|Newlands Cricket Stadium | Cape Town|
Basil D’Oliveira, Taliep Salie, Cecil Abrahams, Eric Petersen, Gesant (Tiny) Abed, Sulaiman Dik Abed, Goolam Abed, Dickie Conrad, Leftie Adams, Saait Magiet and Rushdi Magiet left an indelible mark on cricket in the Mother City, yet were shamefully denied the opportunities to represent Western Province and their country at Newlands.
Vincent Barnes, arguably the best South African Cricket Board of Control (SACBOC)-based fast bowler in the 1980’s, did represent Western Province in his sunset years at the iconic venue.
He was the all-time leading wicket-taker in SACBOC-cricket, capturing 287 wickets at an average of 11.32.
All of these cricketers left behind a legacy and were a source of inspiration for thousands of fans in the 20th century.
Most observers agree Newlands possibly have the most passionate cricket crowd in South Africa. These famous players, cult heroes in their communities, were legends in the shadows and most of them could have been international stars, if they were not politically ostracized and prohibited from playing under the Oaks.
D’Oliveira was barred from playing cricket against the best in South Africa, and from representing the country of his birth despite his ability.
He was offered 450 pounds in 1960 to play for the Central Lancashire League Club, Middleton.
He played for great success for Middleton for four years.
Tom Graveney persuaded that he could make the grade in county cricket and in 1965, at the age of 33, he hit five Championship centuries. He also took 35 wickets.
In 1966 he played his first of 44 tests for England at Lord’s, making an accomplished 27 before being unluckily run out.
The publication The selected – the 25 greatest South African cricketers of all time – remarked that despite his free-flowing, attractive style, Dolly, as he was affectionately known, was at his best when England were in trouble and with the back against the wall.
His finest innings were stamped by his dogged refusal to be beaten and he befriended adversity to power England to greater heights in such match situations.
Notable instances came in Australasia in 1970/71 when England were 88 for three replying to 493 in Melbourne and Dolly scored 117.
His century that same summer came when they were in trouble on 31 for three, noted the authors of The Selected.
“With a beautifully relaxed, sideways-on stance and a very short backlift, his powerful forearms nevertheless gave him command of all the strokes and after a steady, watchful start to an innings, he would accelerate to score freely and attractively,” noted Christopher Martin-Jenkins in World Cricketers – a biographical dictionary.
The D’Oliveira Affair in 1968 was a poignant moment in turning international opinion against South Africa and they were gradually barred from the international sporting fold until their reintroduction into the arena in 1991/92.
D’Oliveira said after his retirement in 1979: “If I have an overwhelming regret in my life, it’s that the best years of my cricket career weren’t properly utilised.
“Of course I became a better player once I came to England and started learning about the game, but in terms of eyesight, co-ordination and fitness, I was at my peak while playing with non-whites back in South Africa in the 1950’s,” he told the authors of The Selected.
D'Oliveira led the SACBOC 'Springboks' of 1956 and 1958 versus Kenya Asians/East Africa. This fact was described in a recent biography by Peter Oborne on Dolly as, "more important by far than his role as an England Test Player", noted Prof André Odendaal, a famed historian and former CEO of the Western Province Cricket Association.
He was the greatest player from the disenfranchised and excluded communities in the 1950's & 1960's - at a time when the standards in SACBOC were perhaps the strongest in history, before Group Areas and rigid apartheid destroyed settled communities and traditions, added Prof Odendaal in a tribute on the D’Oliveira-website.
“Starting senior league at age 14, Dolly scored 82 club and representative hundreds between 1947 and 1960,” he remarked.
D’Oliveira scored nearly 19 000 runs for Worcestershire, struck 43 first-class centuries and took more than 500 wickets.
On January 2, 2000, his roots were properly acknowledged when he walked to the middle of his beloved Newlands for the first time to the acclaim of a packed crowd there for the New Year’s test against England as one of the nominees for South Africa’s cricketer of the century award.
Eric Petersen, a contemporary of D'Oliveira, was a medium-pace bowler who averaged 8.33 in three Sacboc XI Tests on a tour of Kenya in 1958-59. "On the matting pitches used for Sacboc matches he was virtually unplayable,” noted the SA Cricket Annual of 2000. (Additional source: www.cricinfo.com, 18th December 2009, Robert Houwing).
In the first unofficial test against Kenya he tore into their batting line-up, capturing 6-51, and in the second unofficial test the tall fast bowler produced figures of 5-14 and 4-29.
