SA legend celebrates century

2011-08-05 20:06

Johannesburg - History will be made on Saturday when former South African Test cricketer Norman "Mobil" Gordon celebrates his 100th birthday.

Born in Boksburg on August 6, 1911, Gordon is the oldest living Test cricketer.

His nearest rival, New Zealand's Eric Tindal, passed away in August last year, four months before his 100th birthday.

South Africa's cricketing family will honour Gordon on Saturday evening at a function at the Wanderers in Johannesburg where he will be welcomed by a guard of honour.

Among the guests will be former fast bowling greats Neil Adcock, Peter Pollock, Mike Procter, Fanie de Villiers, Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini.

Cricket SA (CSA) president Mtutuzeli Nyoka will make a presentation to Gordon on behalf of the International Cricket Council and, according to former cricket boss Ali Bacher, a television documentary on Gordon will also be screened.

Gordon represented South Africa in five Test matches in the 1938-39 season, and is the sole survivor from the "Timeless" Test, played against England in Durban in March 1939.

The famous match spanned 10 days and still ended in a draw. Gordon was in the middle of bowling his 93rd over when the teams finally decided to call it a day as the touring England side had to dash to catch the mail boat home.

His 92.2 eight-ball overs bowled in that Test, equating to a mammoth 738 balls, still stands as the most number of balls bowled by a fast bowler in a Test match.

Known as "Mobil" because he used to slick down his unruly hair with handfuls of vaseline, Gordon finished the five-match series as the leading wicket-taker with 20 scalps.

His Test career ended prematurely with the start of the World War II. Gordon played only a handful of matches after the war and retired at the end of the 1948-49 season.

"I recall meeting with Norman in the fifties," Bacher said on Friday.

"He had a sports shop in Eloff Street called Luggage Craft and my late mother used to take me there once a year to buy my cricket bat.

"He had jet-black hair and was a very good-looking man. He was always very friendly and very helpful."

On August 6 last year, Bacher phoned Gordon to wish him happy birthday and gave him his best cricketing advice.

"I said to him, 'let me be your captain here. You've got 99, so don't play any flamboyant shots and no reverse sweeps. Just take the odd single and place it carefully into the gaps' -- and he listened!"

On Friday morning, Bacher took Gordon back to his old stomping ground, Jeppe High School, where he received a "tumultuous welcome and ovation".

The school held a special assembly in Gordon's honour and named their cricket scoreboard after him. Two pupils created a portrait of Gordon and the painting will hang in the school hall.

Gordon, born to Jewish parents, still lives in his flat in Hillbrow. He moved there 62 years ago and apparently has never considered moving from the area where he is a familiar figure.

His failing eyesight forced him to give up golf a couple of years ago and, after his wife passed away 11 years ago, his son Brian has been his eyes and ears as well as his doctor, driver and chef.

"Gordon is a very special person," said Bacher.

"He is making history for South African cricket, for Jeppe High School and for our country. It is a wonderful occasion."



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