Australia’s Lindsay Reeler walked away from cricket after a record-breaking World Cup — in rare interview, she explains why

Australian women’s cricket had never seen anything like the destructive power of Lindsay Reeler at the 1988 World Cup held on home soil.

The right-hander smashed 448 runs at an extraordinary average of 149, with two centuries and two half-centuries. But her unbeaten 59 in the win over England in the final would be the last time she padded up for Australia.

Reeler was lost to international cricket at the peak of her powers, aged only 27.

“It was absolutely outstanding. Those figures don’t lie,” Reeler’s Australian teammate Denise Annetts told ABC Sport.

“Lindsay being an opening bat, when she got in, that was it. She was just way above so many of the other teams in her ability. She just took them apart and was a very dynamic player, beautiful cover driver, lovely pulls, cuts, you name it.

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Lindsay Reeler and Denise Annetts bat the Australian women’s cricket team to victory against England in the 1988 World Cup final.(ABC News)

Career-ending injury

Reeler had been battling an injury that got progressively worse during the World Cup.

The more weights she did to strengthen her left leg, the more damage she was doing.

“I had two surgeries [on my left knee] after the World Cup,” Reeler told ABC Sport in her first interview in more than three decades.

“In 1989, I saw an orthopaedic surgeon and he fiddled around with it and said, ‘Do you know you don’t have an anterior cruciate ligament?’ and I said ‘No’.

“And that took something like three years to come to terms with.”

Lindsay Reeler (left) and Denise Annetts (right) in front of a scoreboard holding cricket bats.
Lindsay Reeler (left) and Denise Annetts (right) after a record partnership of 309 in a 1987 test against England.(Supplied: Ross Anderson)

Reeler had suffered the injury as a 17-year-old and it happened well away from the sporting arena.

“It’s a ridiculous situation, there was a pile of timber decking in the carport, the car was backed up against this pile, I was getting stuff out of the boot, fell backwards, my foot got stuck in the pile of decking and my whole upper body twisted with a fixed foot so it was a huge wrenching injury,” Reeler said.

It didn’t stop the sports-loving Reeler from playing hockey in the winter and starring for New South Wales representative cricket teams in the summer.

“I could never sidestep off my left leg, my left thigh was never as strong as my right.

“It didn’t collapse on me as can happen to people who’ve lost their anterior cruciate.”

Records stand test of time

Despite the injury, Reeler took apart bowling attacks and broke numerous records during an all too brief international cricket career that started with a score of 60 in a one-day game in India in 1984.

In her penultimate Test, she made a career-best 110 not out against England in Wetherby, West Yorkshire. When Annetts strode to the crease to join Reeler, Australia was struggling at 2-35. It wasn’t long and the pair had the English bowling attack at their mercy.

“She was scoring at such a fast rate that I was the back-up really, the support show for her.”

The two right-handed batters put on 309 runs. Nearly 35 years have passed and it’s still the highest partnership for any wicket in women’s Test cricket.

Reeler was chuffed when she was informed by ABC Sport that she and Annetts remain the record holders. Her batting partner looks back on the day with great fondness.

Denise Annetts and Lindsay Reeler walking off the ground.
Denise Annetts (left) and Lindsay Reeler’s (right) 309-run partnership is still the highest for any wicket in women’s Test cricket.(Supplied: Ross Anderson)

“We had to declare and I was trying to get to my 200, then we had our one moment in our whole career I think when we had a run out.”

Annetts was out for 193, which at the time was the highest ever score in a women’s Test. The right-hander from Sydney would finish her 10-Test career with a stunning batting average of 81.90.

It’s the highest in the history of women’s cricket and second only to Don Bradman’s 99.94 when men’s cricket is included. Annetts was made for the longest form of the game.

Denise Annetts plays a shot.
Denise Annetts finished her 10-Test career with a batting average of 81.90.(Supplied: Bradman Museum)

“I loved Test cricket ever since I was a very small child,” Annetts said.

“When I got a Test match, I had good concentration which you need. I loved the thing so much I didn’t want to leave the arena, playing on some of those grounds you just don’t want to get out.”

World Cup campaign

Australia went into the 1988 World Cup as the favourite and demolished the Netherlands in the opening game in Perth.

“I certainly remember being quite nervous, thankfully it was one of the minnows of women’s cricket, which meant for a few of us who were nervous, we managed to find our feet,” Reeler said.

“I managed to get a few runs in that game which I think helped to get me into the tournament.”

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At the time, Reeler’s unbeaten 143 against the Dutch was the highest ever score in women’s one-day internationals.

Convincing wins followed against Ireland and New Zealand, with Reeler scoring an unbeaten 108 against the White Ferns in Melbourne while Annetts made 51.

“Cricket, being the game it is, there is a lot of sitting around, so if you’re a batter you’ve got to make the most of it,” Reeler said.

“[Being an opening batter] there was an opportunity to bat as long if not longer than anyone else.”

Just when Australia was in cruise mode, came a rude reality check in the form of a 15-run loss to England in Melbourne. Both Reeler and Annetts made single-figure scores.

Denise Annetts plays a shot with the cricket bat.
Denise Annetts says she loved playing so much, she just didn’t want to get out and have to leave the ground.(Supplied: Ross Anderson)

“It made a difference to how we played when we eventually had to play them in the final.”

Triumph over traditional rivals

The decider was at one of world cricket’s great colosseums, the MCG. This was a significant upgrade for the women who’d played the rest of the tournament on suburban grounds.

“To have the final on the MCG was at that time pretty major [for women’s cricket],” Reeler, who was born in Zambia and moved to Sydney at the age of 10, said.

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