Benaud, Warne, MacGill – oh for a leggie now

David Lord Columnist

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    Australian cricket commentator Richie Benaud talks to Stuart McGill AAP Image/Jenny Evans

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    Australia’s been blessed with three world class leg spinners since the end of World War II – Richie Benaud, Shane Warne, and Stuart MacGill.

    Benaud’s stellar career ended in 1964, well before both Warne and MacGill were born in 1969 and 1971 respectively. But their comparisons make interesting reading:

    Tests played – Warne 145, MacGill 94, Benaud 63.

    Wickets taken – Warne 708, Benaud 248, MacGill 208.

    Wickets per Test – Warne 4.89, Benaud 3.94, MacGill 2.21.

    Career average – Warne 25.41, Benaud 27.03, MacGill 29.02.

    Economy rate – Benaud 2.10, Warne 2.65, MacGill 3.22.

    Strike rate – MacGill 54, Warne 57.4, Benaud 77.

    Two facts surface from those stats – Tests were scarce in the Benaud era of the 50s and 60s, and MacGill was an under-rated leggie.

    MacGill and Warne’s Test careers were virtually in tandem, but they only played 16 together as the national selectors of the day didn’t usually see fit to have both in the side.

    In those 16 Tests together, MacGill was well ahead of his arch rival, capturing 82 wickets at 22 to Warne’s 71 at 31.

    The gap is even wider at the spin-friendly SCG where they played five Tests together. The Australians won all five in a canter against England, South Africa, Pakistan, the ICC World XI, and South Africa for a second time between 1999 and 2006, thanks to the two leggies.

    MacGill captured 40 wickets at 17, Warne 21 at 33 – daylight separating the two.

    There’s no argument Shane Warne is the greatest right-handed over-the-wrist spinner in the history of the game.

    But it’s fair to say Richie Benaud and Stuart MacGill have earned their seat at the top table.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn’t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world’s great sporting spectacles