Neil James Napier Hawke
June 27, 1939, Cheltenham, Adelaide, South Australia
December 25, 2000, North Adelaide, South Australia, (aged 61y 182d)
Right hand bat
Right arm medium fast
Neil Hawke played for three Australian states, for two Lancashire League clubs, and in every Test nation, and never lost his unquenchable enthusiasm for the game. Built for work, he had an ungainly asymmetrical action, but moved the ball late, bowled a well-disguised slower ball, was seldom collared and never demoralised: his best innings figures (7 for 105) and match figures (10 for 115) both arose during heavy Australian defeats. Hawke was a first-rate Australian Rules footballer, and injuries from that sport handicapped him in the second half of his career, while in later years he suffered acutely from illness. He finally lost his 20-year battle against various ailments on Christmas Day, 2000. But his lust for cricket, and for life, emerges in his autobiography Bowled Over, one of the frankest Australian cricketing memoirs.
Neil Hawke died on Christmas Day, 2000, aged 61, having been ill for more than 20 years. "Hawkeye" was a mainstay of the Australian attack in the 1960s and took 91 wickets in 27 Tests. "He was a strapping medium-pacer," wrote Gideon Haigh, "with an un-aesthetic, asymmetrical action but a fine follow-through conducive to late movement." His stamina (built up by playing Australian Rules) and his uncomplaining good nature were vital to a team that, in his time, often had to scrap for any advantage. Hawke's best Test figures - seven for 105 - came at Sydney in 1965-66 when he bowled defiantly with the second new ball after England had touched 303 for one. Even so, he could not prevent an innings defeat. Nine months earlier, he had achieved match figures of ten for 115 in another losing cause at Georgetown. In England he is best remembered for yet another negative reason: as Fred Trueman's 300th Test victim at The Oval in 1964. However, Hawke had a more decisive role in that series. Batting at No. 9, he put on 105 with Peter Burge to transform the Headingley Test after Ted Dexter had controversially withdrawn the spinners and taken the new ball. Hawke had already collected five for 75 in the first innings, and Australia went on to win the only decided game of the series. He took 18 wickets in the five Tests, second only to Graham McKenzie, and 83 on the tour at 19.80. He was far less successful in 1968 and dropped after Lord's. Hawke remained a heroic figure in South Australia, where he was born - he also played briefly for Western Australia and Tasmania, and for seven years in the Lancashire League - and became an even greater icon after 1980, when he was infected following an operation and became so ill that he needed 30 operations in two years. For the rest of his life he suffered regular relapses, but his response was inspirational: as his wife, Beverley, put it, "He fought back from the brink of death time after time."
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