Jack Fingleton

Jack Fingleton

Infobox Historic Cricketer

nationality = Australian
country = Australia
country abbrev = AUS
name = Jack Fingleton
picture = Jack_Fingleton.jpg
batting style = Right-hand bat
bowling style = -
tests = 18
test runs = 1189
test bat avg = 42.46
test 100s/50s = 5/3
test top score = 136
test balls = -
test wickets = -
test bowl avg = -
test 5s = -
test 10s = -
test best bowling = -
test catches/stumpings = 13/-
FCs = 108
FC runs = 6816
FC bat avg = 44.54
FC 100s/50s = 22/31
FC top score = 167
FC balls = 91
FC wickets = 2
FC bowl avg = 27.00
FC 5s = -
FC 10s = -
FC best bowling = 1/6
FC catches/stumpings = 81/4
debut date = 12 February
debut year = 1932
last date = 20 August
last year = 1938
source = http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/ci/content/player/5229.html

John Henry Webb Fingleton OBE (born 28 April 1908 in Sydney; died 22 November 1981 in Sydney) was an Australian cricketer turned political and cricket commentator. A stubborn opening batsman, he scored five Test centuries, representing Australia in eighteen Tests between 1932 and 1938. He was also known for his involvement in several cricket diplomacy incidents in his career, accused of leaking the Bodyline clash between Australian captain Bill Woodfull and English manager Plum Warner, and later of causing sectarian tension within the team by leading a group of players of Irish Catholic descent in undermining the leadership of the Protestant Don Bradman. In retirement, Fingleton became a prominent political commentator in Canberra, with links to Australian Prime Ministers. He is regarded as one of Australia's finest cricket writers, with a perceptive and occasionally sardonic style, marked by persistent jibes at Bradman.


A right-hand opening batsman, Fingleton was noted primarily for his obdurate defense rather than for his aggression. Like most successful opening batsmen, he had a small back-lift and was rarely surprised by the quicker half-volley or yorker. Fingleton was often described as "courageous", in particular for his defiant batting against Bodyline. He was also an athletic and gifted fieldsman, who built his reputation in the covers. Later he became noted along with Vic Richardson and Bill Brown in South Africa in 1935–36 as part of Bill O'Reilly's leg-trap. Neville Cardus, once described the Fingleton-Brown combination as "crouching low and acquisitively, each with as many arms as an Indian God".

His partnership with Brown was regarded as one of the great opening pairings in the history of Australian Test cricket.cite web|url=http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/ci/content/story/70460.html| title='What did you do at Lord's, Grandpa?'| first=David |last=Frith|authorlink=David Frith|accessdate=2007-12-06|work=Wisden Cricket Monthly |year=1987|publisher=Cricinfo] In ten Tests together as an opening partnership, the pair averaged 63.75 for the first wicket, higher than any other Australian pair with more than 1000 runs.cite web| title=Invincible memories | first=Peter |last=English |url=http://content-uk.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/current/story/338064.html | date=2008-02-23 |accessdate=2008-06-24 |publisher=Cricinfo]

Early years

Born at Waverley in the inner eastern suburbs of Sydney, Fingleton was educated at the Roman Catholic St Francis's School, in the inner city suburb of Paddington before moving to Waverley College.cite web| title= Wisden 1982 - Obituary - Jack Fingleton |url=http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/ci/content/story/155427.html| year= 1982 |accessdate=2007-05-21| publisher=Wisden] His father James was a tram driver, becoming a member of the New South Wales Parliament. The elder Fingleton died of tuberculosis when Jack was twelve,Cashman, pp. 92–93.] and he left school at the age of fifteen to begin a journalism career, with a cadetship with the now defunct Sydney Daily Guardian. Later, he moved to the Telegraph Pictorial where he worked for several years before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Fingleton was unable to distinguish himself on the field while at school, but after joining Waverley, he quickly broke into the First XI of a grade team which included Test players Alan Kippax, Hanson Carter and Arthur Mailey.

