Cricket NSW has paid tribute to mystery spinner John Gleeson, who died on Friday at his home in Tamworth aged 78.

A finger spinner who could turn the ball both ways, Gleeson played 29 Tests between 1967 and 1972, claiming 93 wickets.

He played 116 first class matches in all, claiming 430 wickets at an average of 25. This included 30 Sheffield Shield matches for NSW, when he took 108 wickets at an average of 26.

Cricket NSW CEO Andrew Jones claimed Gleeson’s contribution to the game went well beyond his figures.

“John Gleeson added an extra dimension to cricket for a generation of Australians,” Mr Jones said.

“His unusual ability to turn the ball into or away from the batsman with a flick of his middle finger was a constant topic of conversation.

“John was inspired by media coverage of Jack Iverson during the 1950-51 Ashes series, who bowled off-breaks and googlies gripping the ball between his thumb and middle finger.

“John initially practiced with a table tennis ball and was spotted by Richie Benaud in Gunnedah during 1965-66 when Gleeson was the spinner in the local side playing against a team of current and former state and Test players.

“He moved to the Balmain club and was soon promoted to state and national duty.

“John was one of many significant Australian players who came from regional and rural NSW. A country boy at heart, he moved back to Tamworth following his Test and state career.

“Not only was John a very fine cricketer, he is remembered by all those who knew him as a genial man who enjoyed nothing more than telling cricket yarns.

“Our thoughts are with his wife Sandra, two sons and two daughters.”