Lindsay Kline was a Chinaman bowler of considerable ability who took a hat-trick in his second Test. However, due to the vagaries of fate, he is remembered for two immortal feats with the bat. Arunabha Sengupta pays tribute to the man whose overseas bowling average read a very impressive 15.35.
He finished with a Test bowling average of 22.82. He bowled the rare, exotic art of Chinaman, and took 31 wickets in overseas Tests at a splendid average of 15.35.
Yet, Lindsay Kline is strangely remembered for his two feats with the bat — an instrument that did not really fit snugly in his hands. In fact he was little more than one of nature’s endearing rabbits. His First-Class batting average at the end of his career read 8.60, the corresponding figure in Tests ended slightly worse at 8.28.
However, the phrase that has stuck to my mind about this left-arm wrist-spinner from Victoria is Richie Benaud’s, “Kline played the ball beautifully.” In his book A Tale of Two Tests, Benaud was describing the No. 11’s one stroke to immortality, and even that did not earn him a run. He played the ball from Wes Hall to square leg, where Joe Solomon swooped down on it and threw down the one stump he could see, catching Ian Meckiff short of ground. It went down as the most famous run out of history as Test cricket witnessed its first tie.
Kline had played his first Test at Johannesburg in late 1957, bowling spin in tandem with Benaud as a part of Ian Craig’s young Australian side. In his second Test, played at Cape Town, he dismissed Eddie Fuller, Hugh Tayfield and Neil Adcock off successive balls to finish off the match with a hat-trick. His 15 wickets in that series came at 16.33. Later, he toured the subcontinent under Benaud, capturing 16 wickets at 14.64. He was a handful whenever he toured.
But, whenever the action turned to the home grounds of Australia, he struggled. Which is strange given that Australian pitches have always helped wrist-spinners. He played two Tests against England in 1958-59 and did not get a wicket after bowling 25 eight-ball overs. And when we look at the famous Test series against West Indies, not many remember that after that fateful final delivery from Hall at Brisbane, he was dropped from the second Test.
He returned in the fourth Test at Adelaide, and played his other memorable part in the history of cricket, but again it was with the bat. He faded into the pages of history with one last act of heroism, holding one end up for 109 minutes, batting alongside Ken Mackay against the bowling of Wes Hall, Alf Valentine, Garry Sobers, Lance Gibbs and Frank Worrell, denying the men from Caribbean their hurrah of victory. After the final ball was bowled, 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, the unlikely hero never played for Australia again.
Not that the removal was unjust. In that Adelaide Test, Kline bowled 264 balls, conceded 147 runs and had no wicket to show for his efforts, that too in a match where Benaud and Gibbs picked up five-fors. The four home Tests thus got him just three scalps at 100 apiece, and the Australian selectors did not find enough reasons to persist with him.
After his final Test, he hung around another season in First-Class cricket before calling it a day with 276 wickets at 27.39 from 88 First-Class matches.
His career was perhaps not exactly spectacular, and neither was Kline himself. He was a quiet, unassuming, modest man whose rise in cricket had been delayed due to national service at Puckapunyal in 1953. Playing during an era when one had to earn one’s living through a day job, he worked at the Myer Emporium selling sports goods. Later, he set up a company manufacturing and supplying fire equipment and ran it with considerable success.
Lindsay Kline passed away on October 2, 2015, at the age of 81.