Remarkable People

ID #5205

Graeme Pollock, Master Batsman, South Africa.

Robert Graeme Pollock is widely regarded as South Africa's greatest cricketer, and one of the finest batsmen to have played Test cricket.

Pollock was born into a Scottish family in Durban in 1944. He attended Grey High School in Port Elizabeth. In his first match for Grey Junior at age 9 he took all ten wickets before scoring 117 not out. At one stage, he hit a six into a cemetery and had to fetch the ball himself. He was selected for his first match for the school First XI as a leg spinner, taking six wickets for five runs. At 15, Pollock was selected to represent South African schoolboys.

In 1960, aged 16, Pollock was chosen to appear for Eastern Province. His first-class debut was against Border at the Jan Smuts Ground in East London, where he made 54 runs before being run out. Later that season he scored his maiden first-class century, scoring 102 against Transvaal B, becoming the youngest South African to score a first-class century. Pollock played five matches for EP in his debut season, scoring 384 runs at an average of 48.00.

In the 1962–63 Pollock finished second in the averages, scoring 839 runs including three centuries at an average of 69.66. The highlight of his season was 209 not out for an Eastern Province Invitational XI against the "International Cavaliers", which included Richie Benaud and Graham McKenzie. Benaud was to describe the innings as "magnificent" and later said: "I knew I was watching a champion." Aged 19, Pollock was the youngest South African to score a double-century in first-class cricket.

Pollock was 19 when he was selected for the 1963–64 tour of Australia. He had a disappointing start to the tour but recovered in the next match to score 127 not out against a Western Australian XI. He made his Test debut at The Gabba in Brisbane making 25 in a rain-interrupted match before being dismissed by McKenzie. Pollock's performances in the first two Tests of the series raised questions over his place, but, in the third Test in Sydney, Pollock made 122 in South Africa’s first innings. Bradman commented: “Next time you decide to play like that, send me a telegram”. At 19 years and 317 days he became the youngest South African to score a Test century. In the fourth Test, in Adelaide, Pollock and Eddie Barlow shared a South African third-wicket record partnership of 341 -- Pollock hitting 175 and Barlow 201. South Africa won the Test by 10 wickets to level the series 1-1. Pollock finished his maiden series with 399 runs at an average of 57.00.

England toured South Africa in 1964–65 under the captaincy of Mike Smith. Pollock was selected in all five Tests against the tourists. England won the First Test at Kingsmead by an innings and 104 runs, with Pollock making 5 and a first ball duck. The remaining Tests were drawn. In the final Test at St George's Park, Pollock made 137 in the first innings which Wisden described as "a splendid century, distinguished by many drives past cover and mid-on." In the second, he made an unbeaten 77. In the Tests, Pollock made 459 runs at an average of 57.37.

Pollock was included in the team to tour England in 1965. In the Second Test at Trent Bridge, he made 125, an innings described in his autobiography as his best. He made his runs out of 160 added in 140 minutes, the last 91 coming in 70 minutes. He had come in at 16/2 and the score declined to 80/5 before partnerships with Peter van der Merwe and Richard Dumbrill enabled the team to score 269. John Woodcock wrote in The Cricketer, "Not since Bradman's day could anyone recall having seen an English attack treated in such cavalier style." The same correspondent said in The Times: "I can think of no innings played against England since the [Second World] war which was so critical and commanding: I can think of none more beautifully played." E.W. Swanton wrote in The Daily Telegraph that it was an innings "which in point of style and power, of ease and beauty of execution is fit to rank with anything in the annals of the game." In the second innings, Pollock scored 59. It was a notable match for the Pollock brothers – his brother Peter took 10 wickets and South Africa won the match and, therefore, the three Test series 1–0. His performances during that season saw him named as one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year in 1966, acclaimed as "one of the most accomplished batsmen in contemporary cricket".

In 1966–67, Bob Simpson led his Australian team to South Africa for a five Test series. The South Africans won the First Test at Wanderers after trailing by 126 on the first innings and 620 runs in the second. Pollock scored 90 from 104 balls. Describing Pollock's innings, Wisden said "[he] looked without peer and his timing, placing and wristwork were an object lesson for the purist."  In the Second Test at Newlands, responding to an Australian total of 542, Pollock made 209 runs out of a total of 353 despite batting with an injured groin which restricted his footwork and running. South Africa, however, were unable to avoid the follow-on and eventually lost by 6 wickets. The Third Test was played at Kingsmead in Durban and Pollock made 67 not out in the second innings, with Ali Bacher batting South Africa to an eight wicket victory. The Fourth Test saw rain deny South Africa a certain victory. The final Test at Port Elizabeth saw Pollock, on his birthday, score another century as South Africa won the match by seven wickets to clinch the series three Tests to one. Pollock scored 537 runs in the series at an average of 76.71.

South Africa were due to play England at home in 1968–69 but tensions stemming from the government's apartheid policy came to a head when South African-born Basil D'Oliveira was chosen to replace Tom Cartwright in the touring team. Prime Minister B. J. Vorster denounced the English team as the "team of the anti-apartheid" movement and refused to allow it to enter South Africa with D'Oliveira and the tour was cancelled.

Prior to their expulsion from international cricket, South Africa's last Test series was against Bill Lawry's Australians. His form continued and he averaged 73.85. Pollock managed to break Jackie McGlew’s record of 255 when he scored 274 in the 2nd Test in Durban. The opposing captain, Bill Lawry said of Pollock’s partnership with Barry Richards: "Never have I seen the ball hit with such power by two players at the same time."  Pollock was 26 when his Test career was brought to an end.

He played in 23 Test matches for South Africa and represented Transvaal and Eastern Province at domestic level. He won numerous awards and accolades, including being voted South Africa's Cricketer of the 20th Century, one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year in 1966, as well as being selected, retrospectively in 2007, as Wisden’s Leading Cricketer in the World in 1967 and 1969. In South Africa he was player of the year in 1961 and 1984, with special tributes in the S.A. Cricket annuals of 1977 and 1987. He played in the Nuffield week for Eastern Province from 1959 to 1961 and for South African schools from 1960 to 1961. Bradman described Pollock, along with Sir Garfield Sobers, as the best left-handed batsman he had ever seen. Despite his international career being cut short by the sports boycott and all but one of his 23 Test matches being against England and Australia -- the leading cricketing nations of the day -- he broke a number of records. His Test match batting average of 60.97 remains second only to Donald Bradman. RSARGP

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Last update: 2014-05-14 16:56
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.7

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