Obituary

Tom Burtt

BURTT, THOMAS BROWNING (TOM), who died at Christchurch on May 24, 1988, aged 73, made only one New Zealand tour overseas but it was a triumph for him. In England in 1949, in a hot and dry summer when the pitches generally favoured the batsmen, his accurate slow left-arm bowling brought him 128 wickets at an average of 22.88 from 1,231 overs. The next-best harvest was 62 by Cresswell, whose 692 overs were also the most by any other tourist.

Twice Burtt took eleven wickets in a match, and he took five or more wickets in an innings eleven times, including seven for 102 (eleven for 182 in the match) at Worcester in the second fixture of the tour. In the four drawn Tests he was the leading wicket-taker with seventeen at 33.41, including his best-ever Test return of six for 152 from 45 overs in sweltering heat at Manchester.

New Zealand's bowling in this series was not their strongest suit, but they played their hand cannily, bowling accurately and giving nothing away in the field. Burtt, stockily built and bustling in his style, served this stratagem admirably, conceding less than 3 runs an over, bowling a tight off-stump line to a packed off-side field. While specialising in a perfect length, he varied his flight skilfully to make batsmen think carefully before advancing down the wicket to him. Unusually, he imparted spin by flicking the ball with his second finger rather than his forefinger and he was also known to offer some wrist-spin - but "only when I'm pushed".

In his ten Test matches between 1946-47, against Hammond's Englishmen, and the South Africans of 1952-53 he took 33 wickets at 35.45; in 84 first-class matches from 1943-44, he took 408 wickets at 22.19, a New Zealand record until Richard Hadlee passed it. His best figures were eight for 35 for Canterbury against Otago at Dunedin in 1953-54. He also scored 1,644 runs, with 68 not out at Derby in 1949 his best, while in Tests he obtained 252 runs at 21.00, usually low in the order.

However, after reaching his highest score, 42, against England at Christchurch in 1950-51, he opened New Zealand's second innings in an emergency at Wellington and scored 31.He batted as he bowled, left-handed, and generally in a manner very much in keeping with his vast good humour. He certainly enjoyed taking 24 runs off Johnny Wardle in the last over he faced in first-class cricket, for Canterbury against MCC in 1954-55. In 1937 and 1938 he had represented New Zealand at hockey.

© John Wisden & Co