Bevan Congdon, who led New Zealand to their first Test win over Australia, has died one day short of his 80th birthday. He passed away in Auckland after a long bout of illness.
Congdon made his New Zealand debut in 1965 and played 61 Tests in a career spanning 13 years. Batting mostly at No. 3, he scored 3448 runs at an average of 32.22, his seven hundreds including two in back-to-back innings in England in 1973, at Trent Bridge and Lord’s. The fourth-innings 176 at Trent Bridge very nearly took New Zealand to an improbable win; chasing 479, they lost by 38 runs. One of the many qualities the innings showcased was Congdon’s bravery – he battled on despite being hit in the face by a John Snow bouncer.
In all, Congdon captained New Zealand in 17 Tests – they only won one of those matches, but that one win was momentous. Congdon sent Australia in to bat in the Christchurch Test of March 1974, and took three first-innings wickets with his medium-pace – including those of Greg Chappell and Rodney Marsh – as New Zealand triumphed by five wickets. In all, Congdon took 59 Test wickets at 36.50.
Congdon also finished with a fine record in ODIs, scoring two fifties and a hundred in 11 matches and finishing with an average of 56.33 – still the best for any New Zealand batsman with a minimum of 10 innings – and a strike rate of 71.61, an impressive figure in the early years of limited-overs cricket.
“Bevan was at the centre of the New Zealand team at a time it started gaining attention on the international cricket scene for the all the right reasons – in no small part due to his leadership and ability,” NZC chief executive David White said. “He’s left a real legacy in terms of putting New Zealand cricket on the map, and I know the wider cricketer family – not just in New Zealand but worldwide, will be mourning his loss.”
Congdon is survived by his wife Shirley, his daughters Ali and Sandy, and grandchildren Matthew, Joshua, Lily and Reeves.