First class career

Fingleton made his first-class debut in 1928–29, playing in two matches. He had two innings, scoring a duck and 25 not out. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1920S/1928-29/AUS_LOCAL/STATS/FC_1928-29_BAT_MOST_RUNS.html| title=Australian First-Class Season 1928/29: Batting - Most Runs| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31] The following season, Fingleton missed selection for the entire first-class season. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1920S/1929-30/AUS_LOCAL/STATS/FC_1929-30_BAT_MOST_RUNS.html| title=Australian First-Class Season 1929/30: Batting - Most Runs| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31]

In 1930–31, aged 22, Fingleton made his Sheffield Shield debut for New South Wales, and first came to prominence when he withstood a ferocious opening spell against the express pace of Eddie Gilbert in Brisbane against Queensland. Fingleton scored 56 and 71 in the match. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1930-31/AUS_LOCAL/SS/NSW_QLD_SS_11-15DEC1930.html| title=New South Wales v Queensland at Sydney Cricket Ground, 11-15 Dec 1930| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31] Fingleton did not play a full season and ended with 210 runs at 35.00, including the two half-centuries. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1930-31/AUS_LOCAL/STATS/FC_1930-31_BAT_MOST_RUNS.html| title=Australian First-Class Season 1930/31: Batting - Most Runs| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31]

In 1931–32, Fingleton went on to score a stubborn 93 and featured in a 195-run fourth wicket partnership with Stan McCabe. After scoring his maiden first-class century of 117 in the following match, he was selected for the Test team for the 1931–32 home series against South Africa. It was less than twelve months and only five first-class matches after his Shield debut. He was twelfth man for three consecutive Tests before making his debut in the Fifth and final Test due to Bill Ponsford's illness. In a low scoring match on a rain softened pitch, Fingleton was second top-scorer with 40 as Australia recorded an innings victory. Fingleton ended the season with 386 runs at 42.88. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1931-32/AUS_LOCAL/STATS/FC_1931-32_BAT_MOST_RUNS.html| title=Australian First-Class Season 1931/32: Batting - Most Runs| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31]

In the following summer came the "Bodyline" series, when England toured under Douglas Jardine and targeted the upper bodies of the Australian batsmen with short-pitched bowling, using a close leg side cordon to catch balls fended away from the body. In one of the tour matches before the Tests, Fingleton scored a defiant 119*, carrying his bat for New South Wales against the bumper barrage of Harold Larwood and Gubby Allen, ensuring his selection for the First Test. His earlier experience held him in good stead as he scored 26 and 40 as Australia were crushed by ten wickets in the First Test in Sydney. He then made a defiant four hour innings to score 83 in the first innings of Australia's only win of the series in the Second Test in Melbourne. He appeared as well equipped as any Australian to combat England's strategy.

Warner and Woodfull incident

However, the Third Test at the Adelaide Oval was disastrous for Fingleton, who scored a pair as Australia were hammered by 338 runs. He was blamed for leaking the details of the dressing room exchange between captain Bill Woodfull and English manager Plum Warner, which almost caused the abandonment of the Test series. Warner had visited Woodfull after he was struck in the heart by Larwood's short pitched bowling, to which Woodfull retorted "I do not want to see you Mr. Warner. There are two sides out there. One is playing cricket and the other is not." The leak caused a sensastion, as Woodfull had publicly remained composed in the face of the body barrage, neither complaining nor retaliating.Cashman, pp. 322–323.] Fingleton was dropped for the remaining two Tests of the series. Fingleton always denied responsibility for the leak.cite book | last = Pollard |first= Jack | year = 1969 | title = Cricket the Australian Way]

The "Bodyline" season also marked the beginning of Fingleton's opening combination with Bill Brown, who made his New South Wales debut in the same season.Cashman, p. 67.] Fingleton scored four half-centuries for the remainder of the first-class season and ended with 648 runs at 38.11. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1932-33/AUS_LOCAL/STATS/FC_1932-33_BAT_MOST_RUNS.html| title=Australian First-Class Season 1932/33: Batting - Most Runs| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31]

