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Opinion

The Australian cricket all-time great alphabet teams: Letter R

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Roar Guru
15th March, 2020
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Following on from last time’s P Team, we come to the R Team.

This is a consistent team with solid batting and bowling but maybe lacking the stand-outs of some others. The keeper position was hotly contested.

Chris Rogers (Western Australia/Victoria)

25 Tests, 2015 runs at 42.87, five centuries, 173 high score
Highest ICC batting ranking: 9 (July 2015)

Chris Rogers played only 25 Tests in the twilight of his career after his impressive first-class record was finally rewarded. But it was a quality 25 Tests and he provided experience and solidity at the top of the order during a difficult period for Australia after the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.

Rogers has an incredible first-class record: 313 matches, 25,470 runs at 49.55 with 76 centuries.

Rogers had received one Test in 2008 as an injury replacement for Matt Hayden, but five years later, at 35 years old, his chances seemed slim. He was rather surprisingly selected for the 2013 Ashes in England due to his long and successful Country Cricket career and he repaid the selectors by becoming the second-oldest Australian to score a maiden Test century.

He then had a stellar series in the 2013-14 home Ashes, scoring 463 runs at 46.3 as Australia whitewashed England 5-0. Rogers scored centuries in Melbourne and Sydney and was the highest scorer from either side over the ten-Test home-and-away series.

Rogers continued his remarkably consistent form over the next two years, averaging over 40 against India at home before retiring after a successful 2015 away Ashes. He retired on a high, with his highest cumulative average coming in his third-last Test, scoring 480 runs at 60 for the series. This included scoring 173 at Lord’s in a 284 run partnership with Steve Smith.

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Chris Rogers of Australia

(AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

Owen Rock (New South Wales)

Six first-class matches, 758 runs at 94.75, three centuries, 235 high score

Also opening the batting is a cricketer many would never have heard of: Dr Harry Owen Rock. In only six matches between 1924 and 1926 Rock scored three centuries, including a double and has an average of Don Bradmanesque proportions.

After excelling for the University club, scoring more than 500 runs every season between 1921 and 1924, Rock made his debut at 28 years old while New South Wales Test players were absent and scored 127 in his first innings and 27 not out in his second.

He was again selected later in the season while the Test players were unavailable and hit 235 and 51. He was still dropped when the Test players returned despite an average at this time in excess of 145. Later in the season he was selected for the state to play the touring English but withdrew due to university exams.

The next season he got another game and promptly scored 151 against Western Australia in a single session. A couple more matches followed, including selection for an Australian XI in a trial match (scoring 12 and 35) and two final Shield matches batting at No. 7 as the Test players took his position at the top of the order (scoring 81 and 39).

Then, in 1926, after missing out on the tour of England – the implication being that he was too old and liability in the field due to a wartime leg injury – Owen rock graduated from medical school, set himself up in Newcastle, where he practised for 30 years and played no more top-level cricket.

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Ian Redpath (Victoria) (captain)

66 Tests, 4737 runs at 43.45, eight centuries, 171 high score
Highest ICC batting ranking: 3 (June 1971), behind Garry Sobers (West Indies) and Doug Walters (Australia)

Coming in at first drop is Ian Redpath, who was a solid member of the Australian team through the 1960s and 1970s. Redpath scored 97 on debut in 1963 but after a relatively poor tour of England in 1964 received limited chances over the next few years until the 1966 tour of South Africa. Three 50s and an average over 40 for the series was enough to get an extended run, but it was not until Australia’s disastrous tour of South Africa in 1969-70 that Redpath began to shine.

Despite coming into the tour with an average of 36.07 and despite the all-time great South African team absolutely demolishing Australia, Redpath stood tall with nearly 300 runs at 47. Redpath never averaged below 40 across his next six series, culminating in the 1975-76 West Indies tour of Australia, when he scored three centuries and 575 runs at 52.27.

