With the English batsmen proving clueless against the left-arm wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav, Arunabha Sengupta documents the past and present exponents of the art of the Chinaman (oops, left-arm wrist spin) in international cricket. In this episode he covers the quiet, unassuming Australian ace Lindsay Kline.
Lindsay Kline, with a Test bowling average of 22.82, was perhaps one of the best Chinaman bowlers to grace the cricket ground. Of his 34 wickets, 31 came in overseas Tests at a splendid average of 15.35.
He started in late 1957, at Johannesburg, bowling in tandem with leg-spinner Richie Benaud during the tour led by Ian Craig. In the very second Test he played, at Cape Town, he performed the hat-trick to finish the match, dismissing Eddie Fuller, Hugh Tayfield and Neil Adcock. His first series saw him scalp 15 wickets at 16.33.
After this he travelled to the subcontinent, and by now Benaud had taken over as captain. Kline captured 16 wickets at 14.64.
However, strangely, whenever the action shifted to home territory, the Australian exponent of Chinaman suffered. Strange because on the hard surfaces of Australia, wrist-spinners have always been successful.
His Tests at home, however, made him immortal, in spite of just 3 wickets in 4 Tests at 100 apiece. And curiously it was the batsman Kline, with a Test average of 8.28, who became etched into the annals of cricket in indelible letters.
There were two feats of batting immortality. The first achieved in the pioneering Tied Test at Brisbane 1960-61. He was the No. 11, who, according to Benaud, “played the ball [from Wes Hall] beautifully” and ran … in the desperate sprint to steal the final run … when Joe Solomon from square-leg threw down the stumps of Ian Meckiff to end the match with scores level.
In the fourth Test at Adelaide, he held his end for 109 minutes, stonewalling against Hall, Alf Valentine, Garry Sobers, Lance Gibbs and Frank Worrell, staying there with Ken Mackay, denying West Indies a victory. After the final delivery, Mackay and Kline scrambled through the sea of spectators with broadcaster Michael Charlton shouting “It’s a draw, it’s a draw, it’s a draw.” The next day, the papers carried a picture of Benaud serving Kline breakfast in bed.
Unfortunately, that was his last Test for Australia. In spite of his 15 unbeaten runs worth their weight in gold, he had bowled 264 balls in the Test, conceding 147 runs without any wicket to show for his efforts. It was a wicket on which spinners had thrived. Benaud and Gibbs had each picked up five-fors. Hence, it was quite expected that the Australian selectors did not persist with him on the off-chance that he would save the day yet again with his stubborn No 11 batting deeds.
Kline captured 276 wickets from 88 First-Class matches at 27.39.
A quiet, unassuming man, Kline lives on in the history of cricket not for his stellar bowling deeds but for the two feats with the bat in two of the most exciting Test matches ever played. It is curious that few remember him as a Chinaman bowler. Even when Scyld Berry recently wrote [for the Daily Telegraph] about the Chinaman bowlers in the history of cricket before the current sensation Kuldeep Yadav, Kline’s name was conspicuous in its absence.
Lindsay Kline passed away on October 2, 2015, at the age of 81.
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