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Lindwall, Raymond Russell (Ray) (1921–1996)

by Ian Diehm

This article was published online in 2021

Ray Lindwall, Australian News and Information Bureau, 1950

Ray Lindwall, Australian News and Information Bureau, 1950

National Library of Australia, 44074707

Raymond Russell Lindwall (1921–1996), cricketer, footballer, and florist, was born on 3 October 1921 at Mascot, Sydney, fourth of five children of New South Wales-born parents Arthur Lindwall (d.1939), labourer, and his wife, Kathleen Mary, née Foran (d.1929). The Lindwalls were of Swedish descent and the Forans Irish. Ray was educated at St Mary’s Star of the Sea convent school, Hurstville; the Marist Brothers’ Boys’ School, Kogarah; and, on receipt of a sporting scholarship, the Marist Brothers' High School, Darlinghurst (1937–39), where he excelled at sport, playing cricket for the first XI and rugby league for the first XIII in all three years, and captaining both teams in 1938 and 1939. He was also a splendid athlete who later ran 100 yards (91.44 m) in 10.8 seconds.

In cricket, though an all-rounder who modelled his bowling action on Harold Larwood's style, young Lindwall regarded himself as a batsman, scoring his first century at age twelve and making 219 and 110 not out, in separate matches on one day. After he began playing first grade (1938) for the St George District Cricket Club, however, his captain, Bill O'Reilly, saw him as a fast bowler and used the then novel technique of photography to correct faults in his action. He made his first-class debut for New South Wales in December 1941. Away from cricket, he was a talented rugby league full back and goal-kicker. In 1942 he joined his brother, John Edward Lindwall (1918–2000), in the St George first-grade team, on debut scoring a brilliant individual try and kicking six goals. In the grand final that year, the brothers scored all of St George's points in its 11–9 loss to Canterbury-Bankstown. Jack, a winger, was for many years St George's leading try-scorer.

Ray had qualified for matriculation in the 1939 Leaving certificate examination, but took a position as a clerk with an engineering company to help support his family. Following Japan's entry into World War II, he began full-time duty in the Citizen Military Forces on 18 September 1942, transferring to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in December 1943. He served with the 1st Fortress (No. 19 Lines of Communication) Signals in Papua and New Guinea (1943–44), and with the New Guinea Anti-Aircraft and Coastal Artillery Signals on the mainland, Bougainville, and Emirau Island (1945).

Back in Australia from October 1945, Lindwall went straight into the New South Wales cricket team. The army gave him leave without pay to join the Australian squad that toured New Zealand in March 1946; he was chosen to play in the only Test match. Although he resumed rugby league with St George that year, at O'Reilly’s urging he announced his retirement mid-season to concentrate on cricket; he was, however, persuaded to play in the grand final, against Balmain. In thirty-one first-grade games, he had scored 236 points.

After his discharge from the AIF on 5 July 1946, Lindwall had resumed his civilian position only to resign when the company refused him leave to play cricket. His career would entail a succession of short-term jobs, mainly in sales, to supplement the then modest earnings of a first-class cricketer. In the summer of 1946–47, despite missing the second Test against England through chicken pox, he played a leading role in Australia's defence of the Ashes; he topped the bowling averages, conceding only 20.38 runs for each of his 18 wickets, and scored a hard-hitting century in the third Test, batting at number nine.

During the series Lindwall and Keith Miller formed Australia’s first great opening bowling partnership based on speed since Edgar (Ted) McDonald and Jack Gregory (1920-21). Lindwall's balanced, rhythmic sixteen pace approach to the wicket culminated in a smooth, low-arm, side-on action that launched the ball at formidable pace. Miller complemented him with an explosive action from a short run-up. In the 1947 series against India, Lindwall was Australia's top wicket taker with 18 dismissals, including his career best 7 for 38 runs. At his peak in 1948 in England, he headed the Test bowling averages with 27 wickets at 19.62, his finest performance being a devastating 6 for 20 in England's dismissal for 52 at the Oval; and he made useful runs, including a valuable 77 at Headingley. He also had the best tour bowling average, with 86 wickets at 15.68. Named among Wisden's five cricketers of the year, he was praised for his ‘superb control of length and direction, his change of pace and general skill’ (Wisden Cricketers' Almanac 1949, 73). On the 1949–50 tour of South Africa, he struggled and was omitted from the final Test.