Despite a prolific 1933–34 Shield season in which he scored 655 runs at 59.54 with two centuries, [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1933-34/AUS_LOCAL/STATS/FC_1933-34_BAT_MOST_RUNS.html| title=Australian First-Class Season 1933/34: Batting - Most Runs| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31] Fingleton was an overlooked for the Australian side selected to tour England in 1934. With captain Woodfull and Bill Ponsford the established openers, there was only one position for a spare opener, and Brown won the position over his partner, who had performed to a similar standard during the season. The selectors asked Don Bradman, Australia's leading batsman and state team-mate to Brown and Fingleton, for advice. Bradman nominated Brown, believing that his style was better suited to English pitches.Perry, p. 175.] cite web| title=Bill Brown: Accomplished batsman who scored handsomely for Australia before and after the war | |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article3570490.ece | first=Derek |last=Hodgson |date=2008-03-18 |accessdate=2008-06-24 |publisher=The Times] A disappointed Fingleton disagreed and wrote to Woodfull, saying "You have chosen chaps who do not like fast bowling".Cite news
title=Bill Brown |url= http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1581980/Bill-Brown.html |date=2008-03-18 |accessdate=2008-06-10 |publisher=The Telegraph
] Wisden speculated that it may have been due to cricket diplomacy reasons following the incident in Adelaide.

Test recall

With retirements of both Woodfull and Ponsford following the 1934 tour to England, positions at the top of the order became available. Fingleton responded to his omission from the Ashes tour by leading the run-scoring aggregates in the 1933–34 season. He scored 880 runs at 58.66 with four centuries, almost 200 runs more than the second most prolific batsman, Brown. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1934-35/AUS_LOCAL/STATS/FC_1934-35_BAT_MOST_RUNS.html| title=Australian First-Class Season 1934/35: Batting - Most Runs| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31] The pair started the season with a 249-run stand in New South Wales' first match of the season against South Australia, both scoring centuries in an innings victory. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1934-35/AUS_LOCAL/SS/NSW_SOA_SS_23-27NOV1934.html| title=New South Wales v South Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground, 23-27 Nov 1934| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31] Despite the form of the openers, New South Wales failed to win the Sheffield Shield.cite web|url=http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/australia/content/story/260057.html|accessdate=2007-11-30|title=A history of the Sheffield Shield |publisher=Cricinfo |first=Martin |last=Williamson]

As a result of his performances, Fingleton was recalled to the Test team for the tour of South Africa in 1935–36, where he partnered Brown at the top of the innings. The tour was to be the most prolific phase of his career and included several large opening stands with Brown. Against Natal at Durban, he made his highest first class score of 167.

Fingleton returned to the Test arena in the First Test at Durban. After making two in the first innings, he was unbeaten on 36 when Australia reached their second innings target with nine wickets in hand. He followed this with 62 and 40 in the Second Test at Johannesburg. Australia needed a Test record of 399 in the second innings to win on a turning wicket, Fingleton joined. McCabe in a 177-run partnership that pushed the score to 1/194. Australia, with needed only 125 with half the day remaining when poor visibility ended play.Cashman, pp. 197–198.] [cite web| title = 2nd Test South Africa v Australia at Johannesburg 24-28 Dec 1935 |url=http://www.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1935-36/AUS_IN_RSA/AUS_RSA_T2_24-28DEC1935.html|publisher= Cricinfo|accessdate=2007-01-12]

