Thursday, 22 March 2012

Kenneth Colin Bland

13, Colin Bland

In THE 1960s a tall, lithely built Rhodesian revolutionised what had always been accepted as the dullest aspect of the sport of cricket — the art of fielding.

The man was K. C. (Colin) Bland, who, with singular dedication to long hours of practice, set the cricket world alight with his spectacular efforts in the field and placed a new emphasis on an aspect of the game that had previously attracted little attention.

As a young man, Bland, believing that he was primarily a batsman, felt he could still make a material contribution to a team effort by fielding well even if he turned in a low batting score.

That was the beginning of an arduous fitness and training programme to which Bland stuck throughout his playing days. Following the Canadian Air Force 5BX fitness programme, Bland got himself into peak condition and stayed there. Encouraged by his father, he embarked on a fielding training course that involved long hours of picking up the ball on the run and throwing down stumps set up in front of a hockey goal.

The hard work paid off. With his reflexes honed razor-sharp, Bland was able to perform near miracles in the field. He developed his skill to such a degree that the run-out became a real weapon in the Springbok teams for which he played. His pick-up and return-throw in one fluid movement from any angle became legendary and by 1964 he was generally acknowledged as the finest fielder in the world.

In 1965 Bland toured England with Pieter van der Merwe's Springboks and in the first Test at Lord's he stunned the crowds with a brilliant pick- up and throw from square leg to dismiss Ken Barrington. Jim Parks suffered a similar fate in the same Test when Bland threw down his stumps. The rangy Rhodesian became a celebrity and a great draw card. For the first time, people were flocking to cricket matches to watch a man field.

Bland's performances on that tour prompted Alan Ross of the London Observer to write: "He is a handsome attacking batsman, orthodox in defence and a powerful driver with a taste for hitting unexpected straight sixes without apparent effort "But it is as a fielder that he is unique, bridging the wide gap between accomplishment and art"

Of that first Test at Lord's, Crawford White of the Daily Express wrote: "There was majestic eagle-like ferocity and grace in the way Bland swooped to throw out Barrington."

The victim, Barrington, had this to say: "I knew Colin was great but he's greater than I thought A batsman always knows where Bland is. He has to know, to live!"

Bland was not only an accomplished batsman and a brilliant fielder; he also had a sensible and analytical approach to the game. He was always thinking about how he could improve his own performance and of ways to get the other side out. An ideal example of Bland's scheming was a match against Mike Smith's touring MCC side at the Police Ground in Salisbury.

Mike Brearley of Middlesex was batting, Bland was in his happy hunting ground at cover and his Old Georgians club-mate, Vernon Dickenson, was at mid-off. Brearley consistently pushed the ball towards mid-off; Bland would come cantering in, stoop as though to collect the ball and let it go through to Dickenson while the batsmen took an easy single.

This occurred several times but in one over Dickenson suddenly stood about fifteen metres deeper. Brearley played to mid-off, saw Dickenson was deeper and went off for a single. But this time Bland came in like an express train and threw down Brearley's stumps in one movement with the unfortunate batsman well out of his ground. The great Ted Dexter was one of Bland's victims in similar fashion when the Cavaliers played at Salisbury, and there have been countless others in all classes of cricket.

Kenneth Colin Bland was born at Bulawayo on-5 April 1938, a third generation Rhodesian of Scottish descent. His talent at cricket was quick to manifest itself when he scored his first century at the age of ten for Baines Junior School. He played for Rhodesian and South African Schools in 1956 and 1957 and made his first-class debut as a nervous eighteen-year-old Milton schoolboy honoured by selection for Rhodesia against Peter May's 1956-57 MCC touring side.

His debut was exemplary and he top-scored in both innings with 19 and 38 —and that was against an attack which included the great fast bowler Frank Tyson.

From that auspicious beginning it became clear that Bland had a great future in cricket. In 1960 he captained South African Universities to a victory in two days over Western Province and in the process hit 124 out of the Universities' total of 347-5.

