Denis Thomson Lindsay
September 04, 1939, Benoni, Transvaal
November 30, 2005, Johannesburg, (aged 66y 87d)
Right hand bat
An airborne spirit
Denis Lindsay, the South African Test wicketkeeper-batsman of the 1960s, died in Johannesburg aged 66 on November 30. He is best remembered for his dominant role in the victorious 1966-67 home series against Bobby Simpson's Australians in which he scored 606 runs in seven innings at an average of 86.57. He also took a then South African record 24 catches.
His cavalier feats in a maiden 3-1 series win over Australia are indelibly writ in the folklore of South African cricket; the audacious manner in which he turned potential disaster into triumph with a carefree disregard for the batting wreckage that lay around him was the difference between the sides.
The extent of his influence is well illustrated. In the first Test at Johannesburg he came to the crease on 41 for 5 after South Africa had elected to bat. They won by 233 runs, his contributions 69 and 182, a record score by a South African wicketkeeper.
In the third Test at Durban South Africa were put into bat on a well-grassed pitch; this time they slumped to 94 for 6 but Lindsay's 137 hauled them back and they won by eight wickets. That century, in difficult conditions, was probably the most valuable of his three in the series. In it, for once, he did not attempt to hit sixes.
Lindsay's childhood friend was the allrounder Herbert `Tiger' Lance. During the 1960s they were regular team-mates in the Test team, an irrepressible and inseparable duo. Tall, strong men, they always stood side by side in the team photographs and batted consecutively in the middle order, sharing two century partnerships in the 1966-67 series. They even ran to the same end in the second innings at Newlands when their 119-run stand ended with Lance the victim of the run-out.
In the field Lance, at second slip, was also close enough to his pal to offer highly original words of wisdom. Indeed, as a devoted student of the game Lindsay found the perfect foil in the rough-hewn Lance. Long after their playing days they would watch together at the Wanderers or Centurion.
On one occasion they were discussing the inability of a Test batsman to find the gaps in the field. "He has to go through the air," argued Lance. "No, the risk's too great; he has to keep it on the grass," retorted Lindsay. The argument persisted, "through the air" or "on the grass", until Lindsay turned to Lance and asked, "Why are you so adamant he should go airborne?" "Easy, my mate," replied Lance, "there's more air than grass."
This simple truth would not have been lost on Lindsay. In the summer of 1966-67 he regularly elected to hit through the air with hooks and lofted drives in his astonishing assault on Australia's bowlers. He hit 12 sixes in the five-match series, nine of them coming at the Wanderers, when he scored magnificent centuries in the two Tests played on that ground.
In attempting to hook a bouncer from the tall fast bowler David Renneberg in the second Test at Newlands he miscued for once and the ball thundered off the edge on to his unprotected forehead. As Lindsay fell unconscious on the pitch, blood starting from a nasty wound, the ball rebounded into Renneberg's hands for a simple return catch and Lindsay was out for 5.
In the second innings he returned bravely, his forehead stitched, to hook three sixes in his 81. In the days before helmets he never batted in a cap. In the fourth Test at the Wanderers he came in at 3.25pm. His century came 110 minutes later. An appeal against the light, with Lindsay on 95, was turned down by the umpires. He hit the next ball from Bob Cowper into the distant grandstand. He went on to score 131.
Lindsay made his Test debut in Australia in 1963-64 and was a member of the team that won the series in England in 1965. In his 19 Tests he scored 1,130 runs (ave 37.66) and made 59 dismissals. He believed fervently in the spirit of the game and served in his latter years as an ICC match referee.
Lindsay played his provincial cricket for North-Eastern Transvaal, one of South Africa's lesser teams. He enjoyed playing against neighbouring Transvaal (Lance's team) at the Wanderers where, shortly before the arrival of Simpson's Australians in October 1966, he hit a career-best 216.
He was the son of the South African wicketkeeper Johnny Lindsay who played three Tests in England in 1947.
Denis Lindsay was a wicketkeeper-batsman who was good enough in either department to win a place in the Test side. He was called up for the 1963-64 tour of Australia and New Zealand as understudy to John Waite and he played three Tests on the tour, and another three Tests against England the following season before making way for Waite in the last two Tests of the series. In 1965 he was first choice for the England tour, but his zenith came against Australia in 1966-67 when he hammered three centuries in scoring 606 runs at 86.57 in the series (a record for a wicketkeeper) as well as taking 24 catches. His 182 at the Wanderers in the first Test (Wisden wrote "he let loose a flood of thrilling strokes without ever seeming to use other than the middle of the bat") was instrumental in helping South Africa gain their first series win over Australia. He was still at his peak when South Africa were cast into the international wilderness, scoring 43 and 60 in his - and their - final Test. He went on to become an effective ICC match referee.
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