Cancer fells legendary fast bowler, Adcock

2013-01-07 00:00

ONE of South Africa’s greatest fast bowlers, Neil Adcock, died yesterday in Howick aged 81, after a long battle with cancer.

In his prime, Adcock was acknowledged as one of the world’s best fast bowlers, feared by opposing batsmen.

He was a vital weapon in the South Africa’s arsenal, playing 26 Tests between 1953 and 1962, taking 104 wickets at a superb average of 21,10.

Of those wickets, 26 were taken in the 1960 away series against England, resulting in him being named as one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year in 1961. On the domestic front, he played 99 first-class games, finishing with 405 wickets at a miserly average of 17,25.

Adcock was the first South African quick bowler to reach 100 Test wickets, using his height to generate pace and bounce, which proved many a batsman’s downfall. His character and pride were never better reflected than in that 1960 England tour when fellow fast bowler Geoff Griffin was no-balled for throwing, leaving Adcock to shoulder the attack, a responsibility he took in his stride.

However, it was in his second Test, against New Zealand at Ellis Park in December 1953, that he gave an indication of what he could do with the ball, striking batsman Bert Sutcliffe on the head with a vicious delivery which saw the New Zealander leave the field.

After his cricket career, Adcock became a respected SABC radio commentator, covering Test and provincial matches.

Cricket South Africa’s acting CEO, Jacques Faul, said: “Neil was one of the great fast bowlers from a golden era of fast bowling. It’s fair to say he ranks with the best of that time, easily in the same mould as England’s Brian Statham, Fred Truman and Frank Tyson, Australia’s Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall and Alan Davidson, and the fearsome West Indians, Wes Hall and Roy Gilchrist.”

Colin Chater, president of the Kingsmead Mynahs Club, said: “Neil was a great supporter of the club and schoolboy cricket in KwaZulu-Natal. As a former international player from the province, he was an honorary member of the Mynahs Club and was the first cricketer to cap the U17 Mynahs side at the Pietermaritzburg Oval in 2005.

“He attended many lunches the club held for former South African players and enjoyed catching up and sharing cricket stories.

“He was a great story teller and would tell many a tale from the change room and the field of play, cricket folklore which nobody else knew of.

“He was a wonderful friend and a legend of South African cricket.”

Former Natal batsman Chris Burger, who played two Tests for South Africa, first encountered Adcock in 1955. Said Burger: “He was at the height of his power and we met in a provincial match, Natal against Transvaal, at the Wanderers. I was a middle-order batsman and was soon at the other end, ready to face the music. All I can say is he was frighteningly quick, well built, wiry, tough and of endless stamina. There was no escape. After the 1960 England tour, he came and played for Natal and I breathed a sigh of relief, being on the same side as him.”

Burger also told the story of how Adcock hit an umpire on the head during a Test at Lord’s in 1955.

“He asked the umpire at the wicket to stand further back from the stumps as he (Neil) liked to get close to the stumps in his delivery stride. The umpire took no notice and the second ball of his over, as his arm came over to deliver the ball, he knocked the umpire on the back of the head, just to get his message across. It had the desired result: the umpire stepped back to where Neil wanted and word spread around England as fellow umpires followed suite.

“He formed a formidable bowling partnership with Peter Heine, and I remember Neil playing against Australia at Port Elizabeth in 1958. I don’t think I have ever seen batsmen terrorised by a bowler as the Aussie openers Jim Burke and Colin McDonald were. They took their life in their hands facing Neil. He was fiercely competitive, yet a gentleman off the field. We will miss him.”

Ali Bacher also faced up to Adcock and rated him “the quickest bowler I faced at provincial and international level”.

“He could tell a story better than anyone and there was nothing better than sitting with a cold beer and hearing Neil talk. The stories got better with each telling,” he said.

In later years, Adcock ran a successful travel agency in Pietermaritzburg and had a golf shop near the country club. As a golfer, he played off a two or three handicap.

He is survived by his wife Maureen and children Susan and Alan, from his first marriage, who both live overseas.

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