The recent deaths of two outstanding sportsman took me back in time to when I was lucky enough to see both of them in action and admire their outstanding skills.

These are my memories of those fine sportsman and the matches I watched, New Zealand test cricket opening batsman Bruce Murray and British and Irish Lions rugby winger David Duckham.

Ex New Zealand cricketer Bruce Murray

Former New Zealand cricket test opening batsman BRUCE MURRAY from Wellington passed on January 10 aged 82 after a busy life which included being an opening batsman in 13 tests, a school principal, author and cricket administrator. In 2002 he was awarded a Queens Service medal for his contribution in public service.

I was at Lancaster Park in Christchurch in early 1968 as a 15 year-old watching my first cricket test live when Murray opened the batting on his test debut with his skipper Graham Dowling against India.

This match was not only a great victory for New Zealand but one where significant records were set. Murray, a tall lean right-hand batsman played beautifully on debut scoring 74 in the first innings, sharing in a 126 run opening stand. 

Another debutante was Cantabrian Keith Thomson, he scored 69 in his debut innings and became a double international having played hockey for New Zealand.

However the highlight of that innings was a magnificent 239 from Dowling, a New Zealand record surpassing Bert Sutcliffe’s old mark of 230 as they reached 502 all out. 

India had the world’s best spin attack at the time but they were ground into the dust on this occasion. Left-arm spinner Bapu Nadkarni bowled a marathon 66 overs 34 of which were maidens taking 2-144.

Left-arm spinner Bishen Bedi, one of the greatest left-armers in history, sent down 47.3 overs taking 6-127.

Blenheim, speedster Gary Bartlett ripped India apart in their second innings

India made 288 in reply with opening bowler Dick Motz setting a New Zealand test record taking 6-63. However one of my boyhood sporting heroes from my then home town of Blenheim, speedster Gary Bartlett ripped India apart in their second innings taking 6-38 as well as clean bowling two batsman off no-balls. This was a spectacular performance of blistering pace and I was so excited I think up until then it was the best day of my life.

(I became good friends later in life with Gary and was privileged to write his life story ‘Meteor Over Marlborough, The Gary Bartlett Story’)

Murray looked completely at home at test level in the first innings but came down to earth with a thud in the second innings being dismissed for a third ball duck in a match where he also took four catches at first slip.

It took an outstanding unbeaten 61 from Bevan Condon to get New Zealand home by six wickets. I was lucky enough to play several club matches with Congdon when he joined the Lancaster Park Club in Christchurch.

Murray was also part of the first New Zealand team to beat Pakistan in a series, beating them in Pakistan in 1969.

He debuted for Wellington as an 18 year-old and made his highest score of 213 v Otago in the 1968-69 season.

He is one of just three internationals to have taken a test wicket without conceding a run, clean bowling Indian opener Syed Abid Ali with a classic leg break. Abid Ali was a rare breed, he not only opened the batting but the bowling too with his brisk medium-pacers. Fellow opening batsman Farokh Engineer was another rare talented opening the batting despite having been in the field wicket-keeping for two days.

Among Murray’s 11 grandchildren are Black Ferns stars Melie and Jess Kerr.

David Duckham - Brilliant Winger

DAVID DUCKHAM, passed away January 9 this year aged 76.

The former England and British Lions rugby winger was an out and out star and a key member of the brilliant Lions team which beat the All Blacks in a series in New Zealand in 1971.

At just over six feet tall lean and very fast, Duckham scored some spectacular tries and was part of the best touring team backline I ever saw in action live.

I had recently moved to Christchurch from Blenheim and prior to the second test, went to Lancaster Park to watch Canterbury play the tourists. Well that was a bitter, brutal battle in front of nearly 50,000 fans definitely not for the faint hearted. 

The match was regularly interrupted by scuffles and a couple of all-in brawls. Two of the Lions props came off worst, Sandy Carmichael looked like he’d been in a 15 round heavyweight bowing match at the end of the game, his eyes blacked and closed, the injuries so bad his tour ended there. Similar for fellow prop Ray McLoughlin who suffered a broken and dislocated thumb, the result of punching Canterbury loose forward Alex (Grizz) Wyllie.

BATTLE SCARS Lions prop Sandy Carmichael’s tour was over after he took a pounding in the Canterbury clash

The Lions won that ill-tempered match 14-9 a brilliant solo try to big winger John Bevan proving the difference and it was obvious after the performance that they were not only talented but undaunted by the challenge and they would be a tough nut to crack in the tests.

So it proved. A narrow 9-3 win in the first test in Dunedin had the scene set for an epic second test at Lancaster Park.

In front of a packed house of 57,500 fans, the All Blacks bounced back in emphatic fashion winning 22-12. 

I still rate this the best rugby test I’ve watched live, it had a bit of everything and the atmosphere standing on the packed embankment about halfway up near halfway was electric.

Ian Kirkpatrick’s famous runaway try was the match highlight as the big loose-forward broke away near halfway from a maul, bumped off several would be tacklers and dived over out wide. I got to see the start and finish of his run as I yelled my lungs out jumping up and down to get a view of him in amongst a packed embankment, the crowd went ballistic and you could barely move it was so packed.

Bryan Williams was awarded a penalty try, first-five Bob Burgess scored two early tries and Sid Going got the other and at fullback was a very unpopular choice at the time, Laurie Mains replacing Canterbury’s own Fergie McCormick.

Although the Lions lost, they scored two brilliant counter-attacking tries started inside their 22, both to flying Welsh winger Gerald Davies. Watching the brilliant halfback first five combination of Gareth Edwards and Barry John, skipper and second five John Dawes and the great Mike Gibson at centre with Davies and Duckham on the wings and JPR Williams at fullback, what a team and what a triumph it was for their brilliant coach Carwyn James winning the series 2-1.

Duckham made several incisive runs during that test, his trade mark long blonde hair flowing as he ran at great pace.

Out of the Coventry club, he played 36 tests for England scoring 10 tries and three for the Lions in New Zealand and later received an MBE for his services to rugby.

What a player, what a team, what a wonderful experience seeing this great team in action twice.

On another sad note particularly for people in Marlborough, New Zealand was the recent death of former rep cricket captain and player GRAEME HAWTIN. Graeme was an excellent all-rounder and as well as performing over a long period as a player, also served on the Marlborough Cricket Association management committee.

He was also a very successful businessman, well liked and respected in the community and our condolences go out to his wife Shirley, family and friends

Graeme Hawtin outside his Mitre 10 store in Blenheim
Graeme and his wife Shirley Hawtin receive an award for their Mitre 10 business in Blenheim

Story by John Alexander | Supporting Images sourced by Absolutely Famous.


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