Saturday, April 13, 2013

Excerpts from Indra Vikram Singh's book 'Don's Century' ..... 13 - Chapter 7 : PEERLESS RUNGETTER AND OTHER MASTERS OF THE WILLOW (South African star batsmen 13. Bruce Mitchell and 14. Dudley Nourse)

With the South Africans having put aside the matting and laid flat turf wickets, enabled the development of classy batsmen of the likes of Bruce Mitchell and Dudley Nourse. They could now go on the front foot without having to deal with the springy, often spongy, bounce, or vicious turn, that were caused by the ball gripping the mat. Turf wickets facilitated the straight bat technique with the ball going through, as against matting pitches on which it stopped and jumped. Trusting the true bounce, they were now able to build long innings.

Mitchell was a talented allround cricketer, elegant opening batsman, fine spinner and brilliant slip fielder, having taken 6 catches in the Melbourne Test of 1931-32. His first wicket stand of 260 with Ivan Siedle against England at Cape Town in 1930-31 was a record for South Africa. Until almost the year 2000 when the Proteas were well into their second stint in international cricket, Mitchell remained their highest rungetter in his 42 Tests, having notched up 3471 runs at an average of 48.88 with 8 hundreds. He scored a century in each innings against England in the Oval Test of 1947, hitting 120 and an unbeaten 189, his top score at that level.

Long before the Pollocks made their appearance, Dave Nourse, the Grand Old Man of South African cricket, and his son Dudley were their country’s stalwarts. Nourse senior, born in Surrey, England, was a delightful personality, ever-smiling and immensely talented. A left-handed allrounder, his spin bowling and catching close to the wicket made him a great asset. In a long first-class career spanning 40 years until he retired in 1935 at the age of 57, he hit up a highest of 304 not out for Natal against Transvaal in 1919-20. He played 45 Tests for South Africa from 1902-03 to 1924, and though he scored a hundred, his most defining innings was the unbeaten 93 at Johannesburg in 1905-06 that clinched South Africa’s first win over England. His first-class retirement coincided with his son Dudley‘s Test debut.                  

Dudley Nourse was a belligerent strokeplayer who breached the cherished average of 50 in Test cricket. In his stint of 34 Tests, Dudley Nourse scored 2960 runs at an average of 53.81, logging up a record nine tons for South Africa. His highest Test score of 231 against Australia at Johannesburg in 1935-36 was, however, put in the shade by Stan McCabe’s superb unbeaten 189. A monumental third-wicket stand of 319 with Alan Melville against England at Nottingham in 1947 was bettered only by the pair of Bill Edrich and Dennis Compton until the 1980s. Dudley Nourse came close to emulating his father with his first-class best of 260 not out, also for Natal versus Transvaal in 1936-37. When he bid adieu to the first-class game in 1953, his average of 65.85 in the domestic Currie Cup was the highest ever.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

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