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Celebrating Neil Harvey, the last Invincible standing

Gifted batter, exceptional fielder and an all-round talent, he represented the very best of Australia's golden cricketing era

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
23-Apr-2023
Neil Harvey (centre) was the youngest of Bradman's "Invincibles" and made his maiden Test hundred on the 1948 tour of England. Here he's congratulated by team-mate Sam Loxton  •  Getty Images

Neil Harvey (centre) was the youngest of Bradman's "Invincibles" and made his maiden Test hundred on the 1948 tour of England. Here he's congratulated by team-mate Sam Loxton  •  Getty Images

With little fanfare Ken Archer's recent death saw Robert Neil Harvey become Australia's oldest living male Test cricketer.
It's a distinction that Harvey, a talented sportsman born on October 8, 1928, probably didn't want. However Harvey, as the last living Invincible - Don Bradman's brilliant unbeaten 1948 touring side - was always likely to attain the title as he was easily the youngest team member. He has retained his alert brain and apart from general ageing ailments has remained in reasonable health.
Harvey, who also played for New South Wales, was the most successful of six sporting brothers, four of whom represented Victoria at cricket. He followed his older brother Merv into Test cricket and in only his second match, became the youngest Australian male to score a Test century.
As a youngster in Bradman's side, he once asked his pal Sam Loxton - later a fellow selector - to seek advice from the legendary batter. The answer came back: "Tell Harvey, if he doesn't hit the ball in the air, he'll reduce caught as a method of dismissal."
Harvey took note of Bradman's astute advice and became arguably one of Australia's three best batters following the master run-getter's retirement - in chronological order, I have Harvey, Greg Chappell and Ricky Ponting.
I can vouch for Harvey's greatness as a batter. Playing in his final Sheffield Shield match at the SCG in 1963, I fielded as he made a masterful 231 not out.
Years later I said that Viv Richards, Mark Waugh, Mohammad Azharuddin and Greg Chappell were the best all-round fielders I'd seen. Former Australia captain Richie Benaud quickly interjected: "You'd better add Neil Harvey to that list."
I mostly remember Harvey's brilliant fielding in the slips, but I had heard about his prowess in the covers in his younger days. In fact, I become aware of Harvey at a very young age: my father, Martin, returned from the 1947 Claxton Shield baseball carnival raving about Victoria's "young Harvey", who was brilliant in the field and an equally good hitter.
I didn't play Test cricket with Harvey but he was an Australia selector while I was captain. After retirement I was drinking with Neil at the Pennant Hills Golf Club once. There were only the two of us left in the club when I asked Harvey how I became captain, as I was pretty sure I didn't have Bradman's vote.
Neil Harvey became arguably one of Australia's three best batters following Don Bradman's retirement. In chronological order, I have Harvey, Greg Chappell and Ricky Ponting
In his most colourful language, Harvey told me, "It was ****** me [that] got you the captaincy." He had persuaded his mate Loxton, a renowned Bradman supporter, to vote for me as captain.
I always felt a bit uncomfortable talking cricket with Harvey, who despite his expert knowledge only ever captained his country in one Test. It was a mark of his typical determination that Australia won that Test, at Lord's, in a tough encounter.
He was a popular and successful skipper because he always played for a win. As captain of Sydney's Northern Districts club in 1966-67, he scored a blistering century in helping to win the final.
Having worked with Benaud for many years, I know he was extremely grateful for Harvey's valuable input as a long-time vice-captain.
In later years Harvey gained a reputation for being outspoken about modern cricketers. He was a man who said what was on his mind. Some players should be thankful he wasn't still a selector when their careers began to wane.
Much of Harvey's reputation as one of Australia's greatest batters was gained because of his fleet-footed play against the best spinners. As a player who was never stumped in Test cricket, this is understandable, but he was also a very good player of fast bowling and retained the crucial No. 3 slot for much of his career.
Many people only know Harvey as the oldest living Australian male Test cricketer. However, for those who didn't see him play, he was a great batter and an exceptional all-round fielder, with a vibrant cricket brain.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist