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Obituary: A New Zealand cricket winner

Obituary: A New Zealand cricket winner
Obituary: A New Zealand cricket winner



Jack Alabaster was one of the best leg-spin bowlers New Zealand has ever produced.

He could drop the ball on a dime and plug it away with uncanny accuracy.

The right arm also enjoyed a long and respected career as a teacher. He was headmaster at Southland Boys for most of the 1980s.

But he was apparently also capable of small miracles.

Somehow, despite a lot of commitments, he was able to arrange camping trips with the family and was also fond of fishing.

Alabaster died on April 9 in Cromwell, aged 93.

His son, John Alabaster, still marvels at how his father was able to fit so much in each summer.

The Hakataramea and Matukituki Valley were favorite spots for family camping trips.

“Looking back on it, I'm not quite sure how it fitted into cricket,” John said.

'Dad played for New Zealand the year after I was born and he was still playing cricket when I went to university. We must have been to a lot of cricket matches but I don't remember them very well.'

Carisbrook at the time was a fertile hunting ground for empty bottles that could be exchanged for cash. John and his younger brother Mark spent hours searching for what, to a child, seemed like gold nuggets just lying around.

'The other thing I remember is we used to come to Alexandra… and go skating at Manorburn Dam.'

The Oreti River was another favorite spot. The fishing was good.

The family also lived on the Southland Boys property for many years, which was “like having a playground in your backyard,” John said.

“As children we never felt that his cricket or school education had any impact on us. Other than that we just seemed to be a normal family.'

A normal family where the patriarch was a spin wizard who captured 49 wickets in 21 Tests for his country between 1955 and 1972.

Alabaster was the only New Zealander to play in all of the country's first four victories. He also played six tests before being selected for Otago.

In total he took 500 first-class wickets at an average of 25.37.

Alabaster, who also represented his country in basketball in the early 1950s, was 25 when he was selected for New Zealand's tour of Pakistan and India in 1955. He also toured England, South Africa and the West Indies when he was 41.

He shone during the tour of South Africa in 1961-1962. He took match figures of eight for 180 in Cape Town to help New Zealand achieve their first overseas Test victory.

He also made a solid contribution in game five and also helped level the series at 2-2.

John Chaloner (Jack) Alabaster was born in Invercargill on July 11, 1930.

His father Harold worked for the Public Trust and his mother Mary was a housewife. The couple had four children Molly, Jack, Gren and Derek.

Gren was also an excellent cricketer. He played almost 100 first-class matches and is regarded as one of Otago's best all-rounders.

FormerOtago daily timessports editor the late Brent Edwards wrote that their careers were remarkable “as much for their longevity as for their quality”.

“Both played the game hard, both were fighters for whom lost causes were but a challenge.

'They were both distinguished teachers at school and as such they were enthusiastic cricket students who played the game with an inquisitive mind.

“They often bowled together for Otago and together they claimed 469 wickets in 134 matches.”

Alabaster married Shirley Kemp on January 10, 1953 in Alexandra. They were married for 71 years. The couple had three children, John, Mark and Kathryn. Mark died in 1976 in a motorcycle accident.

Alabaster trained in education in Dunedin and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Canterbury.

He taught science and mathematics at Southland Boys High School from 1955 to 1975 before leaving for a spell as principal of Kingswell High School.

He returned to Southland Boys in 1981 as headmaster until his retirement in 1988.

Alabaster initially struggled to get into the Otago team. His path was blocked by incumbent leg-spinner Alec Moir.

He made his debut for the Southland Hawke Cup team as a 19-year-old and Walter Hadlee eventually spotted him and called him up for the national team.

Otago followed soon after and Alabaster and Moir forged an impressive partnership, capturing 212 wickets between 1957 and 1961.

He played in several successful Plunket Shield and Hawke Cup campaigns. He also coached Central Otago to Hawke Cup glory in 1995-96.

But there was one game in particular that stood out to his son John.

“Our first XI at school was playing against the staff and he caught me with a diving catch on the boundary, which I thought was quite unreasonable,” John said.

Apart from that, Alabaster was a very supportive father.

Alabaster is survived by wife Shirley and his children John and Kathryn.




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