes Hall and Lindsay Kline at the 40-year reunion of the tied Test, Brisbanein 2000 © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Lindsay Kline
Teams: Australia

KLINE, LINDSAY FRANCIS, who died on October 2, aged 81, faced the last delivery of one of the most famous of all matches - the tied Test between Australia and West Indies at Brisbane in December 1960. With the scores level, last man Kline nudged the ball, from Wes Hall, towards square leg, and set off for the winning run - but his partner, Ian Meckiff, was run out when Joe Solomon hit the stumps from side-on.

In the famous photograph of that frenzied finale (see Wisden 2015, page 238), Kline is running to the safety of the bowler's end, looking over his shoulder to see whether Meckiff has made it. In the heat of the moment, the batsmen were confused: "There was me running for a win," said Kline, "and him running for a tie." Meckiff thought Australia had lost, and was inconsolable until Kline assured him they hadn't.

Although he missed the next two matches, Kline's part in an exciting seesaw series wasn't quite over. He was recalled for the Fourth Test at Adelaide, where West Indies seemed set to take a 2-1 lead when Australia's ninth wicket fell with nearly two hours remaining. A left-arm wrist-spinner with few pretensions to batting, Kline had prepared by having a net against Australia's part-time bowlers, who confounded him repeatedly. A female spectator lamented that it was hardly worth sending him out to the middle, and Kline was forced to agree. But somehow he survived everything the West Indians could muster for 109 minutes, and an unlikely draw was secured when Ken "Slasher" Mackay chested away Hall's final thunderbolt.

Kline's unbeaten 15 was his highest score, but that was the last of his 13 Tests, after 34 wickets at 22, around five runs cheaper than his overall first-class average. He did tour England later in 1961, but there were few opportunities for another slow bowler in a side captained by leg-spinner Richie Benaud. Kline nonetheless took 54 wickets in the county games, including five for 16 against Nottinghamshire. He retired from first-class cricket after one more season at home.

Born in 1934 in Camberwell, east Melbourne, Kline was playing for the prestigious Melbourne Cricket Club by 1952-53. A tall man, with a kangaroo-like hop just before delivery, he was unusually accurate for a bowler of his type. He did not turn his stock ball prodigiously, but had a well-disguised variant - the left-arm wrist-spinner's googly.

He made his Sheffield Shield debut for Victoria in 1955-56, and the following season took six for 57 in the final innings of the then-traditional Christmas clash with New South Wales. With Meckiff claiming the other four, it too ended in a tie. Early in 1957, Australia's recently retired Test captain Ian Johnson wrote that Kline's wrong'un was "fast becoming the most dangerous and successful ball in Australian cricket", and he was selected to tour South Africa. After going wicketless on debut, he wrapped up the Second Test at Cape Town with a hat-trick - the last to date in any Test in South Africa (since then, there have been 28 elsewhere). Kline had Eddie Fuller caught at short leg, trapped Hugh Tayfield lbw - "It must have been close," said Kline, "because they were South African umpires!" - then had last man Neil Adcock well caught by Bob Simpson at slip.

Kline took 15 wickets in the series, but was overshadowed by Benaud, who reaped 106 wickets in all on the tour, and never looked back. Next season he took over as Australia's captain, which meant Kline - an inferior batsman and fielder - was likely to play only on spin-friendly pitches. On one, at Lahore in November 1959, he claimed a career-best seven for 75 as Australia completed their first series victory in Pakistan.

In the previous match, on a matting wicket in Dacca (now Dhaka), Kline had an important role, even though he wasn't actually playing. He was deputed to travel to the ground early each morning, to ensure the groundstaff stretched out the coir mat as taut as possible before nailing it down. "Those of us on the tour," wrote Benaud, "will never forget stepping off the bus and hearing the ringing cries of 'Pull, you bastards, pull!' floating across the ground. Not politically correct, but effective!"

© John Wisden & Co