Cricket: Echo of the past - Colin Bland and Jonty Rhodes

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The Independent Online
Colin Bland played only 21 Tests, so how come he is so famous?

Here it is because of 1965 and the part he played in South Africa's only series win in England between the war and their ostracising from the international game. Not only did he make 906 runs on the tour at 37.75, including 127 in the last Test at the Oval, he also took the art of fielding to a new plane. He could be reckoned to save his side 50 runs a match and his sensational running out of Ken Barrington and Jim Parks at Lord's effectively turned the series. Barrington was on 91 and England were heading towards a match- winning lead when Bland ran from mid-wicket towards mid-on and in one movement scooped up the ball and threw down the stumps at the bowler's end, much to the amazement of Barrington, who thought he could run a comfortable single.

So did Rhodes model himself on Bland?

After a fashion, yes, although they are different animals physically. Bland cut a tall, athletic figure, a lean 6ft 1ins, graceful but very strong. Rhodes is a stocky 5ft 7ins and though quick would not tend to be described as an athlete.

But a similar type of character...

Not at all, actually. Whereas Rhodes is a real jack-in-the-box on the field, keeping up a constant stream of chatter for the benefit of team- mates and to the detriment of opponents - the West Indian Franklyn Stephenson was once so distracted he stopped, in mid-innings, to enquire if he was mad - Bland's secret was his stealth. Rhodes himself said Bland would "float anonymously, changing position surrepticiously" waiting for an unsuspecting batsman to play the ball to cover and not realise he was there.

But Rhodes is just as feared?

Absolutely. Bland's special quality was the stunning accuracy of his throw but Rhodes practises all aspects of his craft - "I had to be a good fielder because I cannot bowl and I'm not very good at batting." He also represented South Africa at hockey and believes playing that game gave him something extra as a fielder, giving him the flexibility to bend for the ball on the run. His ability to scoop up the ball and throw it, often off balance, in one movement, is unrivalled and by saving 30-40 runs an innings has made himself an almost indispensible member of the South African team.

Interesting sidelines

Although Bland was born in Bloemfontein, his grandparents were Scottish. Rhodes, who hails from Pietermaritzburg, developed epilepsy after falling from a swing as a six-year-old boy.

Career statistics

COLIN BLAND

21 Tests (debut 1961 v N Zealand, Durban, aged 23)

Batting 1,669 runs (ave 49.08) HS 144* v England (Johannesburg) 1964-65. Nine 50s; three 100s 10 catches.

JONTY RHODES

31 Tests (debut 1992 v India, Durban, aged 23)

Batting 1,303 runs (ave 29.61) HS 101* v Sri Lanka (Moratuwa) 1993-94. Seven 50s; one 100

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