After a successful tour of England with the young invitation South African Fezelea's team in 1961, Bland was selected to play for South Africa against the touring New Zealand team later that year. It was not a spectacular Test debut for Bland, though his performances could hardly be classed as failures. He scored a total of 205 runs with a top score of 42 but the talent was obviously there and he gained selection for the South African team to tour Australia in 1963 and 1964.

He was not selected for the first Test of the tour as he was a little slow in finding form, but after the first Test there was no stopping him. In six innings he scored 367 runs with an average of over 60 including a magnificent 126 in the fifth and final Test. His average of 61,16 was second only to Eddie Barlow (75) and was better than batting genius Graeme Pollock, who finished his first tour with an average of 57.

Bland played in all three Tests against New Zealand and totalled 207 runs at the excellent average of 69. As a batsman he was blossoming and the following1964-65 season was to be his best when he played eight Tests against England — five in South Africa and three in England, by which time his fielding prowess was legendary.

In the second Test against Mike Smith's England side at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, Bland passed the milestone of 1 000 runs in Test cricket. He hit a magnificent undefeated 144 to take his Test total to 1 046, scored from 14 Test matches.

Bland passed another milestone in the fifth Test at Port Elizabeth when his innings of 48 took him beyond Jackie McGlew's long-standing record for first class runs scored in a South African season. It did not stop there.

By March 1965,Bland had become the first man to score 1 000 first-class runs in a South African season. He did it by hitting 62 for Rhodesia in a match against English County champions Worcestershire at Salisbury. The innings took his aggregate to 1048 runs, easily beating McGlew's previous record of 953.

It was a highly satisfying season for the Rhodesian. He had also topped the South African Test averages with 572 runs at 71,5 including a century and four half-centuries.

After the 1965 tour of England, where he so impressed as a fielder, Bland was honoured by an invitation to play for the World XI in two matches against England in September. By then he had scored 1 351 runs in 17 Tests. But it was still his fielding prowess that made Bland a cricket celebrity, someone for schoolboys to emulate.

He was extremely popular in England and drew large crowds to exhibitions of his fielding, thereby publicising a facet of cricket normally accepted as being a very ordinary and unexciting part of the game.

Ian Woolridge of the London Daily Moil commented on Bland's run-out of Barrington: "It was an electrifying moment of fielding. It is the story, not only of the throw that turned a Test but of a man who can do for fielding what Bradman did for batting." This was not isolated praise. Bland was honoured by being named as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year for 1965, and in November of that year he was awarded the John Hopley Memorial Trophy as Rhodesia's Sportsman of the Year.

The 1966 South African season was a turning-point for Bland. He was selected for the Springbok team to play the five Test series at home against Bobby Simpson's Australians but he injured his right knee on the final day of the first Test at the Wanderers at Johannesburg.

The accident happened when Bland, in typical fashion, was putting in maximum effort to stop a ball reaching the boundary. He collided with the picket fence and that injury effectively ended his Test career.

In September 1966 he had been selected for the World XI and hit 132 in their first match against Sussex. But his knee had shown signs of weakening and he played little part in the World XI's remaining matches.

Eventually he had a cartilage removed in an operation at Salisbury in January 1967. He made a good recovery and was back playing in league cricket less than a month later.

He continued to play for Rhodesia in Currie Cup and in August 1967 was appointed national cricket coach. He also captained Rhodesia in thirteen matches, winning four, losing four and drawing five, and hit his highest first-class score of 197 against Border that season.

In 1968 he received the almost customary invitation to play for the World XI in England and he duly set off in August only to be prevented from entering Britain because of his Rhodesian passport. It was a great disappointment for Bland and for British cricket fans who treasured memories of the Bland style of fielding which had made such an impact three years before.

Thereafter, his career wound down rapidly. At the end of 1969 he left Rhodesia to live in Port Elizabeth and played Currie Cup for Eastern Province, but a year later he retired from the first-class game.