At St Patrick's Catholic Church, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, on 15 June 1951, Lindwall married Margaret Rose (Peggy) Robinson, an assistant in her mother’s dress shop. Initially, the couple lived in Sydney, but, in 1952, they travelled to England, where Lindwall was a professional for Nelson in the Lancashire League. While there, he developed an inswinger to add to his repertoire of outswinger, yorker, bumper, and well-disguised slower ball. In the 1953 Ashes series in England, although not as consistently fast as in 1948, he returned to the pinnacle of his form, finishing with the best Australian bowling figures of 26 wickets at 18.84, and making useful half centuries at Lord's and the Oval.

Back in Australia, the Lindwalls moved to Brisbane and he became Queensland's captain in 1955. Although diagnosed with hepatitis, he played in the 1954–55 Ashes series. After a strict diet, he enjoyed a successful tour of the West Indies in 1955, making 118 in Bridgetown, Barbados, his second Test century. The next year he toured England for the third time, but was plagued by injury and could manage just seven wickets at 34. With Pakistan and India also on the itinerary, he captained Australia in the second Test at Bombay. Omitted from the 1957–58 tour of South Africa, he regained his place in the national team against England in 1959. He finished his Test career with an arduous tour of Pakistan and India. Returning ill from hepatitis, he played his last match for Queensland in 1960 and retired. He joined his wife in her florist business and Peg's Flower Pot became a leading Brisbane retailer, Ray Lindwall Florist.

Undoubtedly a great fast bowler, Lindwall was also a dashing lower order batsman and a safe fielder. In 61 Tests he captured 228 wickets at 23.03, scored 1502 runs at 21.12, and took 26 catches; in 221 first-class matches, he took 794 wickets at 21.35 and made 5042 runs at 21.82. Appointed MBE (1965), he was later inducted into Australia’s Sporting (Sport Australia) Hall of Fame (1986) and the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame (1996). His old Darlinghurst school having been moved to the national capital, in 1990 Marist College Canberra’s oval was named for him.

Lindwall was five feet eleven inches (180 cm) tall, fair-haired, and strongly built. Belying his nickname of `Killer,’ off the field he was modest, unassuming, and somewhat shy, qualities that made him one of the game's most popular figures. His sincerity and conviviality led to lasting friendships with many of his opponents, including the great West Indian batsman (Sir) Everton Weekes, who had faced his controversial succession of bumpers on 29 January 1952 in Sydney; as always, Lindwall’s purpose had been to bring about a dismissal, not to hurt or intimidate. In retirement, he continued his passion for golf, played casual cricket matches, provided radio commentary for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and was a Queensland and Australian selector. He published two books, Flying Stumps (1954) and The Challenging Tests (1961). In his words, he had ‘loved playing cricket and loved doing well’ (Ringwood 1995, 136). He was a devout Catholic. Survived by his wife, son, and daughter, he died on 23 June 1996 at Greenslopes, Brisbane, and was cremated.

Research edited by Darryl Bennet

Select Bibliography

  • Cashman, Richard, Warwick Franks, Jim Maxwell, Brian Stoddart, Amanda Weaver, and Ray Webster, eds. The Oxford Companion to Australian Cricket. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1996
  • Diehm, Ian. Green Hills to the Gabba: The Story of Queensland Cricket. Caringbah, NSW: Playright Publishing Pty Ltd, 2000
  • Miller, Keith. Cricket Crossfire. London: Oldbourne Press, 1956
  • National Archives of Australia. B443, NX190995
  • O'Reilly, W. J. Cricket Conquest: The Story of the 1948 Test Tour. London: Werner, Laurie, 1949
  • Ringwood, John. Ray Lindwall: Cricket Legend. Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press Pty Ltd, 1995
  • Trueman, Fred, and Don Mosey. Fred Trueman Talking Cricket. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1966
  • Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, edited by Hubert Preston. 86th ed. London: Sporting Handbooks Ltd, 1949

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ian Diehm, 'Lindwall, Raymond Russell (Ray) (1921–1996)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lindwall-raymond-russell-ray-31405/text38857, published online 2021, accessed online 25 September 2021.

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