Obituary

Colin McCool

McCOOL, COLIN LESLIE, died in hospital in New South Wales on April 5, 1986, aged 70. He was an outstanding all-round cricketer in Australia in the post-war years and, from 1956 to 1960, for Somerset. Short in stature but of strong build, he was as a right-handed batsman most adept square of the wicket, either with wristy cuts or vigorous hooks, and there were few better players of spin bowling on a difficult pitch. His own spin bowling, a clever mixture of leg-breaks and googlies, had lost something in accuracy by the time he played for Somerset, and English wickets did not always give him the bounce which encourages his type abroad, but in his expansively flighted deliveries and the mystery of the turn came a manifestation of an art that was to disappear from English grounds. He was also a fine slip fielder.

Although he played seven times for his home state of New South Wales before war service with the RAAF, it was with Queensland that he caught the attention of the Australian selectors in 1945-46 with six for 36 against New South Wales, and seven for 106 and 172 as he "scattered the field by carefree batting" at Adelaide, and four for 102 and seven for 74 against the Australian Services. His 172 against South Australia remained the highest score of his career. Taken to New Zealand for the first-ever Test between the two countries, he scored 7 and, put on to bowl at the end, produced figures of 0.2-0-0-1 as Australia won by an innings and 103 runs.

In 1946-47, after taking sixteen wickets against Hammond's MCC side before the first Test, he was especially successful in the series. At Brisbane, on the second evening, he attacked the subdued England bowling to reach 92 not out, but resuming after the rest day he added only 3 more runs before playing back to Wright and being lbw. At Sydney, he took eight wickets, including five for 109, and at Melbourne, hooking and driving with absolute confidence, he scored an unbeaten 104 after going in with Yardley on a hat-trick and Australia 188 for five. Five for 44 in the second innings of the final Test, again at Sydney, saw him finish the series with eighteen wickets at 27.27, Australia's leading wicket-taker with Lindwall, and he scored 272 runs with an average of 54.50.

He did little in his three Tests against India the next season, and his thirteen wickets in the Sheffield Shield cost 48.61 each, but he went to England with Bradman's team in 1948. However, with a new ball available after 55 overs and a formidable attack waiting to use it, there was no place for McCool in the Test side. He was, moreover, handicapped by a worn spinning finger, a legacy of his triumphs in 1946-47, which blistered and continually bled, and while he ended with 57 wickets at 17.82, he did not reach his best until late in the tour. In South Africa in 1949-50 he again took 50 wickets, as well as scoring 438 runs, and he played in all five Tests, his five for 41 at Cape Town being his best return in a Test match.

But in 1950-51, although he was the leading wicket-taker in the Shield that season, he did not get a Test against England; nor against West Indies the following season. By choosing to play as a professional for East Lancashire in the leagues, he precluded the possibility of selection for the Australians to England in 1953 and at 37 his Test career was over. He had scored, in his fourteen appearances, 459 runs with an average of 35.50, taken 36 wickets at 26.61 and held fourteen catches.

McCool was 40 when he began his career with Somerset and his talents and his influence were apparent from the start. He failed by 34 runs to reach 2,000 runs and after four seasons at the foot of the table, Somerset finished fifteenth in the Championship. Against Johnson's Australians at Taunton, he scored 90 and then 116 in 95 minutes, one of his three hundreds that year. Next season, with another Australian, Bill Alley, also on the staff, Somerset climbed to eighth, and in 1958 they won twelve games and were third: their best season ever. His 1,590 runs that year included his highest score for the county, 169 against Worcestershire at Stourbridge, and the best bowling of his career, eight for 74 on a sporting pitch at Trent Bridge.

He was given a testimonial in 1959, when he scored 1,769 runs and took 64 wickets, and after 1960 he retired and returned to Australia. In his five seasons in English cricket he had scored 8,225 runs with an average of 33.70 and taken 232 wickets at 28.17: only in 1960, when he scored 1,222 runs, had his aggregate dropped below 1,500. In all first-class matches, 251, he scored 12,420 runs with eighteen centuries and an average of 32.85, took 602 wickets at 27.47 and held 262 catches. He also made two stumpings.

© John Wisden & Co