In 1971 Bland accepted the post of cricket and hockey coach at Free State University and Grey College in Bloemfontein. A year later, while running a sports goods shop in the city, he was honoured with life membership of the MCC. By 1973 Bland was persuaded to return to cricket as captain of Free State in the Currie Cup B section before finally giving in at the end of the season.

An extraordinary sportsman who, in his earlier career had played hockey for both Rhodesia and Eastern Province whilst at university, Bland then turned to squash coaching.

Cricket owes a great debt to Colin Bland. He gave entertainment and joy to thousands and left a standard to which all those who profess to be competent in the field should wish to aspire.


Test Series
1961-62 Vs. New Zealand
Tests: 5
Runs: 205
100s: Nil
Average: 22,77

1963-64 in Australia
Tests: 4
Runs: 367
100s: 1
Average: 61,16:

1963-64 in New Zealand
Tests: 3
Runs: 207
100s: Nil
Average: 69,00

1964-65 Vs. England
Tests: 5
Runs: 572
100s: 1
Average: 71,50

In 1965 in England
Tests: 3
Runs: 286
100s: 1
Average: 47,66

1966-67 Vs. Australia
Tests: 1
Runs: 32
100s: Nil
Average: 16,00

Tests: 21
Runs: 1 699
100s: 3
Average: 49,08

For Rhodesia 1956-68
Matches: 55
Runs: 87
100s: 10
Highest Score: 197
Average: 49,08

Centuries: 4
Half Centuries: 13
Catches: 22

Overall career runs: about 7 000 at an average of about 40.


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Thursday, 15 March 2012

Godfrey Bernard Lawrence

Pg12, Goofy Lawrence

Over a span of thirteen years, a genial giant of 6 ft 6 in. made a profound impact on, and a great contribution to Rhodesian cricket. The man was Godfrey Bernard Lawrence, known to all as 'Goofy', who had a heart that matched his massive frame.

Lawrence teamed up with bespectacled swing bowler Joe Partridge to produce one of the finest opening attacks in the history of the Currie Cup competition. Goofy's fast-medium seamers were the perfect foil to Joe's 'benders' and the pair became known throughout Southern Africa as the 'terrible twins'.

It is difficult to separate the two, but Partridge is dealt with elsewhere in this book. The high point of Lawrence's career was his inclusion in the Springbok team which shared a five-Test home series against John Reid's New Zealand team, but there were many who were firmly convinced that the tall Rhodesian should have played for South Africa years before.

As it turned out, Lawrence's Test career was brief but spectacular. When the series ended he had captured 28 wickets at a cost of 18,28 from 222,2 overs — a clear 73 overs more than any of the other Springbok bowlers.

Lawrence was the sort of bowler whom cricket team captains pray for. Always a willing workhorse, Lawrence would plug away for hours and his accuracy seldom wavered.

A study of Lawrence's first-class career reveals some startling statistics which bear ample testimony to his talent and determination. He rarely bowled less than 25 overs in an innings (in years when the eight-ball over was the norm) and he very seldom claimed less than three wickets an innings. Obviously, Goofy would have been an asset to any team.

Against the 1961-62 New Zealand team, Lawrence produced two startling performances. In the second Test at Newlands at Cape Town he routed the New Zealand first innings to finish with figures of 30,3-12-53-8, truly remarkable bowling at Test level. In the fourth Test he captured 5-52 off 16,1 overs and in the second innings took 4-57 off 22,2 overs.

As Lawrence had taken another New Zealand wicket in their second innings of the second Test in Cape Town, the Rhodesian could claim the rare honour of nine wickets in a match on two occasions in one series.

Goofy had always fancied himself as a batsman and his rivalry with Partridge in this aspect of the game was an ever-present source of amusement to other members of the Rhodesian team. But Lawrence could legitimately claim to be the senior partner as far as batting was concerned after the fifth Test against the New Zealand.

Springbok captain Jackie McGlew had injured a shoulder and a finger and relegated himself to batting number eight. Goofy, never shy about his batting prowess, was given the opportunity to open the Springbok first innings with Eddie Barlow. With typical determination Lawrence top-scored with 43, his highest Test score!