Mogamad Alie described him in More than a game – History of the Western Province Cricket Board 1959 to 1991 as “probably the greatest pace bowler to play in South African Cricket Board of Control competitions.”
Petersen was one of the ten nominees as South African player of the century in 2000.
He admitted a sense of anger because he was not accepted as a member of the Central Union because he was probably too dark-skinned. He then joined Pirates in the Western Province Coloured Cricket Union (also known as the Malay Union) where he was given a warm reception by both players and fans, noted Alie.
Goolam Abed was an all-rounder of a different kind – he made his rugby league debut for Leeds in the early 1960’s, and later moved to Bradford Northern where he was offered a five-year contract worth 1000 pounds a year.
In the off-season, he played in the Bradford league for six years, representing Yeadon and Laisterdyke. “In that time, I scored three centuries for Yeadon and two for Laisterdyke,” he told Alie in the publication More than a game.
With the assistance of Cecil Abrahams, he gained access to the Central Lancashire League and Rochdale.
It was a fruitful association. In 1969, he was the only professional in the league to strike a century. He finished fifth on the batting averages that season.
In limited overs matches, he was the only century-maker in 11 years, scoring an unbeaten 101 in 1969.
Later, Abed moved to Castleton Moor, where he twice won the Frank Worrell Trophy for the leading amateur run scorer in the Central Lancashire League – 805 runs in 1970 and 685 runs in 1972. (Source: More than a game – history of the Western Province Cricket Board – 1959-1991, Mogamad Alie).
Sulaiman Dik Abed was a medium-fast bowler whose hallmark was a superb leg-cutter which caused the demise of many batting line-ups.
According to the authors, Ali Bacher and David Williams, in the publication Jacques Kallis and 12 other great all-rounders he was endowed with a fine batting technique and was a free-scoring right-handed batsman who could stamp his authority on a match with a wide range of shots.
Through the influence of the Cape Town cricket administrator Damoo Bansda, Dik Abed secured a contract with the Lancashire League club Enfield in 1967.
He served Enfield loyally for ten years. There were unsuccessful trials with Worcester, Surrey and Warwickshire, who were keener to sign on established stars instead of pinning their hopes on a relative unknown.
His brilliance as an all-rounder established him as a legend in the league, noted Williams and Bacher, and he was honoured by Enfield as its all-time great, edging out test stalwarts such as the West Indies players Clyde Walcott and Conrad Hunte and the Indian all-rounder Madon Lal.
“But for the iniquitous apartheid laws of the country, he would surely have taken his rightful place in international company, such was his undeniable ability,” Williams and Bacher added.
Abrahams was a stocky all-rounder with enormous natural talent.
He operated at brisk pace with appreciable movement off the wicket.
As a middle-order batsman, he was quick-scoring and aggressive in intent.
He played in all three tests for SACBOC against the touring Asians in 1956 and was the most successful all-rounder in the team. His never-say-die attitude caught the eye.
Abrahams returned with SACBOC to the East African territories in 1958 and was amongst the runs and the wickets when it mattered most. He made a telling contribution to the South African team’s resoundingly successful two-month tour, said Williams and Bacher.
Abrahams, the second South African Cricket Board of Control player to launch a career in the Lancashire League, received a letter from D’ Oliveira in 1961.
“He told me he’d organised a contract for me with a team called Milnrow,” Abrahams told Alie.
The all-rounder played for 15 seasons in the Central Lancashire League – first for Milnrow, and later for Radcliffe and Oldham.
His best season was in 1970, when he took 89 wickets at an average of 10.25, the best bowling effort in a year by a professional. (Source: More than a game, Alie).
One of the great traits of Abrahams, was that he was always mindful of creating the same opportunities for other deprived cricketers from the land of his birth.
Gesant Abed, affectionately known as Tiny, played representative cricket from 1948 to 1962.
He was one of the leading all-rounders in cricket played under the auspices of SACBOC.
A strapping fast bowler, he could bowl long spells without losing pace or nip and he utilized the bouncer to unnerve batsmen or remove them through failed hooks or pull shots or when they failed to get out of the way in time. (Source: Jacques Kallis and 12 other all-rounders, Williams and Bacher).
Abed played in all four national tournaments organized by SACBOC during the 1950s.
He represented the SA Indians in 1951, the SA Malays in 1953, 1955 and 1958 and captained his national team in the last tournament.
