Obituary, 2001

Neil Hawke

HAWKE, NEIL JAMES NAPIER, died on Christmas Day, 2000, aged 61, having been ill for more than 20 years. "Hawkeye" was a mainstay of the Australian attack in the 1960s and took 91 wickets in 27 Tests. "He was a strapping medium-pacer," wrote Gideon Haigh, "with an un-aesthetic, asymmetrical action but a fine follow-through conducive to late movement." His stamina (built up by playing Australian Rules) and his uncomplaining good nature were vital to a team that, in his time, often had to scrap for any advantage. Hawke's best Test figures - seven for 105 - came at Sydney in 1965-66 when he bowled defiantly with the second new ball after England had touched 303 for one. Even so, he could not prevent an innings defeat. Nine months earlier, he had achieved match figures of ten for 115 in another losing cause at Georgetown. In England he is best remembered for yet another negative reason: as Fred Trueman's 300th Test victim at The Oval in 1964. However, Hawke had a more decisive role in that series. Batting at No. 9, he put on 105 with Peter Burge to transform the Headingley Test after Ted Dexter had controversially withdrawn the spinners and taken the new ball. Hawke had already collected five for 75 in the first innings, and Australia went on to win the only decided game of the series. He took 18 wickets in the five Tests, second only to Graham McKenzie, and 83 on the tour at 19.80. He was far less successful in 1968 and dropped after Lord's. Hawke remained a heroic figure in South Australia, where he was born - he also played briefly for Western Australia and Tasmania, and for seven years in the Lancashire League - and became an even greater icon after 1980, when he was infected following an operation and became so ill that he needed 30 operations in two years. For the rest of his life he suffered regular relapses, but his response was inspirational: as his wife, Beverley, put it, "He fought back from the brink of death time after time."

© John Wisden & Co
 
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