Zoe Goss could be genuinely quick at her peak © Getty Images
Zoe Goss could be genuinely quick at her peak © Getty Images

Despite her numerous achievements on the cricket field, Zoe Goss, born December 6, 1968 is remembered, somewhat unfairly, for dismissing Brian Lara in an exhibition match. A quality all-rounder at all levels of the sport, Goss had an international career that spanned 13 years, four World Cups, and 12 Tests. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a champion of the 1990s.

The incident everyone remembers

We all know what happened that day at SCG. Even if we did not, quizmasters, and later, YouTube, have kept reminding us of the incident.

It was an exhibition match, but it featured some big names nonetheless. The teams, named Bradman XI (consisting of Australians) and World XI (featuring mostly non-Australians), featured several superstars, most of them from yesteryear.

The bowling line-ups (Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson on one side, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, and Joel Garner on the other) would have looked ferocious a decade and a half back.

There was exactly one active cricketer (though Greg Ritchie had played even three years back). You could not organise an exhibition match in 1994 and leave Brian Lara out of it, not after his 375 in April (followed by 147, 106, and 120* in consecutive innings) and 501* in June.

Also playing in the 12-a-side match was rugby league international Paul Vautin and actors Gary Sweet and Ernie Dingo. Though all three were of Australian origin, only Sweet played for Australian XI and Vautin and Dingo for the opposition, probably to make up the numbers. The selection made sense, for Sweet had played Don Bradman in the 1984 television series Bodyline.

There was a woman in the match, Australian international cricketer Zoe Goss.

Bradman XI were bowled out for 269 in 49.5 overs without anyone reaching fifty. Abdul Qadir tested Goss the moment she came out with an assortment of googlies and leg-breaks. She smothered some and got beaten by a few others.

Things became easier when Sunil Gavaskar and Barry Richards (the latter in glasses) began to bowl in tandem. Goss cut, both late and square, and pulled and drove hard, and even stepped out to slog, picking up singles and boundaries.

Goss lost both Doug Walters and Simon O’Donnell (Sweet pulled off a terrific catch off Holding at long-on) at the other end, but carried on calmly.

Then Lara came on amidst tumultuous cheer. He tossed one up, the leg-break turned massively, and Goss was caught mid-crease. Jeff Dujon did the rest. Goss left, stumped Dujon bowled Lara for a 38-ball 29. Both men would face her wrath later in the day.

The match was evenly poised at 129 for 3 after 30 overs. World XI had lost their top three before they made it to a hundred, but Lara and Graeme Pollock brought them back into the match.

Greg Chappell tossed the ball to Goss. Pollock sneaked a single. A voice came Goss’s way from mid-off: “Bring two back and then push one away.”

Lillee.

“I thought I’d give it a shot. It was very humid that night and the ball was moving just enough by the look of it,” Goss would later tell news.com.au. Of course, there was sledging, for this was Australia, and Lara was facing a girl…

Goss decided to listen to Lillee. The first two, she brought in, and Lara blocked. The third, as per plan, moved away from Lara. The Prince, the most famous name in contemporary cricket ahead of the Bandra boy and the Victorian blonde, went for that famous expansive drive.

All Lara could manage was an edge. And Steve Rixon, out of serious cricket for seven years, pouched it — and whipped the bails off for good measure.

The great man walked back, stumped Rixon bowled Goss. “He was pretty cool about it. He said his sister got him out heaps of times when he was a kid,” Goss would recollect.

But there was still another wicket she had to take. It did not take long. Dujon, no mean batsman in his heydays, was looking to open up. Goss bowled one outside off, and Dujon, at his wristy best, ended up semi-slicing it to Lillee at extra-cover.

The wickets turned out to be crucial, for World XI lost by 1 run despite a spirited 71-ball 89 from Pollock.

Perhaps buoyed by her success, Goss celebrated with 52 and 109* in her next two innings.

The career no one remembers 

Though Goss was a competent batter, her real claim to fame was the pace she generated. Her Perth origin probably helped, though she did a brilliant job for Victoria after she shifted from Western Australia (WA).

In fact, though her bowling numbers for the two teams are eerily similar, her batting record for Victoria Women (1,108 runs at 44.32) were significantly better than for WA Women (1,692 at 31.92). In all recorded matches for WA, her numbers read 3,625 runs at 33.87 and 124 wickets.

Goss played 12 Tests, scoring 280 runs at 23.33 and taking 20 wickets at 25.55. Her ODI numbers — 1,099 runs at 29.70 and 64 wickets at 19.15 from 65 matches — were reasonably superior. Her 65 ODIs are also a record for any WA cricketer.

Goss was also the second cricketer to do the 1,000 run-50 wicket double in Women’s ODIs (after Carole Hodges). No one else would achieve the landmark in the 20th century.

One must remember that being a female cricketer in the 1980s was not the easiest of career choices. In fact, Australian cricketers had to pay to play in order to make up for the financial losses the Board incurred during overseas tour. What was worse, cricketers were rarely allowed leaves by their organisations, which meant that some had to quit well-paid jobs.

Early days

She picked up cricket from her days at West Leederville Primary School. By 11 she was playing with the boys (and was good enough to take them on), but the Headmaster was not supportive of the concept of a girl in the side.