And then Redpath was gone right at his peak. He achieved his highest career average in his last innings. His final four innings read 103, 65, 101 and 70. He had averaged over 50 in his last 33 Tests.

Considered primarily a defensive batsman, Redpath once hit 32 runs in an over in a first-class match in South Africa.

Jack Ryder (Victoria)

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Right-arm medium, 20 Tests, 1394 runs at 51.62, three centuries, 201* high score, Cricket Australia hall of fame
Highest ICC batting ranking: 4 (January 1925). Highest all-round ranking: 3 (March 1929)

Coming in at No. 4 is Jack Ryder, one of Australia’s stars of the 1920s, who but for the First World War would have had a much more imposing Test career. As it was he was the first Australian to finish his career of at least 20 Tests with a 50-plus batting average.

After taking 30 Shield wickets at only 15 in his debut season of 1912-13, Ryder first came to prominence as a batsman in the 1914-15 Sheffield Shield season, topping the competition run scorers and scoring 151 in Victoria’s final match to help them win the title.

World War then intervened and Ryder did not make his Test debut until 1920. He started slowly in the Ashes series that year, being run out in both innings of his Test debut, but then in 1921 he averaged over 100 in the series against South Africa. In 1924 Ryder scored a double century against England in Adelaide and he was considered the mainstay of the side as the pre-war players began to retire.

A weakened Australia lost the Ashes in 1929 but Ryder as captain scored nearly 500 runs at 54. He was then surprisingly overlooked for the 1930 Ashes tour as Bill Woodful was made captain. Ryder’s relatively poor tour in 1926 may have been held against him. Although nearly 40, he was still on top of his game, topping Victoria’s run scoring in the 1929-30 season as they won the Shield title.

Ryder was also a useful medium pace bowler. He took 17 Test wickets at 43 but also 238 first-class wickets at 29.7.

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Greg Ritchie (Queensland)

30 Tests, 1690 runs at 35.2, three centuries, 146 high score
Highest ICC batting ranking: 24 (December 1986)

‘Fat Cat’ was one of the players of promise selected in the mid-1980s as Australia tried to rebuild its side. The talented strokemaker played 30 Tests but despite three centuries never quite broke through to forge a long career.

Ritchie started in 1982 with an away tour to Pakistan and he scored an unbeaten second-innings century in just his second Test, facing the likes of Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir. But in the relatively unstable era of the early 1980s Ritchie was overlooked – to be fair, he had been a replacement for Greg Chappell, who no longer participated in away tours – until he had the misfortune of being selected for the 1984 away tour of the West Indies at their peak, just after the retirements of Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh. He made two half-centuries but averaged only 20.7 and was dropped again.

Ritchie started the home season on the outer but returned for the final Test, again against the West Indies, as a replacement for recently resigned captain Kim Hughes. Ritchie was run out for 37 as Australia recorded one of their regular Sydney ambushes against the Windies, with Bob ‘Dutchy’ Holland taking ten wickets. That performance was good enough to land Ritchie a tour of England in 1985. He just missed out on the Lord’s honours board, scoring 94, before recording his second century at Nottingham and averaging over 40 for the series.

Ritchie was pretty much a regular over the next 18 months, scoring a third century against India in Adelaide and again averaging over 40 against the English in the home Ashes of 1986. But this masked a worrying trend of making starts but not going on with it. In that series Ritchie reached 20 in each of his first six innings but did not manage a single half-century.

Ritchie was dropped after that series and, reflective of the Australian team of the era, he had played in nine series without ever being on the winning side.

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Ritchie’s first-class career was imposing, scoring over 10,000 runs at an average a tick over 44.

Vernon Ransford (Victoria)

20 Tests, 1211 runs at 37.84, one century, 143* high score
Highest ICC batting ranking: 2 (August 1909), behind Clem Hill (Australia)

Vernon Ransford was a talented left-handed batsman from the early 20th century. He debuted in 1907 and played 20 Tests over the next five years.