Another feather in Lawrence's cap was that by taking two first innings New Zealand wickets and four in their second innings, he took his tally of victims to 28 — a new South African record for a fast bowler in a Test series.

David Lewis, Rhodesia's most successful captain, had this to say of Lawrence and his 'terrible twin' partner Partridge: "No praise can be too high for these bowlers, who over a period of years performed outstanding service for Rhodesia. They carried, with courage and determination, an enormous burden, and both were rewarded by South African selections only at a very late stage in their careers.

"It is firmly felt that had they played in any other province they would have received South African recognition at a very much earlier date. They were very different bowlers but complemented one another perfectly.

"Lawrence was one who bowled for long hours with great persistence and accuracy. He would be happy to bowl at any time on any day, be it at Durban in the rain or at Bloemfontein in the sun, where it was sometimes 110 degrees in the shade.

"He had a huge heart and no words are too much praise for him."

Lewis also had other ideas about Goofy's claims to be proficient with the bat but Lawrence could always counter that he had finished eighth in the South African batting averages for the series against New Zealand with a total of 141 runs at 17,62.

During his career in Southern Africa, Lawrence was the tallest cricketer in Currie Cup. Since his playing days there have been only two other cricketers who might have matched him for height — Rhodesian wicket-keeper Howie Gardiner and Natal pace bowler Vintcent van der Bijl.

Lawrence was born at Salisbury on 31 March 1932 and was educated at St. George's College where he secured a place in the 1st XI. In 1950 he appeared in the Rhodesian Nuffield trials but failed to make the team.

Still, there was little doubt that Lawrence was an opening bowler of great promise and by 1955 he had caught the eye of the Mashonaland selectors and was included in the provincial team to play Matabeleland, who at that time had seven national players, including Springbok Percy Mansell. Lawrence performed well enough to be selected for Rhodesia.

He made his first-class debut against Griqualand West in the 1955-56 season and took 3-24 in 17 overs. In six matches that season he accounted for 24 batsmen at the economical average of 15,08. In the return match against Griquas at Kimberley, Lawrence had a match tally of seven wickets for 66 runs and showed for the first time that his bluster about being a batsman of no mean talent had a ring of truth — he made 36 runs, at the time his highest first-class score.

The following season, Peter May's powerful MCC side toured Southern Africa. At Bulawayo, Goofy doggedly held up an end to enable Mansell to reach his 50 in Rhodesia's first innings and in the second match at Salisbury Sports Club, Lawrence the bowler put up a magnificent performance. He had batsmen like Colin Cowdrey, Trevor Bailey and Doug Insole tied down for long periods and finished with admirable figures of 6-104 off 35 overs while the MCC totalled 501.

Ian Craig's Australians turned up in 1957 and in the first match Lawrence bowled 38 eight-ball overs for little reward. He took 2-124 and deserved better as Australia totalled 520-6. But Goofy was not to be denied and in the three-day fixture at Bulawayo, he gave the Australians a taste of what determined Rhodesians could do.

Australia scored 292 and Lawrence took 6-83, including 4-12 in his final spell. It was the best bowling performance by a Rhodesian against Australia and one that gave Lawrence some international status.

The 1959-60 South African season was a great one for Goofy. He snapped up 31 wickets in the season, which included seven Transvaal wickets for 43 runs in an innings and 9-90 against Border in the match at East London. The South African selectors quite rightly invited him to trials for the Springbok team to tour England under McGlew but he did not make the side, many critics considering his exclusion a mistake.

Lawrence played against the strong International Cavaliers team which visited Rhodesia in 1960 and he took 4-45 in 20 overs. He also played against the Commonwealth team which toured in 1961 and which included players of the calibre of Rohan Kanhai and Sonny Ramadhin. Lawrence took three wickets in two innings. In 1964-65, English County champions Worcestershire toured and Lawrence claimed 6-61 and 1-35 in the match against them.