Fingleton finished the series with centuries in each of the last three Tests; 112 at Cape Town, 108 at Johannesburg and 118 in Durban. Each of these resulted in an innings victory for Australia as the series was taken 4–0. Fingleton ended the Test series with 478 at 79.66. In the following 1936–37 season in Australia, against Allen's Englishmen, he became the first player to score centuries in four consecutive Test innings when he scored 100 in the first innings of the First Test at Brisbane. This was later equalled by Alan Melville, (whose four centuries were scored on either side of World War II) and surpassed by the West Indian, Everton Weekes in 1948–49. Fingleton's run ended in the second innings, falling for a golden duck as Australia were crushed by 322 runs.cite web|url=http://stats.cricinfo.com/guru?sdb=team;team=AUS;class=testteam;filter=basic;opposition=0;notopposition=0;decade=0;homeaway=0;continent=0;country=0;notcountry=0;groundid=0;season=0;startdefault=1877-03-15;start=1877-03-15;enddefault=2007-11-20;end=2007-11-20;tourneyid=0;finals=0;daynight=0;toss=0;scheduledovers=0;scheduleddays=0;innings=0;followon=0;result=0;seriesresult=0;captainid=0;recent=;viewtype=resultlist;runslow=;runshigh=;wicketslow=;wicketshigh=;ballslow=;ballshigh=;overslow=;overshigh=;bpo=0;batevent=;conclow=;conchigh=;takenlow=;takenhigh=;ballsbowledlow=;ballsbowledhigh=;oversbowledlow=;oversbowledhigh=;bpobowled=0;bowlevent=;submit=1;.cgifields=viewtype |title=Statsguru - Australia - Tests - Results list |publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2007-12-21]

Fingleton then made 73 in the second innings of the Second Test in Sydney, one of few Australians to resist as the home side fell to an innings defeat after being forced to follow on. Australia were facing a dilemma in the Third Test in Melbourne. The home team scored 200 with Fingleton contributing 38, before rain caused a sticky wicket and England fell for 76. However, Australia had to bat on the surface, captain Bradman reshuffled the batting lineup, putting the bowlers in first and Fingleton and himself in at Nos. 6 and 7 to save them for more favourable batting conditions. The pair came together with the score at 5/97 and made a Test record sixth-wicket partnership of 346, with Fingleton making 136. [cite web| title = 3rd Test Australia v England at Melbourne Jan 1-7 1937 |url=http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/statsguru/engine/match/62643.html|publisher= Cricinfo|accessdate=2008-07-31] It turned the Test and saw Australia win the match by 365 runs and prevent England from taking an unassailable 3–0 lead. Fingleton did not pass 20 in his last three innings of the series, as Australia won the remaining two matches to win the series. Fingleton ended with 398 runs at 44.22. Fingleton followed up with 862 runs at 50.70 in the 1937–38 domestic season, with two centuries. This effort placed him third in the run-scoring aggregates for the season. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1934-35/AUS_LOCAL/STATS/FC_1937-38_BAT_MOST_RUNS.html| title=Australian First-Class Season 1937/38: Batting - Most Runs| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31]

In 1938, Fingleton made what turned out to be his international farewell as Australia toured England, a series in which he found runs difficult to come by. He later attributed this to his inability to play the pull shot. Fingleton made 123 runs in six innings at an average of 20.50, with three scores between 30 and 50. His Test career ended disappointingly at The Oval in "Hutton's Match". In the course of England's marathon innings of 7/903 he sustained a leg injury, which prevented him from batting in either Australian innings. With Bradman also unable to bat, Australia collapsed to the heaviest defeat in Test history, by an innings and 579 runs. In another Test, he responded to heckling of his slow batting by the crowd by sitting down on the pitch and refusing to resume before the gallery quietened. With the outbreak of World War II, Australia was not to play another Test until the 1945–46 season.

Fingleton returned to Australia and played in only three matches in the 1938–39 domestic season, scoring 81 runs at 16.20. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1938-39/AUS_LOCAL/STATS/FC_1938-39_BAT_MOST_RUNS.html| title=Australian First-Class Season 1938/39: Batting - Most Runs| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31] He had another quiet season with only 39 runs at 6.50 in the following summer. [cite web|url=http://aus.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1939-40/AUS_LOCAL/STATS/FC_1939-40_BAT_MOST_RUNS.html| title=Australian First-Class Season 1939/40: Batting - Most Runs| publisher=Cricinfo |accessdate=2008-07-31] Fingleton retired at the end of the season.