Ransford toured England only once, in 1909. He scored 143 not out at Lord’s and was Australia’s premier batsman for the series, scoring 353 runs and averaging 58.83. He was named one of Wisden’s cricketers of the year.

Ransford was a very consistent batsman. He was dismissed for single figures only seven times from 38 innings and not in his first five Tests, but as his single Test century shows, he did not often break through for the big scores at Test level.

In 1912 Ransford was part of a dispute with the cricket board that saw him refuse to tour England along with others, including Victor Trumper, Clem hill and Warwick Armstrong. At just 26 he never made it back into the Test side, as poor form and then the war intervened.

Ransford’s first-class record is 8266 runs at 42.4 with 25 centuries. He topped the shield run scoring in 1908-09 when he scored four centuries and a 94 for the season. Despite finishing his Test career in 1912 he was still playing for Victoria as late as 1928.

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Steve Rixon (New South Wales) (wicketkeeper)

13 Tests, 394 runs at 18.76, 42 catches and five stumpings

Steve Rixon was a long-time wicketkeeper for New South Wales, making 460 career first-class dismissals and at the time of his retirement, holding the career appearance record for the state.

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Rixon’s international career was defined by the significant events of the era. He was first selected in 1977 after Rod Marsh and Rickie Robinson both signed with World Series Cricket He played ten solid Tests against India and then away to the West Indies but was relegated on Marsh’s return. Rixon next received an opportunity late in 1984 when Marsh had retired and Wayne Phillips was injured, but he then signed up for the rebel tour of South Africa in 1985-86, which spelt the end of his international career.

Rixon had a couple of notable Test performances. In only his second Test he scored a first-innings 50 – coming in at No. 6 ahead of a young Kim Hughes – and shared a 101 run partnership with veteran captain Bob Simpson as Australia scored 394 in response to India’s first innings of 402.

In the second innings Australia were set 339 runs to win. Rixon scored 23 in a vital partnership with Peter Toohey to bring Australia within nine runs of victory, which they eventually reached for a two-wicket win. This game was famous for bowler Tony Mann scoring 106 as night watchmen in the second innings to chase down the imposing target.

His best batting performance in Tests was away to the West Indies at Georgetown in 1978. Rixon scored 54 in the first innings, sharing a 95 run partnership, again with Bob Simpson, to help Australia to take a vital first-innings lead. Australia then recovered from 3-22 to chase down 359 runs to win a famous victory by three wickets. Rixon remained 39 not out, guiding his team over the final 80 runs for victory.

Paul Reiffel (Victoria)

Right-arm fast medium, 35 Tests, 955 runs at 26.52; 104 wickets at 26.96, best bowling 6-71
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 9 (December 1997)

Paul Reiffel was a massively underrated player for Australia at Test and one-day level. He took over 100 wickets in 35 Tests. He also hit nearly 1000 runs at 26.52. Reiffel also took more than 100 ODI wickets and was a regular in both formats through the 1990s when fit.

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Reiffel was well suited to English conditions and over two successful tours took 30 wickets at 22.96, including two five-wicket hauls. He also averaged 40 with the bat on those tours to be a critical all-round member of the team.

He also played a vital role in the 1995 tour of the West Indies that was considered the unofficial world championship of cricket at the time. Reiffel’s contribution was 15 wickets at 17.53 as Australia took the mantle of world’s best team.

Reiffel’s dependable batting got better with age, averaging over 50 in three of his final four series to be a true bowling all-rounder by his stage.

Doug Ring (Victoria)

Leg spin, 13 Tests, 426 runs at 22.42, 35 wickets at 37.28, best bowling 6-72
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 13 (November 1951)

Leg spinner Doug Ring made his debut after the Second World War and toured England with the 1948 Invincibles. He could never quite equal the success of Clarrie Grimmett and Bill O’Reilly before him, and he played only 13 Tests.

