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Steve Milosz, WA's mystery spinner, dies age 66

John Townsend

Steve Milosz was one of Australia’s best leg-spinners of the modern era but had a career marked more by unfulfilled and distracted potential than unqualified success. Still, he had the skills, ability and on-field temperament to sit alongside the third-tier leggies of the past half-century.

Shane Warne rose above all comers.

The greatest exponent of the most difficult art in the most complex sport ever invented, Warne claimed 999 international wickets for Australia and had an impact on cricket like few other individuals. Stuart MacGill, who started his career in WA, spent much of his career in Warne’s shadow but emerged often enough to take 208 Test wickets at a strike rate even better than his compatriot.

Milosz, who died last week aged 66, had a stuttering Sheffield Shield career for two States that did not do justice to his ability with ball in hand. He was armed with Warne’s control, had a fizzing leg-break to match MacGill’s best and could deliver a flipper as deadly as any bowler before or since.

Jim Higgs, Peter Sleep, Terry Jenner and Trevor Hohns all played Test cricket in the past 50 years without being significantly better bowlers than Milosz.

And though Milosz only managed 40 shield wickets in 19 matches for WA and Tasmania, the difficulty of his craft was underlined by the fact that only a dozen or so leggies have taken more wickets at a better average in the past half century. Milosz, who played for Midland-Guildford and Bayswater-Morley after moving from Northam, has two stints for WA during an era when the focus on hammering opposition teams with a powerful pace battery brought unrivalled success.

Milosz played three matches in a month at the end of the 1983-84 season, including the winning shield final when he claimed a wicket in each innings against Queensland.

Overlooked for the next two seasons, he moved to Tasmania and played every match in 1986-87 during a season when the Tigers did not win a game and barely bowled in a second innings. He returned to Perth the next season, starting strongly with hauls of 3-13 and 4-53 in the opening game, but was out of the team by the second half of the season when WA used an all-pace attack to secure the second leg of their shield hat-trick.

Milosz was a genuine No.11 as a batsman, moving up one place only once when the injured Graeme Wood was unavailable.



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