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Western Australias Test pioneer John Rutherford has died aged 92

John Rutherford, the first Western Australian-based player to be selected for Test cricket, has passed away at the age of 92.

Rutherford is part of Australia’s one-Test club having played his only Test match on the 1956 tour of India, that was held on the way home from the Ashes series that year.

The right-handed opener made 30 and took a wicket in the second innings, dismissing Vijay Manjrekar at the Brabourne Stadium in the drawn match.

Rutherford, who hailed from Bruce Rock, a small country town 243km east of Perth, played 67 first-class matches between 1952-53 and 1960-61 scoring 3367 runs at 31.76 with six centuries and 15 half-centuries.

WA had no official Test representatives prior to Rutherford’s debut, although WA-born Ernie Bromley played two Tests for Australia in 1933-34 after moving from WA to play for Victoria. WA began playing first-class cricket in 1892-93 but were not formally invited into the Sheffield Shield competition until 1947-48.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo in 2015, Rutherford outlined in detail the barriers he faced as a WA-based player trying to earn selection into Australia’s Test team ahead of the 1956 tour of England, Pakistan and India.

Rutherford’s career ended suddenly at 31 when he suffered a stroke on the field while captaining WA in a tour match against West Indies in 1960.

While Rutherford struggled for opportunities at Test level, he paved the way for a generation of WA Test greats that followed with Graham McKenzie, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh becoming household names over the following two decades.

WA Cricket chief executive Christina Matthews paid tribute to Rutherford after his passing.

“John Rutherford played an enormous role in placing WA Cricket on the map, at a time when the national side was dominated by players from the eastern states,” Matthews said.

“He was a talkative and charismatic personality, and his passion for cricket was infectious.

“On behalf of everyone at WA Cricket and the State’s cricketing community, we send our deepest condolences to the Rutherford family.”

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