Goofys contribution to Rhodesian cricket was immense but is perhaps best summed up by the fact that now, thirteen years after his departure from Rhodesia to live in Australia; his record of 296 first-class wickets still stands with veteran Springbok and Rhodesian leg-spinner Jack du Preez the closest challenger. It is also pertinent that Lawrence's wickets were taken in only 66 matches for Rhodesia.

He saved his best Currie Cup figures for his last season with Rhodesia in 1965-66. Against Western Province at Newlands in Cape Town, Lawrence destroyed the opponents with figures of 19,1 -5-42-8. He also topped the national bowling averages in 1956,1959,1961,1963,1964 and 1965 — more times than any other Rhodesian bowler.


Balls: 15 534
Maidens: 738
Runs: 5 119
Wickets: 296
Average: 17,29

Five wickets in an innings: 13 occasions.
Ten wickets in a match: once.

Best seasons: 1963 —
190,1 overs
71 maidens
299 runs
27 wickets at 11,07.

109,4 overs
28 maidens
267 runs
19 wickets at 14,05

Test career (one series of five Tests against New Zealand 1961-62):
Overs: 222.2
Maidens: 61
Runs: 512
Wickets: 28
Average: 18,28

Matches: 66
Innings: 95
Not Out: 23
Runs: 908
HS: 60
Average: 12,61

Test career (one series of five Tests against New Zealand 1961-62):
Matches: 5
Innings: 8
Not Out: 0
Runs: 141
HS: 43
Average: 17,62

South African Cricketer of the Year: 1960



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Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Van Stadens

Pg11, The van Stadens'

MANY Rhodesians brought distinction to the nation as amateur boxers, but none more so than the 'Fighting Van Stadens' — brothers Pieter and Jaggie.

It was southpaw Pieter, Rhodesian born and the idol of crowds in his home town of Bulawayo, who recorded Rhodesia's greatest boxing triumph at the 1954 Empire and Commonwealth Games at Vancouver, Canada.

At the age of only eighteen, the Bulawayo steelworker won the Gold Medal in the lightweight division in a bruising final against Frank McQuillan of Scotland. In being crowned Empire champion Van Staden brought home the country's proudest boxing prize. In fact, in the history of Rhodesian sport only one other man attained a Commonwealth Games Gold — bowler Ralph Hodges who won the singles at Vancouver in 1954.

All three boxers in Rhodesia's Vancouver Games team came from the renowned stable of trainer Herbie Smith at the North End club at Bulawayo. The other two were bantamweight Gordon Smith and light-welterweight Aubrey Harris.

Smith, the 'baby' of the team, established a unique record. After being picked for the Games team at the age of sixteen he went to the South African junior championships and won the title. But he turned the regulation minimum of seventeen required for the Games only twenty-one days before the great event.

The South African junior champion from 1951-54, and winner of the best boxer's cup at the 1954 championships at Port Elizabeth, Smith distinguished himself by winning the Silver Medal at Vancouver, being unlucky not to emulate Van Staden.

In the final he met John Smiley of Scotland, who was to go on and win the British Empire flyweight title. When Smiley was announced as the winner, the crowd booed for a long while in sympathy with the talented young Rhodesian, who felt that had he had the inspiration of his trainer Herbie Smith in his corner he would have won.

Harris (21) brought further honour to Rhodesia by likewise making the light- welterweight final, taking the Silver Medal when he lost to Canada's Mickie Bergin. This meant that all three Rhodesians had won through to the finals — their two Silvers and a Gold making these the most spectacular successes in the history of the country's boxing.

But it was a younger Van Staden, Jaggie, who was to emerge later as Rhodesia's greatest post-war amateur boxer. Although he never emulated his brother in winning a Gold Medal at any of the Games he was to forge a distinguished all-round career which was to make him the biggest draw card in the country's boxing.

Jurgens John (Jaggie) Van Staden was bom at Bulawayo on 14 January 1942 and attended Newmansford Junior School and Northlea High School.

