This is an edited extract of Drew Forrest's book about South African fast bowlers. Drew is a partner in the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism.
Peter Samuel Heine (1928 – 2005)
Free State and Transvaal
"The battle-axe and the rapier" was commentator Charles Fortune's metaphor for Peter Heine and Neil Adcock, South Africa's first express-pace new-ball pairing. Tom Graveney, England's elegant top-order batsman, had a blunter assessment: "Two of the nastiest customers I came across."
Their names are inseparably linked in the annals of the game – indeed, 12 of Heine's 14 Test match appearances were with Adcock as his partner in crime. Together, the hulking former firefighter with the poet's surname from rural Winterton and the lanky blond assassin from the cricketing crucible of Johannesburg's Jeppe High School ushered in a new era of ruthlessly competitive fast bowling. Lindsay Tuckett might consider it more satisfying to get a batsman out than knock him out; it was often far from clear that they took the same view.
Physical fear wins matches, and in the pre-helmet era there was that much more to be afraid of. Between the beginning of cricket's truly modern era after World War I and Heine and Adcock's debut in the early 1950s, England won 18 Tests to South Africa's six.
The tally over the next decade was more even, despite South Africa's inconsistent batting: eight to England and four to South Africa, which also managed to square the 1955 and 1956-1957 series, the latter against one of the strongest MCC sides ever to visit these shores. It should be recorded, in fairness, that the Fifties were also the heyday of off-spinner Hugh Tayfield, a prolific wicket-taker.
At nearly 1.95m and as strong as an ox, with a long run-up of openly murderous intent and a brutal, slingy release, Heine was the archetype of the fast bowler as wild man. In Over to Me, English off-spinner Jim Laker, who toured in 1956-1957, paints a striking portrait of the bowler he says the MCC called "the bloody Dutchman".
"He was a fearsome figure, his black hair straggling over his eyes and a great red streak across the front of his shirt, on which he viciously polished the ball. (His) attitude to his job was simple. He bowled at the batsman as often as he bowled at the wicket."
Laker argues that, after leading the pace attack in England 18 months before, he now seemed to resent playing second fiddle to Adcock.
Heine's constant and pitiless sledging of batsmen is legendary. After felling Peter Richardson he allegedly told the English opener to "get up so I can hit you again".
Laker relates that he was particularly annoyed by the forward defensive prod of immovable Trevor 'Barnacle' Bailey, which provoked "one of the most extraordinary speeches I ever heard on the cricket field".
"Halfway between a sneer and a growl, Heine said: 'I want to hit you, Bailey, I want to hit you above the heart' … He meant every word of it; it was 100% pure malice. Heine once got me a stinging blow on the shoulder. He thought it was very funny, and asked: 'Have I hurt you?'
"'I'll hit you over the head with the bloody bat if you do that again,' was the best answer I could think up. Peter Richardson was hit on the head a couple of times by Heine, too, but he was careful to show no sign of pain. It would have been like blood to sharks."
Curse the batsman
Tuckett, Orange Free State captain when Heine joined the provincial side at 23, confirms the general picture: "He used to curse the batsman: 'Who taught you cricket? Want to borrow my glasses?' … On and on. We tried to get him to stop but he wouldn't listen."
Curiously, it was only with ball in hand that Heine bared his fangs: off the field he was mild-mannered, genial and "a great favourite with the ladies", according to Adcock, also his friend and drinking partner. His teammate Trevor Goddard has been quoted as saying that he was "full of fun and nonsense".
Former Essex and Wanderers player Reg Taylor once quipped that "if Peter was wearing a jockstrap he didn't swing a thing". That is somewhat misleading – with his slingshot action he did tend to track the ball away from the right-hander.
Perhaps the big man's finest achievements were in a losing cause in his last full series, against the 1957-1958 Australians. As Brian Crowley records in The Springbok and the Kangaroo, South Africa's 3-0 humiliation at the hands of Ian Craig's initially unfancied squad came as a terrible shock to the South African public. But with 31 economical Test wickets between them, the opening pair could not be faulted.
Heine and Adcock were founders of a dynasty: in an unbroken chain from their time until today, even during the isolation years, South Africa would never be without at least one fast bowler of world standing.
The Pacemen is published by Macmillan