Abed was selected to play for SABCOC in five test matches, appearing in two of the three tests in 1956 against the touring Kenyan Asians in 1956 where he scored a fine 54.
In 1958, he toured Kenya and the East African territories as vice-captain to D’ Oliveira, playing in all three tests with best innings figures of 4-30 and match figures of eight for 80.
Abed, wrote Williams and Bacher, ended his representative career by captaining Western Province in the first non-racial interprovincial tournament for the Dadabhay Trophy at Johannesburg in 1961/62 where he scored an unbeaten century against Transvaal as well as taking 3-21.
Barnes was a fast bowler with a slinging action and took most of his wickets while representing Western Province in the Howa Bowl.
He topped the wicket-taking lists with 41 wickets at 7.75 in 1982/83 and 42 wickets at 10.14 in 1986/87. He also spent a season at Transvaal in 1985/86 and was one of the bowlers who finished with 36 wickets.
Barnes took a career-best 9 for 46 in the second innings of a match against Natal in 1983/84.
The demon fast bowler did not treat Western Province with the mandatory respect when he met them in January 1986 in Johannesburg.
He finished with a match-haul of 12-99 as the hosts, Transvaal, won by four wickets.
Barnes captured 8-29 in the first innings for Transvaal to dismiss Western Province for 60, their second-lowest total in three-day history.
“Most of the wickets available to the board were underprepared,” Barnes said to Alie (source: More than a game, history of the Western Province Cricket Board 1959 to 1981).
“For me, as a bowler, it was great. But for the batsmen, it was always a struggle. We never played at set provincial venues were the groundsmen could work in the wickets. Every time we played a provincial match, it was at a different venue, which wasn’t very helpful.”
How quick was Barnes?
Perhaps the smartest answer is that no one had time to blink.
Faiek Davids, former player of Western Province for SABBOC and the Western Province Cricket Union, recalled a moment when Saait Magiet, superb all-rounder of Primrose and Western Province, once was hit on the mouth by a wicked bouncer from Barnes when playing for Victoria
Magiet, as tough as nails (also a superb rugby star who represented Primrose and City and Suburbian at flank, eighth-man, scrumhalf and flyhalf) resumed almost unperturbed.
Rushdi Magiet, his brother, said Saait Magiet was a splendid all-rounder who would surely have represented South Africa if unity emerged earlier.
As a new-ball bowler, he could swing and seam it, while he also produced terrifying bounce to haunt batsmen.
He was a swashbuckling middle-order batsman who could clear boundaries with contemptuous ease.
“Saait was in the Clive Rice-mould,” said Davids.
“He was an unbelievable cricketer and would surely have represented South Africa. He could nip it both ways off the seam at pace.
“I remember how he would sit on one knee and strike the ball to leg for a four. He batted at number five and was terrific.”
Davids said statistics are not a just reflection of Magiet’s ability with the blade (2650 runs in 67 matches at an average of 29.12 with three tons) as wickets were uncovered and underprepared in those days.
Players also used the aerial bombardment as the outfield was not as quick as in the current era.
Lefty Adams was considered one of the shrewdest and most inspirational captains of his era.
He and Saait Magiet once destroyed Eastern Province for 42 in a second innings when they had to score 62 to win it.
Magiet finished with 4-18, underlining his bowling mastery.
Adams captured 6-7 and finished with a match-haul of 10-15. Alie relayed how Adams picked up a piece of paper blowing across the ground and read a fictitious message to Khaya Majola, the key EP batsman. “I told him we’d bowl them out for 42 – my age- and we did,” he recalled.
Rushdi Magiet remembered Adams as a spinner who could bowl a Liquorish allsorts of deliveries.
He could tease batsmen with his flight, use a flatter trajectory or produce a much faster delivery almost at medium-pace.
“He terrorized batsmen, but all legally,” said Magiet.
He used his words shrewdly to unnerve opponents.
Shane Warne, in his autobiography, spoke about sledging as intended to cause mental disintegration.
Many decades before the Australians, Mohammad Ali, then still known as Cassius Clay, tormented Sonny Liston before the heavyweight championship of the world fight in Miami in 1964, saying: “You big, ugly bear, I’m going to whip you.”
Ali, a past master of psychological warfare, won that fight and shouted to all-comers in the ring in triumphant fashion after the clash: “I am the greatest.”
It is uncertain whether Adams borrowed from Ali or the Australians, but he used his tongue lashings cleverly to unsettle the opponents.
