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Ask the Spider: Ask The Spider #79
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Q: Almost all of Australia's recent one-day international wicketkeepers (Adam Gilchrist, Brad Haddin, Ryan Campbell, Jimmy Maher, Luke Ronchi, Tim Paine) have been openers in the game, and I think Ian Healy and Tim Zoehrer opened once as well, then there was Wayne Phillips who was an opener by choice though he mostly batted down the order when wearing the gloves. Who was the last Australian ODI wicketkeeper who kept in more than a handful of games and never opened?

A :You're right that Healy opened once, against Bangladesh way back in 1989/90; Zoehrer actually did so twice, in the 1986/87 tri-series (which at that point was sponsored by B&H). But even though Ronchi is a regular opener for WA in the one-day game, he actually batted three in one of his couple of ODI knocks (and eight in the other), so he is the most recent. There is also Phil Emery who played once in Pakistan in 1994/95; Justin Langer, David Boon and Mike Veletta, batsmen, were handed the gloves on a total of 6 occasions when Healy was indisposed. And Greg Dyer, who briefly held the position in between Zoehrer and Healy, never went in first in a ODI. Rodney Marsh was also sent in at the top once in his 92-match, 13-year career. So, in essence, the answer to your question is that only Dyer of those who have kept for Australia with any regularity at all has never once opened in a ODI.
Q: And on that subject, what was the highest ODI score by an Australian wicketkeeper before Gilchrist? I think only Gilchrist and Haddin have ever scored centuries.

A: Indeed they have - the next best is 75* from Phillips, against Sri Lanka at the WACA in 1984/85 (he was batting at three in that knock, incidentally).
Q: What is the most unusual Test bowling career?

A: It's difficult to say what conclusively is the most unusual, but a couple that make for extremely strange reading are those of Allan Border and Basil Butcher. Border played 156 Tests, and in 155 of them took 28 wickets; but at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1988/89 in a dead Test against West Indies (in which specialist twirlers Trevor Hohns and Tim May had little effect) he took 11. Butcher, meanwhile, played 44 games over a lengthy career, and bowled in just 4 of them - but took 5-34 in the first-innings of a Test at Queen's Park Oval in 1968 against England. These were his only Test wickets.
Q: If you could divide Australia's Test history from the start of the twentieth century into statistical phases, how might they go?

A: I've always tended to make 14 groupings, which read thus:
1901/02-1912 - wins come in twos (Australia and England twice won consecutive Ashes, while Australia were far too strong for the nascent South Africans.)
1920/21-1924/25 - post-war dominance (England had lost many of their best players in World War One, and the Australians, not affected by casualties to anywhere near the same extent, repeatedly hammered them.)
1926-1928/29 - a short bit of downtime (England won consecutive Ashes)
1930-1948 - the Bradman era (Australia's, and cricket's, most famous player wove his magic, and [except in the Bodyline series where extraordinary tactics were used] he made his side unbeatable. They were held to a draw just once in 10 other series' as well, thanks to a loss in a game Bradman was unable to participate in due to injury. Culminated in a tour which featured a team widely regarded as Australia's finest-ever.)
1949/50-1951/52 - the post-Bradman (even though the great man had gone, the team retained their aura and most of their other outstanding players, winning 3 consecutive series.)
1952/53-1956 - the post-Bradman blues (Australia lost 3 consecutive Ashes, failed to beat South Africa at home for the first time ever, and defeated only West Indies.)
1956/57-1961 - Richie Benaud's renaissance (Australia won all 7 series, with a terrific side under arguably their greatest-ever captain.)
1962/63-1972 - the shaky era (Australia drew half of their 16 series; lost for the first time in West Indies; were comfortably bettered by the South Africans, who also beat them for the first time in Africa, and repeated the trick shortly afterwards; and lost a home Ashes, one of only two such occasions in 54 years. Their only victories came in a somewhat fortunate series in England in 1964, where rain probably saved them twice early in the series; at home to the weak India and West Indian tourists of 1967/68 and 1968/69 respectably; and a notable triumph in India in 1969/70.)
1972/73-1976/77 - Ian Chappell's pace era (where Australia were unbeatable and often untouchable thanks mostly to some outstanding pace bowling, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson most prominent, under one of their best captains.)
1977/78-1979/80 - the Packer interlude (where Australia were reduced to fielding an A-team in Tests and suffered accordingly.)
1979/80-1983/84 - the post-WSC era (where Australia should have been comfortably the second-best team in the World after West Indies but made something of a habit of losing crucial games that they had enjoyed the best of.)
1984-1988/89 - the dark days (retirements and Rebel tours reduced Australia to the weakest they have ever been and they won only a single, very fortunate, Test series victory in 11.)
1989-2006/07 - the golden era (where Australia were by-and-large untouchable thanks to a couple of generations of phenomenal talents which spanned all of the game's disciplines.)
2007/08 to present - the glorious unknown (the new era which we have recently entered, which will be assessed when it has unfolded.)
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