Bevan Congdon    Getty Images
Bevan Congdon Getty Images

Bevan Congdon, who s batsmanship and captaincy helped put New Zealand on the world cricket map in the 1970s, has passed away in Auckland following a long illness. The man who captained New Zealand to its maiden Test win over Australia, at Christchurch in 1974, died one day short of his 80th birthday, and on the fortieth anniversary of the start of the Test which brought New Zealand s maiden win over England in which he featured. A batsman for all seasons, known for his tenacity as well his flowing stroke-play, Congdon was also a useful part-time medium pacer, making him a valuable commodity in the early days of One Day International Cricket.

He played 61 Tests, scoring 3448 runs at an average of 32.22 (seven centuries), and 11 ODIs including captaining New Zealand in its first official limited-overs fixture, against Pakistan at Lancaster Park in 1973. Congdon, who represented Canterbury, Central Districts, Otago and Wellington, was at his best in the early-to-mid-1970s, averaging 88.50 on the 1972 tour of the West Indies, and 72.40 on the tour of England a year later.

It was on this tour that Congdon scored 176 in the first Test at Trent Bridge and 175 in the second Test at Lord s, prompting the timeless remark from BBC radio commentator Brian Johnston that he appeared “to have a weakness in the 170s”. Congdon continued contributing to the game well after his retirement, featuring on the New Zealand selection panel in the late 1990s. NZC Chief Executive David White said Congdon had been a shining light in New Zealand s Test renaissance through the 1970s and that his passing marked a sad day for cricket.

“Bevan was at the centre of the New Zealand team at a time it started gaining attention on the international cricket scene for the all the right reasons – in no small part due to his leadership and ability,” said Mr White.”He s left a real legacy in terms of putting New Zealand cricket on the map, and I know the wider cricketer family not just in New Zealand but worldwide, will be mourning his loss.” New Zealand Cricket Players Association Chief Executive Heath Mills paid tribute to Congdon s impact, and his influence on the country s cricket fortunes.

“Bevan played in a largely amateur era for New Zealand cricketers and made great sacrifices for the good of the game here,” said Mr Mills.”He wasn t only relevant to his peers and team-mates, but to everyone since who s been inspired by his exploits, and boosted by his willingness to help,” said Mr Mills.”All past and present cricketers, I know, will be saddened by his passing.”

Congdon is survived by his wife Shirley; his daughters Ali and Sandy, and grandchildren Matthew, Joshua, Lily and Reeves.