Another fine moment for Adams was in February 1973 in Durban when he finished with a match-haul of 11-137 to master-mind a four-wicket win.
Western Province shared the Dadabhay Trophy with Natal.
Davids was full of praise for the astute use of swing and reverse swing by Rushdi Magiet to skittle out top-orders.
Magiet first served notice of his skills as a young cricketer when he was selected for Western Province in the 1971/72-season.
He represented them in 37 first-class games until 1980/81 and captured 109 wickets as a fast bowler.
Magiet also played for the South in the North-South-derby in the South African Cricket Board (SACB) era.
A practitioner of the lethal art of reverse swing, he once took 10 for 56 in a match.
Perhaps one of Magiet’s greatest traits was his ability to defy the odds and bounce back from setbacks.
One such example was when he was recalled for Western Province against the Rest of South Africa and captured 5-29 with the new ball at the Green Point Track in 1973. It included the priced scalp of D’ Oliveira (trapped in front for 18).
He finished with a match-haul of 8 for 95.
In the Lancashire league, he represented Todmorden on a slow pitch and struggled.
“On the matting wickets of Cape Town, I was so accustomed to bowling shorter, that I battled to adjust to bowling a fuller length in England,” he told Alie.
He managed 31 wickets at an average of 21.90 and only passed 50 runs once while batting.
But despite the disappointments, he gained so much by spending time with the England fast bowler Peter Lever.
Lever took him to the Lancashire nets where he taught him to bowl with the seam.
On his return from the Lancashire league, Magiet made his debut for Western Province in 1971 and became an almost automatic selection the next 10 seasons. He captained the team in 1977/78 and 1978/79.
His best bowling analysis for the Cape-team was 7-35 against Transvaal in 1978. He produced his top-score of 76 against the Eastern Province in 1975.
Sedrick (Dickie) Conrad only showed serious interest in cricket late in life at the age of 18 because of the constant encouragement of his cousin, Rushdie Conrad. (Source: More than a game – history of the Western Province Cricket Board 1959 to 1981, Mogamad Alie).
Three days after playing his first competitive match, he was selected to open the innings for Western Province at the 1963/64 Dadabhay trophy tournament in Port Elizabeth.
He played in the company of some greats like Coetie Neethling, Dik and Lobo Abed, Timmy Lackay and Gertjie Williams.
In the 1966-tournament, he produced his best form. In the first match, against Griqualand West, he smashed a career-best 194.
Once he had made up his mind to ply his trade seriously, he constructed a concrete practice pitch on an open field adjacent to his parent’s home in Lansdowne.
He spent hours honing his batting skills on the strip.
Conrad went on to become one of the most prolific run-scorers in the 32-year old history of the Western Province Cricket Board.
His average, relayed Alie, was 40.30, the highest by a board player in the three-day format.
Conrad also became the joint holder of the opening partnership and second-wicket partnership record for the board – 111 for the first wicket with Braima Isaacs and 232 for the second wicket with Viccie Moodie.
When he made his debut in the Lancashire League in 1970, he struggled initially on sticky wickets in May and June.
Later, when the weather improved, Conrad struck his best batting form and compiled a superb 140 for Salford University against the Lancashire County Cricket Club’s second eleven at Old Trafford.
Although he managed four centuries for Western Province, he considers his 99 against Natal at Tills Crescent in 1973 as his most satisfying knock. (Source: More than a game, Alie).
Conrad’s decision to watch the Derrick Robbins X1 at Newlands and his batting hero Brian Close, brought an end to his career in the Western Province Cricket Board but signalled the start of a new chapter in the Western Province Cricket Union.
Taliep Salie was considered by a few knowledgeable critics as superior to D’ Oliveira as an all-round cricketer.
Captain of the all-conquering Western Province Malay team for over a decade, Salie proved to be a googly bowler of immense skill and guile. (Source: Jacques Kallis and 12 other all-rounders, by Ali Bacher and David Williams).
In a match for the Malay X1 against a White X1, which included South African players like David Nourse, AW Palm and Xenophon Balaskas, he took all ten wickets in a marvellous display of spin bowling.
In addition to his superb slip fielding, his numerous batting feats included a memorable 124 against Natal for Western Province in a Barnado tournament of the 1930s.
He was much sought after as a net bowler by visiting English and Australian players. The Australian spin wizard Clarrie Grimmett was convinced that he would have found a place in any international side.
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