Dennett's Deep Dive 3 - the rise and rise of Bill O'Reilly part 1

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Published Jul 18, 2022, 9:30 AM

Bill O’Reilly was one of the greatest bowlers of all time. Upon O’Reilly’s death at age 86 in 1992 Don Bradman declared him the best bowler he had ever faced or seen and, in his obituary in Wisden Gideon Haigh said O’Reilly “was probably the greatest spin bowler the game has ever produced”.

The splendour of O’Reilly’s Test career is well documented and well worth reading. But that is not what these episodes of Dennett’s Deepdives will be about. Instead they’re about Bill O’Reilly’s extraordinary and improbable rise to Test cricket. Because just before he turned 21, although he loved the sport, Bill had never played a game of grade cricket or even contemplated doing so.

When he finally decided to give grade cricket a try, after being persuaded to by friends, O’Reilly’s rise to the top was stunning. But just after playing his first Sheffield Shield game Bill was banished to the bushcby his employer, the NSW Department of Education. His promising cricket career seemed over. When he was finally allowed to return to Sydney three years had passed and he was a nobody once more. But Bill rose once more, this time all the way to the Australian Test side and to becoming the best bowler in the world.

This series of podcasts is also unavoidably a story of the intertwining of the early careers of O’Reilly and Don Bradman. Off the field the two champions had little in common and not much affection for each other. On the field they had nothing but respect and mutual admiration.

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