Obituary, 2002

Gil Langley

LANGLEY, GILBERT ROCHE ANDREWS, OAM, died in Adelaide on May 14, 2001, aged 81, having for several years suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Though his renown as a cricketer, and his 26 Test appearances for Australia, resulted from his wicketkeeping, Gil Langley first came to notice as a free-scoring batsman with the Sturt club in Adelaide, where he was coached by Vic Richardson, the former Australian captain. He also played Australian Rules football for Sturt, going on to represent and captain South Australia, and in later life he was a successful lawn bowler with the club.

After war-work on munitions in Melbourne - by trade he was an electrician - Langley made his first-class debut for South Australia in 1945-46 as a batsman, and it was 1947-48 before he donned the gloves for the state, with such success that next season he was the country's leading wicket-keeper, with 31 dismissals. He went on to play 55 matches for South Australia, his last in 1956-57. It was an exceptional time for Australian wicket-keeping, with both Don Tallon and Ron Saggers available, and Langley was 32 when he won his first cap, against West Indies at Brisbane in 1951-52. He had gone to South Africa as Saggers's understudy in 1949-50, and now, given his chance, he claimed 16 catches and five stumpings to equal the world Test record for a series.

Between then and 1956-57, he played 26 Tests. In his three against England in 1956 - he missed the other two through injury - Langley dismissed 19 of the 44 batsmen to fall, including nine at Lord's, then a Test record. All in all, he played 122 first-class matches, hitting 3,236 runs (374 in Tests) at an average of 25.68 and with a highest score of 160 not out for South Australia against the 1953-54 New Zealanders on their way home from South Africa. He closed his first-class career with a fourth century. Langley's best Test effort was 53, batting at No. 10, in an Australian total of 668 at Bridgetown in 1954-55. He caught 292 and stumped 77 batsmen, including 83 caught and 15 stumped in Tests. His average of 3.76 dismissals per Test compares favourably with the 3.66 of Wally Grout or - England's best - Jack Russell's 3.05.

Compact, a shade tubby, balding, not very agile and déshabillé in dress, Gil Langley was no cynosure of elegance. Ray Robinson described his stance as akin to "a boy scout grilling a chop at a barbecue". However, unshowy and solid, he brought to the exacting task of wicket-keeping the inestimable virtue of safety, day in, day out. Always a most genial and popular figure, he made what seemed a natural career move when he forsook the gauntlets for the hustings and became Labor member for Unley in the South Australia House of Assembly. There, effective and well liked, he enjoyed another kind of quiet success and eventually found himself umpiring the House as its much respected Speaker from 1977 to 1979. He also served in South Australian cricket administration from 1978 to 1989.

© John Wisden & Co