Obituary: Jackie McGlew

Derek Hodgson
Thursday 11 June 1998 00:02

ENGLAND'S PRESENT tourists, South Africa, will mourn the death of one of their country's great cricketers. Jackie McGlew personified most of his countrymen's characteristics, notably concentration, determination, resilience, endurance and an invincibility of spirit, no matter what the result on the field.

A short, stocky right-hander who captained Natal for many years, he had such an outstanding defensive technique from his youth that he became inevitably an opening batsman. His range of stroke would have surprised many who might have seen him in one of those obdurate innings that did so much to anchor the South African order in the 1950s. He also embellished the reputation of his nation with brilliant fielding, notably in the covers, setting the standards for, among others, Colin Bland and Jonty Rhodes.

He first appeared in England in 1951, aged 22, scoring 1,002 runs on the tour at an average of 38. English tours were hard work, the South Africans playing 26 matches, including five Tests, at a time when county clubs deemed their visit a privilege and fielded their strongest sides and did their very best to win. Tourists were spared limited overs cricket.

McGlew, said the 1951 Playfair annual - which, incidentally, asked in its major feature "What's wrong with English cricket ?" - "was slow to acclimatise and often at sea against the moving ball" but was also named as one of South Africa's players for the future and "outstanding in the deep field".

Having survived sleet in Bradford, South Africa then won the first Test, McGlew making 40 and five on debut, but lost the next two, McGlew being dropped after two low scores at Lord's. He recovered his place for the later tours of Australia and New Zealand, scoring 255 not out, then a national record, in Wellington, returning to England in 1955 a much more experienced and established player.

That year he was part of an outstanding South African team, under Jack Cheetham's captaincy, that included four world-class contenders in the fast bowlers Peter Heinie and Neil Adcock, the all-rounder Trevor Goddard and the off-spinner Hughie Tayfield. England, too, had abundant pace in Frank Tyson, Fred Trueman and Brian Statham.

Cheetham's team were wrecked by Tyson in the first Test, and lost their captain with a chipped elbow from Trueman's last ball of the third day at Lord's. McGlew became captain for the next two Tests, South Africa being 2-0 down. He scored 104 not out at Old Trafford and 133 at Headingley, for South Africa to level the series with all to play for at the Oval.

John Arlott wrote: "Few defensive batsmen of recent years have so captured the imagination as McGlew, resistance bristling out of his small, hard- trained frame as he played every ball as if for his life." But this was the era of Jim Laker and Tony Lock, the two great Surrey spinners, and when South Africa were required to make 244 to win, the pundits pointed out that no team had passed 200 in a fourth innings at Kennington that year. South Africa lost by 92.

McGlew had a magnificent tour, scoring 1,871 runs, including five centuries at an average of 58. Two years later, in 1957, at home against the visiting Australians, he made his reputation as one of the game's great resisters: in the third Test at Durban, South Africa lost their first two wickets for 28, whereupon McGlew and John Waite raised 231 and "Jackie" passed into history.

His first 50, against an attack including Alan Davidson and Richie Benaud, took five hours 13 minutes; when he was eventually caught behind, he had batted for nine hours and five minutes for 105, the slowest century in history until surpassed by Mudassar Nazar's 114 in 575 minutes against England in Lahore in 1978. "Utter single- mindedness" was Playfair's comment on McGlew's patience.

By 1960, McGlew was South Africa's appointed captain and would have been surprised, like his team, by a demonstration on their arrival at Heathrow that year, the first hint of a storm to come. Many British ex-servicemen, especially those who had sampled Cape Town hospitality during the Second World War, were appalled at the demonstration, protesting that the now- famous sports centre at Lilleshall in Shropshire had been paid for by the South African Aid to Britain Fund.

The 1960 tour was McGlew's last, and was bedevilled by a "chucking" controversy. His new young fast bowler Geoff Griffin was no-balled 11 times at Lord's and, although he also took a hat-trick, his career was ended. England won a chequered series 3-0, two matches being drawn. McGlew lost his wicket four times to Statham and three times to Trueman and had little luck; at Trent Bridge he was run out after colliding with the bowler (Alan Moss) and, although the England captain Colin Cowdrey recalled him, the umpire, Charlie Elliott, refused to alter his decision. McGlew still managed to pass 1,000 runs on the tour and, Tests apart, his team lost only two other matches. In Arlott's opinion, "The tour was the unhappiest ever made by a party of overseas cricketers in England."

McGlew continued playing domestic cricket until 1967, scoring 12,170 runs in all, at an average of 45, including 27 centuries. He also took 35 wickets with his occasional leg-breaks and googlies at an average of 26. Bowling for Natal against Transvaal in 1962-63 he took a hat-trick, finishing one innings and taking another with the first ball of the second yet at no other time in his career did he take more than two wickets in an innings.

Derrick John McGlew, cricketer: born Pietermaritzburg, South Africa 11 March 1929; died Pretoria 8 June 1998.

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