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Australian off-spinner Ashley Mallett dies after battle with cancer

Chuck it up and spin it hard.

Ashley Mallett gave the same advice to eager 14-year-old off-spinners as he did to hardened Test spinners with 100 wickets under their belts.

Mallett, who died on Friday aged 76, was 12th man twice for Western Australia in the mid-1960s but the presence of spinning Tonies Lock and Mann persuaded him to move to Adelaide for more opportunities where he carved out a career as Australia’s best ever offie until the emergence of Nathan Lyon this decade.

DAILY NEWS - 06/12/1966
Camera IconAshley Mallett in action in 1966. Credit: Bill Watt/WA News

And he did by floating the ball up over the eye-line before getting it to drop like a stone and spit from the pitch with such success that he claimed 132 wickets at 29.85 in 38 Test matches.

It was a lesson he learnt on an earlier train trip to Adelaide where he knocked on Clarrie Grimmett’s door and asked the legendary spinner for advice.

“I could play you blindfolded,” the 77-year-old said after watching the teenager bowl a couple of flat deliveries on his backyard pitch and proceeded to do exactly that with his handkerchief tied around his eyes.

It was a stark lesson for the youngster to get the ball into the air if he wanted to beat the bat but he learnt it well enough to become a perfect foil for speedster Dennis Lillee and his pace colleagues throughout the 1970s.

Mallett thrived on four trips to England but had his greatest success on the long tour to India in 1969-70 when he claimed 28 wickets in the five Tests and was a keen and close observer of those masters of flight in Bishan Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna.

It was a trait that helped him become a trenchant journalist and writer whose biography of the last surviving 1948 Invincible Neil Harvey was released a few weeks ago.

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