Cape Town - One of South Africa’s greatest fast bowlers, Neil Adcock, died early on Sunday morning in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, aged 81.
Cricket South Africa reported he died of from pneumonia after suffering from bowel cancer for a long period of time. He is survived by his wife Maureen.
“Adcock emerged in the early fifties and became South Africa’s first world-class, genuine fast bowler,” former cricketer and friend Ali Bacher said.
“It was also around that time the Springbok cricket team became recognised as a force in international cricket for the first time and one of the reasons was because of the opening pair of fast bowlers in Adcock and Peter Heine.”
Adcock attended Jeppe High School in Johannesburg and was one of the last of a long line of famous South African cricketers - Eric and Athol Rowan, Jock Cameron and centenarian Norman Gordon to name but a few - produced by the school.
South Africa played Test cricket for the first time in 1889 and it took nearly 60 years to produce its first real quick.
Adcock played 26 Tests for South Africa, taking 104 wickets at an average of 21.10. He took five five-wicket hauls with an innings best return of 6/43 against Australia, in January 1958 in Durban.
His best bowling was in England in 1960 where, despite South Africa losing the series 3-0, he took 26 wickets in five Tests at an average of 22.57 - with a best of 6/65 at the Oval.
As a result of that tour, he was named as one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year in 1961. However, to tour England, Adcock had to take unpaid leave for almost four months and, as a result, lost his job.
He moved from Johannesburg to Pietermaritzburg where he eventually ran a very successful travel agency.
“I first played against him in 1960/61 when he was playing for Natal and Eddie Barlow and I were just starting out with Transvaal,” said Bacher.
“I can honestly say he was the quickest bowler I ever faced throughout my career, locally or internationally, until I stopped playing in 1974.”
In 1957/58, Australia, led by Ian Craig, beat South Africa 3-0, despite the hosts being the favourites to win the five-Test tour.
The final Test was played in Port Elizabeth and Australia only needed 68 runs to win. Opening batsmen Colin McDonald and Jim Burke were reputed to have said they had never faced such fast, hostile bowling ever before as they did from both Adcock and Heine in that second innings.
“When I met Colin in Melbourne in 1993, we had a chat about that Test and he confirmed it,” Bacher said.
“Whether or not it was out of sheer frustration at the batsmen or at the way the series had gone, he said he had never been subjected to such extraordinarily hostile and quick bowling before - the likes of which had not been seen from a South African before.”
Post retirement, Adcock did a lengthy period as a radio commentator with Charles Fortune and also became an articulate and amusing after-dinner speaker.
“He could tell a cricket story better than anyone. He had a real flair for it,” Bacher said.
“There was nothing better, after a hard day’s play, than to sit down with a beer and hear Neil’s legendary cricket stories which got better and better each time he told them.”