Obituary, 2002

Peter Burge

BURGE, PETER JOHN PARNELL, AM, died suddenly of a heart attack at Main Beach, Southport, Queensland on October 5, 2001, aged 69. The son of Jack Burge, an Australian team manager, he showed early signs of his ability at Brisbane Grammar School and, at 20, made his debut for Queensland in 1952-53. Two years later, at Sydney, he was playing for Australia in the last Test against Hutton's triumphant England side, scoring 17 and 18 not out. Over the next 11 years he played 42 Tests for Australia, including trips to England in 1956, 1961 and 1964; indeed, 22 of his international outings and each of his four Test hundreds were against England. One, his best Test score of 181, came in the drawn, rain-interrupted Oval Test of 1961, when Norman O'Neill also made a powerful century; another, at Leeds in 1964, was more significant. With Neil Hawke and Wally Grout in supporting roles, Burge hit a boisterous 160 to rescue Australia from an unpromising 178 for seven, enabling them to achieve the only victory of the series. In Tests, he scored 2,290 runs at an average of 38.16, while in 233 first-class games his aggregate was 14,640 at 47.53, with a highest score of 283 for Queensland against New South Wales at Brisbane in 1963-64.

Large, strong-armed and fearless, Peter Burge was a master of middle-order pugnacity, and he demonstrated some of that adamant sternness when called upon to act as one of the first match referees, which the ICC hoped would halt the deterioration of on-field behaviour. Amid a not always resolute bench of judges, he stood out uncompromisingly, as inflexible in resolve as when at the crease. He was the first referee to suspend a player - the Pakistani, Aqib Javed, in 1992-93 - for abuse of an umpire. He was also involved with England captain Mike Atherton over the ambiguities of the "dirt in the pocket" affair during the South African Test at Lord's in 1994. Burge, possibly feeling that matters had been snatched from his hands when England's chairman of selectors, Ray Illingworth, levied his own £2,000 fine, stalked Atherton to The Oval and fined him for dissent, like an old-fashioned schoolmaster levelling the scores. He also served as a Queensland administrator and selector, and had an interest in harness racing.

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