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'I got 92 and Lawry declared on me'

Rod Marsh tells Peter English how he started in 1970-71 with some dropped catches, played the first one-day international and ended the series still chasing a maiden century

Rod Marsh had an eventful first taste of Tests in 1970-71. He tells Peter English how he started with some dropped catches, played the first one-day international and ended the series still chasing a maiden century

Rod Marsh came close to a Test hundred in his opening series, but had to wait two years to become the first Australian wicketkeeper to reach three figures © Getty Images
I was as surprised as anyone that I got picked for the series because I really had no idea I was in the frame. There was an Australian second XI trip to New Zealand the season before and John Maclean was on it, so I thought "that's it for me". I'd got runs against New South Wales in both innings [64 and 32] before the side was announced for Brisbane, and they had John Gleeson, the mystery spinner. There were concerns I couldn't read Gleeson and he was expected to be the big weapon against England. So maybe I got picked for my batting? Don Bradman had watched me keep in a game before the Test; Neil Harvey might have seen me bat. It was a helluva surprise.
When I came into the team I wasn't welcomed initially. My main mates were Ian Chappell and Doug Walters, but then Brian Taber [the New South Wales wicketkeeper] was their mate and he missed out, so they were a bit aggrieved. Only Graham McKenzie was from Western Australia and I hardly knew him because he was usually away with the Australian team when I was playing for my state. Chappell and Walters took me out to golf the day before the Test and then to dinner with Ray and Peg Lindwall at the Breakfast Creek Hotel.
My first Test was tough and I dropped some tough catches. After that I did well. I got 92 not out in Melbourne and that was when Bill Lawry declared on me. I always said he should have declared earlier than he did, and there was no guarantee I would have got to 100 anyway. We were nine-down and 'Froggy' [Alan] Thomson was No. 11.
I would have been the first wicketkeeper to get a hundred for Australia, but I read a story from Bob Simpson who said I shouldn't worry about it because if I was good enough I'd get one [he did two years later with 118 against Pakistan and finished with three in his career]. So I took it on the chin. In Western Australia, which back then had a poor relationship with the rest of the country, they didn't take it so well. Jack Lee, a journalist for The West Australian, was totally biased towards Western Australia, and they kicked up one hell of a fuss.
John Snow was a helluva good bowler in that series. He was fast and he was good. There weren't too many bad balls and he was bloody quick. Geoff Boycott and John Edrich were a terrific combination and batted for a long time.
During the series we played the first one-day international [the third Test at the MCG was washed out and the game was arranged for day five]. I don't think we treated it any differently to a Test, we just tried to bowl the opposition out. The best way to slow a team down is to take wickets and we attacked. Australia won by five wickets and my claim to fame was I hit the winning runs.
England won the seven-Test series 2-0 and Marsh went on to record 355 career dismissals