That changed during her high-school days at Perth Modern. The boys, in no mood for on-field chivalry, peppered her with bouncers and the choicest of sledges. And when England Women toured Australia in 1984-85, a 16-year-old Goss played two matches against them, scoring 20 in her only innings and having combined figures of 20-6-43-1. She bowled to Hodges — the woman whose record she would later emulate and already a superstar by then — in the first match.

Then came domestic cricket, and Goss started off in remarkable fashion, with match figures of 5 for 41 against Queensland and 3 for 57 against New South Wales (NSW). She also top-scored with 61* in the only innings of the NSW match for good measure, and followed with 7 for 58 against Tasmania.

There was no stopping Hodges that season. WA Women came fourth in the league, but Goss was brilliant. Less than a year later she played her first ODI when New Zealand came over for a 3-match Rose Bowl encounter (the women’s version of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy): all 3 matches were played at Perth, albeit at Willetton Sports Club No. 1 and Rosalie Park.

After bowling out Australia for 181, New Zealand romped to an 8-wicket victory thanks to a 108-run opening stand between Debbie Hockley (89*) and Jackie Clark (57). Goss was run out for 9 and went wicketless, but ran out Clark.

Australia lost the second match as well, this time by 4 wickets. Goss was run out (for 17) and went wicketless yet again.

Goss finally came good in the last match, removing the dangerous Hockley as well as Lois Simpson and finishing with 12-2-26-2. Australia found some solace in the 8-wicket win.

Top of the world 

Within the year, Goss took new ball on a regular basis as well as batted regularly in the top six. In a Rose Bowl match at Wellington the following year she scored an unbeaten 96, her career-best, to guide Australia to a 4-wicket win. By the time the World Cup began next year, she was a part of the team nucleus.

Australia lifted the World Cup without much sweat. So comprehensive was their run that Goss batted only thrice in 7 matches (though she bowled a lot taking 7 wickets at 19.71). Goss’s best performance came in a league match against England, where she scored 47 to help lift Australia from 89 for 5 to 210. She followed that with astounding figures of 12-7-7-1; with her new-ball partner Karen Brown going for 12-7-11-2, England never got any momentum going and finished on 84 for 8 from 60 overs.

Goss had made her Test debut earlier that year, taking 2 for 18 and 2 for 38 at New Road. In her third Test, at Hove, she had scored 45, and Australia had clinched the 3-Test series 1-0.

The forties would remain a pattern throughout her Test career. Goss would never score a Test fifty, but her 12 dismissed innings would involve scores of 45, 40, 48, and 43 (there was a 38 as well). Against India at Melbourne in 1990-91 she would pick up her best innings (3 for 15) and match (5 for 49) figures.

While Tests were sporadic during Goss’s career, she continued to play ODIs. She had wanted to play more, and is saddened by the demise of Women’s Tests, for she believes that the “mental and physical skills to play Test cricket are really the epitome of all the things wonderful about the game.”

Goss played in the three more World Cups, including a second victorious campaign in 1997. By then she had been bowling less and batting higher up the order, and had been part of an astonishing win earlier that year.

It was one of those matches where you do not need to look beyond the score summary to figure what went on. To begin with, Pakistan Women could field only 10 members while Australia went in with a full team. Belinda Clark (131) and Lisa Keightley (156*) added 219 for the opening stand. Then Goss came out and hammered 94 not out in a mere 55 balls; Australia Women reached 397 for 4. Goss did not need to bowl, for Pakistan Women were skittled out for 23 (nobody reached 7), Olivia Magno taking 4 for 11.

Zoe Goss late-cuts one for WA Fury against Victoria Spirit. She would play for both states in the course of her illustrious career © Getty Images
Zoe Goss late-cuts one for WA Fury against Victoria Spirit. She would play for both states in the course of her illustrious career © Getty Images

Goss’s swansong, the 2000 World Cup final, could have been a dream exit. Australia almost pulled it off, Clark leading the chase after New Zealand had reached 184. When Clark fell for 91 the score read 150 for 7, but the tail held on, and Australia reached 180 for 9 with one over to go.

Then, as medium-pacer Haidee Tiffen prepared herself to bowl the last over, Emily Drumm had a brainwave, summoning off-spinner Clare Nicholson instead. And Charmaine Mason, trying to cut the ball, could only edge to Rebecca Rolls.

Goss did not have the best of farewells. She had got Tiffen earlier in the match but had scored a single run, her last in international cricket.

Domestic stalwart 

Goss took a transfer to Victoria in 1996-97, playing for them for two seasons before returning to her home state. As mentioned above, she had remarkable numbers for both teams.

Goss’s best performance came in 2000-01, which was also her final domestic season, with 342 runs at 57 and 14 wickets at 15.50, topping both charts for WA. Goss continued to play for Tuart Hill CC in WACA Women’s Competition after quitting state-level cricket in 2005-06.

She currently works as an environmental scientist for Department of Water, Australia. In 2014 WA honoured her with a life membership. They also named the medal for the best WA female cricketer of the year after her.

Pup’s pups

The story of the remarkable all-rounder will remain incomplete without an anecdote. It is not known exactly who the fan in the household was, but Michael Clarke’s Dalmatians were named Zoe and Goss. The Lara wicket might have triggered it.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry. He blogs at ovshake.blogspot.com and can be followed on Twitter @ovshake42.)