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Name:

Zachariah, Harry
Date of Birth:b 4 June 1911 (d 15 March 2009)
Career:1932/33 - 1946/47
Teams:Northcote, University, St Kilda, Richmond
Matches:175
Batting Style:RHB
Bowling Style:LAOS

 

Harry Zachariah can still picture his captain Stuart King marching purposefully towards him at the end of his second over. It was the first time he'd bowled for the Saints and he hadn't made the batsmen play much. "'That's the last two overs you'll bowl with the new ball' Stuart said to me. 'You're a spin bowler and that's what you are from now on!'"

King didn't know it at the time but he'd just re-launched Zachariah's career. The next five years were to be the best and most-productive of his sporting life, the versatile left-armer from the Adelaide Hills taking 274 war-time wickets at an average of 55 a season and along the way shattering some of the records of celebrated pair Don Blackie and Bert Ironmonger.

Previously he'd played a dual role, starting into the wind with the new ball before dabbling in both finger and wrist spin later.

"I was practising one night when old Don Blackie called me aside. 'You know you're trying to do the impossible,' he said to me. He was always standing behind the nets watching on. 'I really think you can bowl only one. It should be either finger spin or wrist - not both. Take my case. Someone asked me why I didn't bowl a leg break and I told them it took me 45 years to learn to bowl an off-break!'"

Zachariah took the advice and concentrated on his wrist spinners, believing he obtained more drift and turn with deliveries spun harder out of the hand.

As a teenager, he'd taken five wickets in an innings against the 1930-31 West Indians at Geelong's Corio Oval, Learie Constantine falling to him in both innings. The great George Headley was also caught in the covers.

"A chap cam up to me afterwards and asked would I like to play District cricket? It turned out that he was the president of Northcote. I'd get the Adelaide Express down from Ararat, where I was living with my sister, Margaret and stay overnight in Northcote with Ron Baggott's family."

Zachariah also played in the 1936-37 "international" for the Australian Universities in Sydney, having Walter Hammond stumped, but not before he'd made a century. "He was probably being generous to me," said Zac, with the broadest of grins.

Tall at 185cm (6 ft 1 in) and with a high, easy action, Zachariah's auspicious club career saw him amass 516 wickets (at 18.58) in 176 first XI matches with four teams: Northcote, University, St Kilda and Richmond. He also played several matches with Victoria, alongside fellow rookie and Australian captain-to-be Ian Johnson.

While his prodigious returns at St Kilda were inflated by the proliferation of the one-afternoon fixtures during the war years, allowing him to bowl every weekend, he was still a remarkable performer, twice taking 68 wickets in a season, still a club record. In 1942-43 against Carlton he took four wickets in an over, one of only two instances in St Kilda's first 150 years. Twelve months later, against Brunswick, he took three wickets in an over.

"St Kilda was an ideal place to me as there was always a bit of a breeze off the sea and it suited me coming into it," Zachariah said. "And they were a great crowd of chaps, they really were. It was one of the greatest bodies of men I've ever met. Given my time again I would never have left."

He bowled out Caulfield in just an hour and a half one day, taking eight for 40 from 9.5 overs on his way to 16 wickets (for 82) for the match. Against Prahran he grabbed 14 wickets for the game, mixing his natural chinaman delivery, which broke back into the right-handers, with a potent and very-hard-to-pick wrong-'un.

"For University," wrote Percy Millard in the Melbourne Herald, "Zachariah usually opened by swinging the new ball and later spun the ball when the gloss was off it. Although bowling well, he was unable to perfect either delivery. This season (1939-40), he has concentrated entirely on spin and has become the outstanding bowler in club cricket. With his height he does not have to toss the ball into the air. He makes it turn sharply either way with a lively nip off the pitch and his control is splendid. Batsmen cannot detect his wrong-'un which comes in from the right-hander's leg side. They are completely tricked."

Zachariah said Hec Oakley would coach him from slip, using hand movements to indicate the delivery he wanted. "And if I didn't bowl them full enough, he'd walk past me saying, 'Too short, too short.' He was always at me to bring the batsmen forward."

From "Down At The Junction" by Ken Piesse