Bruce Yardley, ex-Australia cricket player dies at 71

Bruce Yardley, who played test cricket for Australia and coached Sri Lanka's national team, has died after a long struggle with cancer. (Image courtesy ICC/Twitter)

Bruce Yardley, who played test cricket for Australia and coached Sri Lanka's national team, has died after a long struggle with cancer. He was 71.

Yardley died on Wednesday in a hospital in Western Australia state.

He played 33 tests, starting in 1978 during the split in Australian cricket amid the World Series era, after converting from a medium pacer to off-spin bowling.

Aided by his unusual grip of the ball, Yardley took 126 test wickets, a long-time record for Australian off-spinners. He also scored 978 runs, including four test half centuries. One of those, off 29 balls against the West Indies in 1978, was the Australian record for 38 years as the fastest test 50.

He was voted as the top international cricketer of the 1981-82 Australian summer, an annual award held between 1980-1996.

Yardley was Sri Lanka's head coach from late 1996-98, taking over in the wake of the country's World Cup win. He was an early mentor in Sri Lanka for offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who holds the record for most wickets in test cricket.

Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts said Yardley was a significant and popular figure in the game.

"As a player, it took him more than 10 years of persistence playing first-class and premier cricket to find the art of off-spin, earning him a test debut at the age of 30," Roberts said. "He was also an excellent fielder and handy batter.

"Off the field, Bruce had an infectious personality and was regarded as one of the best spin-bowing coaches in the world."

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Bruce Yardley, ex-Australia cricket player dies at 71

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