From the age of eight his boxing career was shaped by that doyen of trainers. Herbie Smith, at the North End club which produced a string of champions over the years. For the first four years, Jaggie boxed in many small junior tournaments before his career began in earnest as a thirteen-year-old in 1955. Between 1955-60 he had forty-three amateur fights, winning them all — eighteen inside the distance. Among his successes up to that time were the South African junior featherweight title in East London (1956) and the most outstanding boxer award in the 1957 South African junior championships at Port Elizabeth, where he beat Transvaal's T. Theron on a TKO in the final.

Next year (1958), he again won the best boxer's cup in South Africa beating Jannie Pieterse of Alberton in a close final at Pretoria. A two-fisted fury with all the technical expertise, Jaggie quickly gained recognition as Southern Africa's nearest to Springbok marvel Grant Webster.

It was also in 1958 that Jaggie (who beat Reg Gaskon in the semifinals) won his first South African senior title as a lightweight at Durban at the age of sixteen. Thus, in the same year as winning the South African junior title and the best boxer's cup, he recorded the unique feat of winning the South African senior title and the best boxer's cup in his very first senior championships. It is a record still unmatched to hold both senior and junior titles and both best boxer's cups in the same year.

In 1959, Jaggie impressively beat South African light-welterweight title holder H. Finlay of Defence to take his second South African senior crown. After this, the eighteen-year-old apprentice motor mechanic was asked to join twenty three other Springbok possibles for a week's training at Pretoria.

His selection was a formality and on 26 September 1959 he became Rhodesia's first boxing Springbok when he fought in the international against Ireland at Johannesburg. In a light-welterweight bout. Van Staden made it a winning debut with a points victory over twenty-year-old Belfast boy Sean Brown.

Four days later, Ireland beat Rhodesia 6-4 at Bulawayo, but Van Staden kept his unbeaten record with a points win over Bernard Meli. Van Staden was unimpressive for the first two rounds, but with the third round came vintage Van Staden as he hammered out victory with a masterly display of methodical destruction.

Chosen for the 1960 Olympic Games at Rome for his first trip outside Africa, great hopes were pinned on the untamed Rhodesian for a medal But when representing the then Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Van Staden was to taste his first defeat when the referee stopped his fight against Sayed el Nahas of Egypt after 2 min. 35 sec. of the second round. A clubbing right swing that landed behind his ear was to dash the Rhodesians hopes. It dropped him for a count of
eight and the contest was stopped as he staggered to his feet. It had been a quiet bout until then, with the nineteen-year-old Van Staden, possibly suffering from nerves, never getting going.

Van Staden returned home to revive his reputation with a close points win over William 'Boela' Meyers in a light-welterweight contest between Matabeleland and the Booysens Club from Johannesburg in June 1961. Meyers had won the Bronze Medal as a featherweight at the Rome Olympics. He gained revenge over the Rhodesian in October that same year with a narrow semifinal win in the South African championships at Kimberley in the light welterweight division.

It was Van Staden's second loss but by September 1962 he had taken his record to fifty-six victories in sixty fights. He won the Empire Games trial, in conjunction with the Federal championships at Bulawayo (he took the welter-weight title) and was chosen for the Rhodesian team to go to the 1962 Empire and Commonwealth Games at Perth.

By general acclaim Jaggie was expected to go close to the Gold Medal if he could avoid early confrontation with Scotland's Golden Olympian Dick McTaggart. But again his ambition to win an international title was to be shattered. The twenty- year-old fair-haired Rhodesian lost on a third round TKO to hard-punching Clement Quartey of Ghana in the light-welterweight division. Quartey, an Olympic Silver Medallist, caught Van Staden with a stunning right in the opening round to force a compulsory count of eight. Van Staden then seemed to have the Ghanaian's measure, but in the third round he was caught by a heavy right which ended the fight.

On his return from Perth, Van Staden asked to be excluded from the Springbok trials as he wanted to rest from the sport. He had trained hard for twelve long years and had earned recognition as one of Southern Africa's finest boxers. Now he had had enough and was content to end his career and retire.


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