HAMENCE, RONALD ARTHUR, who died on March 24, 2010, aged 94, might have been the forgotten "Invincible" of 1948, but the confident power of his batting remained bright in the memories of those who saw him. He was small and compact, and his assured footwork allowed him to drive exuberantly through the off side. A precocious schoolboy cricketer, he made his debut as the youngest-ever player in the Adelaide A-grade at the age of 15 years 67 days in January 1931. Five years later he was selected for South Australia, and pummelled the Tasmanian attack for 121 in a three-hour partnership of 356 for the third wicket with Don Bradman, who made 369. Hamence's next four seasons, however, produced little of note, although he did score a century in each innings against Victoria at Melbourne in 1940-41.
When cricket resumed after the war, there was a new sense of maturity about his batting, and he won a place on the tour of New Zealand in 1945-46. Next season, he again hit a hundred in each innings, this time against New South Wales. His 145 against the MCC tourists caused Bill O'Reilly to assure his readers that "Hamence's off-side play was executed with all the grace and vigour of Walter Hammond at his best." That innings gained him selection for the Fifth Test of the series, in which he made 30 not out as the first innings crumbled around him. Despite a quiet year, he played two more Tests against the Indians in 1947-48. In the first of those, at Sydney, he kept his composure on a treacherous wet pitch to top-score with 25 in a total of 107.
This helped Hamence to be picked out of the ruck of competing middle-order batsmen for the 1948 tour, on which his pleasant tenor voice made more impact than his batting. He reached the nineties twice, with 99 against Somerset at Taunton, but little allowance was made for him to play substantial innings in meaningful situations. Even after the final Test, he had to come in against the South of England with the score at 412 for four, after Bradman, Lindsay Hassett and Neil Harvey had all hit hundreds. His medium-pace bowling, however, did have the occasional outing and produced seven of his eight first-class wickets. Bradman described him as "an extremely useful reserve who could have played in the Tests with confidence", and "a great tourist who did wonders for the morale of the side". In 1950-51, he ended his first-class career with 114 against Freddie Brown's MCC tourists, his batting as satisfying as ever and his fleetness of foot in the covers undiminished.
Hamence spent his entire working life in the service of the South Australian Government Printer, his trade skills being utilised in his service with the Royal Australian Air Force. Courteous and self-effacing, he was a much-admired presence during the 1998 anniversary celebrations of the Bradman tour. His later years were much afflicted with arthritis, which he bore with stoic dignity, concentrating his efforts on nursing his wife, Nora, until her death in 2006. Following the death of Bill Brown in 2008, Hamence had been Australia's oldest Test cricketer, a position now occupied by Sam Loxton - one of the three surviving Invincibles (the others being Harvey and Arthur Morris) at the end of 2010. Hamence was a cousin of Charlie Walker, who toured England as the reserve wicketkeeper in 1930 and 1938.