SA cricket legend Gordon dies

2014-09-02 10:21
Norman Gordon (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Legendary South African cricketer Norman Gordon passed away in Johannesburg on Tuesday, at the age of 103.

"He died peacefully at around 02:00 this morning, in his Hillbrow flat where he had lived for over 60 years," close friend and former Test cricketer Ali Bacher said.

"He was a person who lived a very full life. His passion was for cricket and then golf and he always felt so privileged and appreciative of the wonderful people he had met."

Gordon represented South Africa in five Test matches in the 1938-39 season, and had been the last remaining cricketer who played in the "Timeless" Test 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 England team had to dash to catch the mail boat home.

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

Gordon finished the five-match series as the leading wicket-taker with 20 scalps with his tireless and accurate, fast swing bowling. His Test career ended prematurely with the start of World War II.

Born Jewish, when he ran in to bowl the first ball in his Test debut in Johannesburg in December 1938, a heckler from the crowd shouted out: “Here comes the rabbi!”

“Fortunately I took five wickets in that innings,” Gordon recalled in a 2011 interview, “and that shut him up for the rest of the tour.”

After the war ended, Gordon continued playing a handful of domestic games for Transvaal until 1949 and finished his career with 126 wickets from 29 first-class matches.

Nicknamed “Mobil” for the way he greased down his hair, Gordon was born in Boksburg on August 6, 1911.

When he celebrated his 100th birthday in 2011, at a lavish function at the Wanderers, he was the only Test cricketer ever to have reached the milestone. His nearest rival, New Zealand's Eric Tindill, passed away in August 2010, four months before his 100th birthday.

At his centenary celebrations, hosted by Bacher, Gordon received a red-carpet welcome and a guard-of-honour from former South African fast bowling greats Peter Pollock, Mike Procter, Fanie de Villiers, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and the late Neil Adcock.

He practised as an accountant part-time until the age of 94. A keen golfer until he was 96, he scored a hole-in-one at the age of 87. He was made an honorary member of the Houghton Golf Club where he could often be seen during the day.

In November 2010 he received an unexpected visit there from Brian Lara. Both recalled their meeting with pleasure.

Gordon said: "I was so pleased to meet him and I couldn’t believe how modest he was."

Lara, who had been notified of Gordon's death, recalled: "I was very keen to meet him; we share the same two passions, cricket and golf. I don't know if he was told I was coming but, with no hesitation, the minute we met he voiced my name.

"That was a humbling experience. His appreciation for the game still reigns and his knowledge of the changes in the game since the last Test he played brought a smile to my face."

Gordon is survived by his son Brian who took care of him until his death.

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