Leonard Stuart Darling
August 14, 1909, South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria
June 24, 1992, Daw Park, Adelaide, South Australia, (aged 82y 315d)
Also Known As
Left hand bat
Right arm medium
Leonard Stuart Darling, the Australian left-handed batsman who played in 12 Test matches between the wars, died at Adelaide on June 24, 1992, aged 82. Len Darling was athletically built and a graceful, dashing player with a fine array of attacking strokes which he used to good effect in the Sheffield Shield for Victoria from 1931-32 to 1936-37. He had few chances to show what he could do at Test level, but looked the part more than once before his sudden retirement at the end of 1936-37.
Darling, who was born at South Yarra in Victoria, played in his first senior match as a 17-year-old in 1926-27, but had to wait until 1928-29 before making his début in the Shield at Sydney in an amazing match. Victoria fought off defeat after New South Wales had declared at 713 for six, leaving Bradman 340 not out. Victoria inevitably followed on but, helped by 96 from Darling, gained an honourable draw. That season he hit 87 at Melbourne against an MCC team containing Larwood, Tate, Freeman and Geary in their attack. He made no showing again until 1931-32 when he made his maiden hundred and averaged 48.88 in the Shield. Next year he came right to the fore, averaging 69.14 in state matches with three hundreds, and was brought in to bolster Australia's beleaguered Test team for the last two Tests of the Bodyline series at Brisbane and Sydney. At Brisbane he was run out for 39 in the second innings; and at Sydney his attacking 85 was top score in a total of 435. Many thought he was less bothered by the onslaught of Larwood and company than anyone else except Stan McCabe. In 1933-34 he made his highest score, 188 against Queensland, and his 93 at Sydney in the final Shield match of the season enabled Victoria to draw and thus take the trophy by a single point.
In England in 1934 the other batsmen were dwarfed by Bradman and Ponsford. Darling played in the first four Tests, but achieved little, and Wisden commented on his tendency to flick at balls moving away. In other matches he played some delightful innings and made 1,022 runs on the tour at 34.06. Back at home in 1934-35, he was in brilliant form, hitting three hundreds in successive matches, and was an automatic choice for the 1935-36 tour of South Africa. There he had a much better series and averaged 45.80. Against England in 1936-37, Australia experimented with several young batsman and Darling was only included for the famous New Year Test at Melbourne; in front of a 65,000 crowd he held two brilliant catches to dispose Hammond and Leyland. At the end of the season, when he was only 27, he suddenly retired and moved to Adelaide; it was believed that marriage played an important part in his decision. He eventually became sales manager of the Adelaide Quarrying Company. In 100 first-class matches he made 5,780 runs for an average of 42.50, which included 16 hundreds. His total in 12 Tests was 474 runs at 27.88. He was a superb fielder in any position and a moderate right-arm medium-pace bowler, whose 32 first-class wickets cost exactly 47. If ever there has been a better team man than Darls, wrote Bill O'Reilly, I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting him.
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