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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