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‘He was a top bloke’: England pace bowler pays tribute to Rod Marsh

Former England paceman John Lever will remember Australia cricket legend Rod Marsh for his warm personality as well as his brilliance on the field.

Marsh, one of Australia’s great wicketkeepers, died on Friday at the age of 74.

He made 96 Test appearances from 1970-84 and ended his career with a then-record 355 dismissals to his name. He also scored three centuries and 16 fifties.

The start to his Test career was a rocky one but he worked hard on his deficiencies to become one of the very best while his character always shone through.

Lever, who faced Marsh’s Australia in the 1977 Centenary Test in Melbourne as well as the Ashes of that year, told the PA news agency: “Apart from going from being ‘Iron Gloves’ to being one of their best keepers and such a dangerous batter, he was a hell of a nice guy, he really was.

“We used to mingle more with the opposition than they perhaps do now. You’d have a drink in the changing room afterwards and ‘Nugget’ would be sitting there having a beer and taking the mickey. He was just a really top guy.

“He had everything. He was a good sportsman and a good cricketer. He got on well with everyone.

“Look at the jobs he later had. He was in charge over here with our juniors – you don’t get those sort of jobs if you are an abrasive Australian who can’t put two words together. He was a top bloke. We will miss him.”

Rod Marsh ended his career with 355 dismissals to his name (PA Archive)

(PA Archive)

Lever remembers how a quick-witted Marsh provided him with some light-hearted relief amid the heat and pressure of facing Dennis Lillee in that Centenary Test.

“It was my first trip to Australia and I was very green still,” said Lever, 73. “I was batting with ‘Knotty’ (Alan Knott) and we’d put on a few runs – he’d scored them, I didn’t get any.

“Lillee kept bowling these leg-cutters and I kept playing and missing and they were thumping into Marsh’s gloves.

“Lillee was finishing halfway down the pitch, looking at me, sweat dripping off his brow – and after the second over of this going on, with me getting nowhere near it, there was this voice from the wicketkeeper saying, ‘You can open your bloody eyes now, I’ve got the ball!’.

“I laughed – it was probably nervous laughter – but that stayed with me. It was one of the better comments. Without being nasty, it was just funny. That was also one of the few times I saw Lillee smile!”

John Lever came up against Marsh’s Australia in 1977

(PA Archive)

Lever has no doubt Marsh should be remembered among the greatest wicketkeepers.

He said: “Knotty was the best at that stage but he caught up, he became a top keeper.

“He had some good quick bowlers to work with. I don’t know statistically how often he had to stand up to the stumps but they did have a few spinners. He could do everything. He wasn’t a one-trick pony.”

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