THERE HAVE been more than 50 “one-Test wonders” in the history of Australian cricket. KEN PIESSE pays tribute to one, Colin Guest, who died recently:
ONE ball, an outswinger to the run colossus Bobby Simpson changed the career path of broad-shouldered journeyman Colin Guest.
It was Christmas-time, 1962… the annual “Test” match clash between the two all-powerful states, NSW and Victoria.
Simpson was coming off 205 just days earlier in Perth. Two years before he’d averaged 300 in Australian domestic cricket. His appetite for big runs was truly Bradmanlike.
Jack Potter was at second slip for the Vics and remembers the late curl of the Guest delivery which Simpson followed and nicked… straight into the bread basket. Simmo was just 23. Soon afterwards Guest also dismissed Norman O’Neill, Neil Harvey and Brian Booth. The long-time Sheffield Shield champions were beaten inside three days.
With four for 34 in a dramatic opening to the match and six wickets all up, Guest, 25, was within a fortnight rewarded with his one-and-only Ashes Test cap in mid-series 1962-63 in Sydney.
While he failed to take a wicket, bowling first-change behind the legendary Alan Davidson and Graham McKenzie, Guest contributed with 11 in an important 39-run 10th wicket stand in mid-match as Australia won its only Test of a spiritless summer.
For the season he captured 47 wickets, right up there with the likes of “Davo”, in his farewell representative season.
But in a speed-rich era, others were to be consistently preferred in the higher strata. Guest switched to Perth only to find even more competition from McKenzie, Laurie Mayne and others and his first-class career was restricted to just 36 matches (and 115 wickets).
A wonderful, genial all-sportsman who also played Claxton Shield baseball for two states, the 191 cm (6ft 3 in) Guest was universally known as “Biscuits” after the popular local biscuit makers.
“He wasn’t your typical fast bowler,” said long-time teammate Potter. “He was friendly on and off the field with a great laugh and a never-ending array of jokes which would keep us all amused. He’d have us all in fits when we were waiting to bat.
“Because ‘Al Pal’ (Alan Connolly) and ‘The Count’ (Ian Meckiff ) were around at the same time he sometimes struggled to get the new ball. But he could move it, in the air and off the seam as he had beautiful side-on action.”
In one inner-Melbourne first XI match he took eight for 5 and was so quick that wicketkeeper Norm Carlyon twice conceded four byes with steepling deliveries he couldn’t reach.
Melbourne teammate Ian Huntington said he was as fast as anyone going around.
“We played Collingwood in a one-dayer and beat them outright,” he said. “The scoreboard was directly behind the wicket then and Jack Rose and the Collingwood boys reckoned they couldn’t pick him up at all. He was lethal this day.”
Guest’s batting could also be occasionally explosive and against his old State he shared a stand of 165 one memorable day at the WACA Ground in October 1966, scoring a career-best 74 with 10 fours.
He had auspicious club careers with Melbourne and Nedlands and also was a mentor and a coach, managing an Australian Under 18 team to the US in the late 70s.
Peter Bedford, then a teenager at Port Melbourne, remembers Guest coming to a sub district match one day with long-time Melbourne committeeman Clive Fairbairn and encouraging him to join MCC. Bedford did, six months later, beginning a career which almost took him into the Australian XI.
While WA-based, Guest regularly returned to his old home city and in 2016 was among the guests at the 50-year reunion of Potter’s 1966-67 Victorian team which won the Sheffield Shield.
His original club team was Kew.
As a mark of respect, Tim Paine and the Australian XI wore black armbands on the fourth day of this summer’s opening Test in Adelaide.
KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. Despite that setback, Ken has written, published and edited 86 books on cricket and AFL football to become Australian sport’s most prolific author.
His latest cricket book is David Warner, The Bull, Daring to be Different with Wilkinson Publishing, out now