James Donald Higgs OAM (born 11 July 1950, Kyabram, Victoria) is a former Australian leg spinner who played in 22 Tests from 1978 to 1981. In the words of Gideon Haigh “Jim Higgs was Australia’s best legspinner between Richie Benaud and Warne. His misfortune was to play at a time when wrist-spin was nearly extinct, thought to be the preserve only of the eccentric and the profligate, and so to find selectors and captains with little empathy with his guiles.”
First Class career
He made his début for Victoria against Western Australia in 1970-71, taking four wickets. His best performances that summer was taking five wickets against South Australia. He had to take some time off from cricket in November due to exams, thus missing games against the touring English XI.
During the 1971-72 season, Higgs took his first five wicket haul at first class level with 5-162 against South Australia. He picked up eight wickets against West Australia and four against South Australia.
At the start of the 1972-73 season there was some talk Higgs might be a possibility for a spot in the squad to tour the West Indies at the end of the summer. However his form was less impressive, apart from six wickets against South Australia, and he was dropped from the Victorian side and replaced by Ray Bright.
Higgs started the following summer strongly with seven wickets against Queensland but was never as successful again – indeed he was made 12th man for some games. However, in a Richmond versus Northcote game he took 8 for 19.
1974–75 was Higgs’ breakthrough season. He took 8-66 and 3-52 against Western Australia, 3-107 against the touring English, five against Queensland, eight against NSW and six against South Australia. He finished the summer with 42 wickets at an average of 21.92 and was subsequently selected for the Ashes tour in 1975 to England.
1975 Ashes Tour
Ashley Mallett was Australian spinner at the time so Higgs did not play a Test on tour, but gained fame by not scoring a run for the whole tour. He batted twice and was bowled by the only ball he faced (against Leicestershire), which appealed to his humorous character.
Higgs’ first class highlights included four wickets against Kent, six against the MCC and seven against Somerset. He took 27 wickets at an average of 32 with a first class batting average of 0. He injured his finger during the tour but played on regardless.
Higgs, along with Richie Robinson, did not take part in the reduced 14-man squad that participated in the 1975 World Cup.
In the 1976-77 season, Higgs took 4-90 against South Australia and 5-90 in the district cricket final, helping secure Richmond a premiership, breaking a 30-year drought. However, by this stage Kerry O’Keeffe was Australia’s preferred leg spinner and Ray Bright was the favoured second spinner. Ian Chappell wrote in a 1977 article that Higgs, along with fellow spinner David Hourn, “In my opinion neither of them are real cricketers. By that I mean they are only bowlers, not cricketers. They are both well below standard as fieldsmen and batsmen.”
1977-78 World Series Cricket
With the introduction of World Series Cricket, vacancies arose in the Australian team, especially for the spin bowling spot, as Kerry O’Keefe, Ashley Mallett and Ray Bright were all banned and no longer considered available for selection. Higgs took 6-131 against the touring Indians, which put him in the frame for the Australian side however Tony Mann was selected instead. Mann kept his place for the first four tests before being replaced by Bruce Yardley in the fifth. Both were better batsmen than Higgs, whose next best performance that summer was five wickets against West Australia. However Higgs was picked on the tour to the West Indies as the second spinner apart from Yardley.
1977-78: Tour of West Indies and Test Debt
This earned him selection in the first test as part of a spin duo with Bruce Yardley; Higgs took 4-91, the best performing Australian, but Australia lost the test by an innings. He took 1-46 and 1-34 in the second test and did not play the third. In the fourth, Higgs’ four wickets helped put Australia in a winning position but a second innings batting collapse saw them lose.
Playing Jamaica, Higgs got 5-73 and 4-43. In the final test Higgs took five wickets – 2-47 and 3-67; he and Yardley were on the verge of bowling Australia to victory when the crowd rioted and the game was called off. Higgs took 42 first class wickets at an average of 22 on the tour.
Higgs and Yardley were kept as Australia’s spinners for the first test against England, but could not prevent a comfortable English victory; Higgs’ returns were 0-9 and 0-43. Higgs was not picked in the second test but took 4-86 against NSW then 6-85 in another match against the same team.
Higgs came back to the Australian side for the third test, where his three wickets contributed to a rare Australian win.
Higgs’ best performance of the summer came in the fourth test, where he took eight wickets including 5-148 in England’s second innings, meaning Australia only had to score 205 to win. However they collapsed and Australia lost.
Higgs took three wickets in the fifth test and five in the sixth (4-69 and 1-12) both Australian defeats. He was dropped from the Australian side for the second test against Pakistan, replaced by Bruce Yardley.
Higgs rounded out the summer with 5-35 and 2-23 against Tasmania. Victoria won the Sheffield Shield that season, Higgs’ 51 first class wickets playing no small part.