At the start of World War II, he enlisted in the Australian Defence Force in the army before appointed as the press secretary for former Prime Minister of Australia Billy Hughes. From his appointment onwards, he lived and worked in Canberra. After the end of the war, Fingleton divided his time between Canberra, where until his retirement in 1978 he was political correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio Australia, and cricket journalism. He forge close relationships with several Prime Ministers. In particular, Sir Robert Menzies, Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, provided him with a laudatory foreword in his book, ‘’Masters of Cricket’’. Fingleton's Test coverage resulted in a number of books that placed him at the forefront of Australian cricket writers. The books included "Cricket Crisis" (mainly an account of the 1932–33 Bodyline series), "Brightly Fades the Don" (the 1948 Invincibles tour), "Brown & Company: The Tour in Australia" (the English tour of Australia in 1950–51), "The Ashes Crown the Year" (the Australian tour of England in 1953), "Masters of Cricket, Four Chukkas to Australia" (the English tour of Australia in 1958–59), "The Greatest Test of All" (the Tied Test of 1960), "Fingleton on Cricket" and "The Immortal Victor Trumper". His final book, the autobiographical "Batting From Memory", was to have its Australian launch during the week in which he died of a heart attack. His cricket writing, regarded as one of the most stylish by and Australian often left a sour taste with observers with persistent anti-Bradman jibes.

In addition to his writing, Fingleton was a witty, perceptive and occasionally sardonic commentator for the BBC and at various times a contributor to The Times, The Sunday Times, The Observer, and various newspapers in Australia, South Africa and elsewhere. In 1976, he was awarded an OBE for services "to journalism and to cricket". He was the subject of three appearances in 1979 and 1980 on Parkinson’s TV interview show. Fingletons’s judgements were characterised by careful first-hand evidence and was known for sensing the emergence of a possible story. E W Swanton stated that “Fingleton remains surely, as cricket writer and broadcaster, the best his country has”.

Conflict with Bradman

Throughout his career as player and journalist, Fingleton persistently came into personal conflict with Don Bradman, one of the captains under whom Bradman played, damaging the reputations of both. Bradman characteristically held his silence during Fingleton's lifetime. Bradman was known for his reserved personality, did not drink and often eschewed social activities with teammates, preferring to privately listen to music or read. Combined with his success, he gained a reputation for cockiness. In the 1930s, Australia had been divided along sectarian lines, with those of Irish descent such as Fingleton being Catholic and Anglo-Australians such as Bradman being predominantly Protestant, leading to speculation that the tension was fuelled by religion. After the 1936–37 Ashes series in Australia, four Catholics, leading bowler Bill O'Reilly, batsman Stan McCabe along with Leo O'Brien and Chuck Fleetwood-Smith were summoned by the Board of Control to respond to allegations that they were undermining Bradman. Fingleton was not invited, speculated to be due to his journalistic background, but Bradman later alleged that he was the ringleader. After that, Bradman’s relationship with O’Reilly and Fingleton never recovered. When Bradman was dismissed in his final Test innings in 1948 for a duck, Fingleton and O’Reilly were reported to be laughing hysterically in the pressbox. E W Swanton said that "I thought they were going to have stroke". Bradman later wrote after both had died: "With these fellows out of the way, the loyalty of my 1948 side was a big joy and made a big contribution to the outstanding success of that tour".cite book|title=ESPN legends of cricket| first=Geoff|last=Armstrong| year=2002| publisher=Allen & Unwin |isbn=1-86508-836-6| pages=pp. 17–22]

Test statistics



*cite book | last = Cashman, Franks, Maxwell, Sainsbury, Stoddart, Weaver, Webster | year = 1997 | title = The A-Z of Australian cricketers|isbn=0-19-550604-9|publisher= Oxford University Press|location=Melbourne
*cite book |last=Perry |first= Roland |authorlink=Roland Perry |year=2000 |title=Captain Australia: A history of the celebrated captains of Australian Test cricket |location=Sydney| publisher=Random House Australia |isbn=1-74051-174-3

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