Ring debuted at state level in the late 1930s, but World War II interrupted his career. On his return in 1946-47 his bowling record was solid but not exceptional, but in 1948 he fortuitously took his first ten-wicket match haul just before the fifth Test against the touring Indians. He was selected to make his debut and took six wickets for the match.

On the strength of that performance he was selected for the 1948 Ashes tour. However, it was a tour for the fast bowlers as Australia dominated a weak post-war England team. Ring played only the final Test and bowled in just the second innings, taking one wicket.

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He did not play Test cricket again until the 1951 tour by the West Indies and announced his return with six second-innings wickets as the Australians won a tight Test. Thereafter Ring’s bowling returns declined (five wickets in four Tests), although he made some useful contributions with the bat, including 32 second-innings runs in Melbourne out of a tenth wicket stand of 38 to win the Test by one wicket.

Ring seemed to be most successful before the opposition had got a good look at him, because he took another six-wicket innings haul in South Africa’s first Test in 1952 before taking only seven wickets in the next four Tests.

Ring had a second tour of England in 1953 but again was not a success, playing only one Test for two wickets. Thereafter he was overlooked at Test level as Richie Benaud made the leg spin position his own.

Ring’s first-class record was impressive. In 129 matches he scored 3418 runs at 23.25 and took 451 wickets at 28.48.

Bruce Reid (Western Australia)

Left-arm fast medium, 27 Tests, 113 wickets at 24.63, best bowling 7 for 51
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 3 (December 1991), behind Curtley Ambrose (West Indies) and Waqar Younis (Pakistan)

Bruce Reid was a tall, supremely talented and terribly injury-prone bowler for Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He played only 27 Tests whenever he was fit and his average of 24.63 shows how good he was.

Reid was especially good on home soil, taking 84 wickets at 20.05, which is in the Glenn McGrath level of elite. There was little to indicate this when he first was selected in the 1985-86 side against India and NZ, He took 20 wickets in his first six Tests at an average of 30, with no five-wicket hauls. A disastrous tour of India followed, with Reid taking a single wicket at 222 across two Tests. Reid seemed destined to be yet another failed experiment of the 1980s in Australian cricket.

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But he seemed to get better with age, taking 20 wickets in the unsuccessful home Ashes in 1986-87. Injuries followed and Reid played only five Tests in the next three years, but he took 21 wickets at 22 to show his value.

It all came together in the home Ashes of 1990-91. Reid played four of the five Tests and took 27 wickets at only 16. This included 13 wickets in the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne as Australia thumped England to take a stranglehold on the Ashes.

It proved to be a false dawn as Reid managed only five more Tests before injuries finished him. His final three Tests included two five-wicket innings hauls and one ten-wicket haul in a match to take 19 wickets at an unbelievable average of 15 and show him as possibly the greatest unfulfilled talent of his generation.

Bruce Reid bowls for Australia

(Adrian Murrell/Allsport)

Carl Rackemann (Queensland)

Right-arm fast medium, 12 Tests, 39 wickets at 29.15, best bowling 6-86
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 15 (October 1984)

If there were an award for effort, Carl Rackemann would get it every time. He remained only a fringe player for Australia, playing 12 Tests. Rackemann started extremely well, taking 11 wickets against Pakistan in Perth in only his second Test. He took 23 wickets in his first four Tests, culminating in 5-161 from a whopping 42 overs against the West Indies in St Johns in 1984.

But he took only 16 wickets in his last eight Tests, including none in either of his last two Tests, and he faded from the international scene.

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At first-class level Rackemann was a Queensland workhorse, taking a whopping 616 wickets over 167 matches. He played all his career looking for an elusive first Shield title for Queensland and finally topped the Shield season wickets tally in their famous 1994-95 title-winning year. Rackemann finished with the sixth most career wickets in Shield history.

Rackamann also played over 50 ODIs for Australia and his 82 wickets at 22.35 with an economy rate under four underlines his value in the format.

Next time we tackle the S Team, one of the competition favourites with a high-quality, dynamic line-up featuring a few loose cannons.