1979 Tour of India
Higgs was picked on the 1979 tour of India, along with Yardley and Peter Sleep. Five wickets against South Zone got his tour off to a strong start. Higgs took 7-143 in the first test (a draw).
The rest of the series was harder going; for the second he got 1-95 and took no wickets in the third. 3-63 and 3-22 against the West Zone restored his confidence but he went for 3-150 in the fourth test (bowling in tandem with Peter Sleep) 1-107 in the fifth, and 2-116 in the sixth.
From 1979-80 onwards, the World Series Cricket players were eligible for selection in the Australian team again.
Higgs started the 1979-80 season well with 5-50 and 7-49 against West Australia and 4-79 and 4-78 against NSW. This saw him recalled to the Australian team in the second test against the West Indies, replacing Jeff Thomson. Higgs went for an expensive 3-122 in an Australian loss. He was kept on in the side to play England, but only bowled one over.
The good form continued at domestic level, with 4-90 against Qld, 4-18 against Tasmania and 6-57 against South Australia. These returns helped Victoria win another Sheffield Shield and Higgs’ seasonal record was 41 wickets at an average of 20.
Higgs was selected in the initial squad to tour Pakistan in 1980 but did not actually tour. This meant he could be available to play the end of the Shield. He also announced his unavailability to tour on the 1980 tour of England.
Higgs started the 1980-81 season more slowly, although he did take three wickets for Victoria against the touring New Zealanders.
2-65 and 4-67 against WA saw him picked in the Australian side to face New Zealand for the first test.
Higgs picked up 3 wickets in the third test – a game probably best remembered for an incident when Higgs was batting. He was 1 not out and Australia 9-279 with Doug Walters on 77 when Lance Cairns bowled a bouncer; Higgs hit it to the wicketkeeper but umpire Robin Baillache ruled the delivery an illegal one as it was too intimidatory. Higgs went on to score 6 off 69 balls, Walters hit a century, Australia made 321 and ended up winning the game.
Against India, a second innings haul of 4-25 helped bowl Australia to victory in the first test though he took no wickets in the third (0-65 and 0-41), which Australia lost. This was Higgs’ last test.
Higgs was appointed captain of Richmond in 1981-82. He never made the Australian team again but took six wickets against Tasmania in a Shield game, seven wickets against WA. and 5-68 against WA
His last first class game was in 1982-83 against Queensland; Higgs’ figures were 0-90 and 2-24. He led Richmond to a premiership in 1982-83.
Higgs retired at the end of the 1982–83 season because of persistent back problems.
He was a Victorian selector from 1982–83 to 1988–89 and was appointed an Australian selector in 1985–86.
He was also president of Richmond from 1994–97 and served on the Board of Cricket Victoria.
Higgs is currently working with TTM consulting in Melbourne as a joint director of the company with Damien Hancox.
- Gideon Haigh, “Jim Higgs” at Cricinfo
- “Possibility of a rain-affected wicket”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 6 November 1970. p. 22. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- “Higgs Out of Team”, The Age, Jan 16, 1973 accessed 4 December 2013
- “WEST INDIES TOUR Test hopes have days left”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 15 December 1972. p. 22. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- “SURPRISES APLENTY IN MELBOURNE”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 8 December 1973. p. 38. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- “Higgs to ignore advice”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 23 August 1975. p. 38. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- “Robinson, Higgs dropped for World Cup”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 6 June 1975. p. 1 Section: SPORTING SECTION. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- Chappell, Ian (January 1977). “England 1977… Ian Chappell Predicts”. Cricketer. p. 21.
- “Higgs’ six wickets in Test trial”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 20 February 1978. p. 1 Section: SPORTS SECTION. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- “Higgs to rescue after Yardley called chucker”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 24 April 1978. p. 1 Section: SPORTS SECTION. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- Australia vs England 1st test 1978-79 at Cricinfo
- “Four dropped from Australia’s team”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 17 March 1979. p. 41. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
- “OVERSEAS SPORT CRICKET Test worry”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 10 September 1979. p. 14. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
- “CRICKET HIGGS 7-143 TO NO AVAIL”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 16 September 1979. p. 30. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- “Jeff Thomson out, Jim Higgs in”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 21 December 1979. p. 16. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- “Four decline to tour Pakistan”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 10 January 1980. p. 18. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- “Higgs leads Victoria to Shield title”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 11 March 1980. p. 20. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- “CRICKET Surprises in England tour squad selection”. The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 2 May 1980. p. 24. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- Cliip of dismissal at YouTube
- TTM Consulting website accessed 4 December 2014
- Jim Higgs biography at Richmond Cricket Club
- Cashman; Franks; Maxwell; Sainsbury; Stoddart; Weaver; Webster (1997). The A-Z of Australian cricketers. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-550604-9.
- Jim Higgs at CricketArchive
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