Rod Marsh played a crucial role in a dominant Australian side, with his infamous sledging living long in the memory, before his cricket intellect helped restore England’s pride
He became one half of a double act who haunted England batsmen for a decade.
If you were not caught Marsh, bowled Lillee in an Ashes Test, especially in the firestorm of the 1974-75 series, you were probably clean bowled because you couldn’t lay bat on ball.
Rodney Marsh was also the purveyor of one of cricket’s great sledges as Ian Botham took guard against the Australian infidel.
“So how’s your wife and my kids?” asked Marsh beneath the walrus moustache which bristled with anticipation every time Dennis Lillee or Jeff Thomson had an Englishman in their sights.
Botham’s retort was comic genius – “The wife’s fine, the kids are retarded” – but it was a measure of the respect in which both men competed fiercely on the pitch, and were the best of enemies at close of play.
Rodney Marsh, a cricket legend by any measure, has died at the age of 74 after suffering a massive heart attack on his way to a charity event in Queensland last week.
There was a delicious symmetry about his Test record. In 96 Tests, he set a world record of 355 wicketkeeping dismissals in Test cricket – exactly the same number as Lillee’s world record 355 Test wickets.
In all, 95 batsmen went down in the scorebook c Marsh b Lillee – a record for any such combination.
As well as forging one of the most productive alliances between keeper’s gloves and pace bowler’s lateral movement, Marsh was also the first Australian to score a Test hundred.
He learned his trade in the back yard, playing against his older brother Graham, who decorated an accomplished career as a professional golder with 11 wins on the European Tour.
A pugnacious middle-order batsman, he scored an unbeaten century in the Centenary Test against England in Melbourne – where Derek Randall’s heroic 174 fell short of pulling off a sensational run chase.
But after putting England to the sword as a player, he played an integral part in rebuilding their fortunes at Test level as director of the ECB’s national academy and a Test selector from 2001-05.
As a talent-spotter, he helped to build Michael Vaughan’s team which ended 18 years of one-way traffic in the Ashes in 2005.
He also possessed an Olympian thirst, once sinking 44 cans of beer on a flight home from the Caribbean in 1973 – thought to be a record until David Boon allegedly drained 52 “tinnies” on a plane to London in 1989.
Discerning cricket lovers around the world will raise a glass to one of the great wicketkeeper-batsmen of any era.