DateLine: 26th May 2007
William Arras "Bill" Johnston, who died in a Sydney nursing home Thursday night, May 24th, 2007 aged 85, was a fine, tall left-arm medum-pace bowler for Victoria and Australia who could turn to finger-spin if required.
After making his Test debut against India in 1947-48, Johnston toured England in 1948 under Sir Don Bradman, returning there in 1953. He also toured South Africa in 1949-50 and the West Indies in 1954-55 and played in 40 Tests altogether.
The unbeaten '48 team has over the years picked up the apt nickname, the "Invincibles", and after Johnston's death, only five members remain - Arthur Morris, Neil Harvey, Sam Loxton, Bill Brown and Ron Hamence, the last two being well in the nineties.
On the tour Johnston captured 102 wickets including 9-183 from 84 overs in the first Test at Trent Bridge, and finished the series with 27 wickets.
Although he bowled in the shadow of the two shock bowlers, Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller throughout his career, he at one time held the record for the bowler with the fastest time to reach 100 Test wickets - four years.
In 1953 he topped the Australian tour batting averages with a contrived average, being out only once while scoring 102 runs.
His team-mates and opponents alike all considered Johnston to be a modest, likeable player with a keen sense of humour. John Watkins, former South African allrounder and one of only five South African survivors of the 1949-50 series, said: "What a great bowler. And he was such a modest, unassuming bloke as well."
Harvey said that Johnston deserved to be remembered as one of the game's greats. "He was one of the best bowlers I ever came across," Harvey said. "I saw him bowl to some of the best batsmen in the world and knock them over." In his Test career Johnston took 160 wickets (average 23.91), with a best of 6-44 taken against South Africa in Johannesburg in 1949-50, while in all first-class cricket he captured 554 wickets (23.35), with a best of 8-52.
Johnston was a typical number 11 batsman, not troubling the scorers overmuch. His best performance with the bat came in the fourth Test against West Indies at Melbourne in 1951-52, when he and allrounder Doug Ring added a vital 38 runs in an unbeaten 10th-wicket partnership that brought an unlikely victory to Australia by one wicket.
Johnston was named as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1949. He is survived by two sons, David, the CEO of the Tasmanian Cricket Association, and Peter. His wife, Judy, died in 2004.
(Article: Copyright © 2007 Peter Martin)