Basil D'Oliviera's left out again

John Young CRICKET

England’s lack of a Test-class all- rounder has been the subject of more than one article during their tour of South Africa. Andrew Flintoff’s tour ended with his foot in in plaster, so we won’t know for some time whether he has learned enough during this tour to become what England need.

In assessing England’s dearth of men who can hold their own with bat and ball, Guardian reporter Mike Selvey compiled a short list of post-World War II England players whose Test batting averages were higher than their bowling averages: Trevor Bailey, Tony Greig and Ian Botham.

What irony that in the season that Basil D’Oliveira finally received some recognition in the country of his birth he should be ignored by cricket writers from the country for whom he scored 2E484 Test runs at an average of 40,06 per innings, and took 47 wickets at 39,55 runs per wicket .

When D’Oliveira stepped on to the turf during the fourth Test at Newlands as one of South Africa’s Cricketers of the Century, it was an emotional reminder of just how great a talent was denied by apartheid.

With 43 first-class centuries (five in Tests), D’Oliveira was clearly more of a batsman than a bowler, but if the statistical measure is going to be used, he qualifies. His best match analysis was 5/62 in 51 overs against Pakistan in 1971, and only five of his Test wickets were those of tail-enders.

If anything, his bowling is more historically important than his batting. It was D’Oliveira’s bowling that won him selection for the final Test match before the historic and controversial announcement of the England party to tour South Africa.

D’Oliveira had a bad tour of the West Indies but was picked for the first match at home against Australia in 1968. Despite scoring 87 not out, he was left out for the rest of the series because the selectors felt they needed more penetrative bowling.

When specialist batsman Roger Prideaux pulled out of the final Oval Test because of illness, England captain Colin Cowdrey insisted that D’Oliveira should be the man to replace him.

In an earlier county match on the same pitch, a bowler similar to D’Oliveira had had success and Cowdrey had banked that information in the way that shrewd captains do.

With Australia desperately trying to hold on for a draw, D’Oliveira clipped Barry Jarman’s off-stump, breaking a stubborn partnership and exposing the tail to spinner Derek Underwood.

England won, D’Oliveira scored a brilliant 158 in the first innings and he contributed with the ball. All was set fair for a triumphant return to the land of his birth.

Then the MCC selected a team which would not rock the boat among their white friends in South Africa -they left D’Oliveira out.

After an uproar and an injury to a bowler (Tom Cartwright), D’Oliveira was selected, but then South African prime minister John Vorster decreed that an England team that included a coloured South African was not welcome.

The tour was off and South Africa’s isolation from international sport began.

So England have had not three but four players whose batting averages exceed their bowling averages since World War II. Two of them were born in the Cape and when D’Oliveira and Tony Greig added 110 for the sixth wicket for England against a Rest of World team in 1970, it was a time to reflect on South Africa’s prolific production of all-rounders.

In the World XI that opposed England in that series, Eddie Barlow and Mike Procter showed that they could compete with the best with bat and ball.

Barlow’s 30 Test matches for South Africa produced 2E516 runs at 45,74 and 40 wickets at 34,05.

Procter only played seven Test matches, where he batted down the order but took an astonishing 41 wickets. Over a long career he proved a formidable batsman.

In addition to these two fine all- rounders, Ali Bacher, captain of the 1970 team that crushed Australia, could also call on Trevor Goddard (2E516 Test runs at 34,46 and 123 wickets at 26,22), Tiger Lance and wicketkeeper/batsman Denis Lindsay who had topped 600 runs in the previous home series against Australia.

Clive Rice was the next fine all-rounder on the South African conveyor belt, but the cancellation of the 1971 Australian tour denied him the chance to play Test cricket - which chance South Africans of colour never had.

D’Oliveira was but one of many all- rounders denied by apartheid in sport.

Western Province’s “Dik” Abed starred for Enfield in the Lancashire League and went on to captain Holland.

Before the war, Taliep Salie once took all 10 wickets in a rare non-racial match. His victims included Springboks Dave Nourse and Xenophon Balaskas. Salie also scored a record 224 in a provincial match and was invited to play for Kent.

More recently Adrian Kuiper and Brian McMillan have batted and bowled at international level. With Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener, Mark Boucher, Hansie Cronje and now Pieter Strydom all able to contribute significantly in two disciplines, the current Protea team is stacked with all- round talent.

The best all-rounder in the team that England selected to tour Southern Africa never played Test cricket, but in six World Cup matches he averaged 47,75 with the bat and 31,57 with the ball.

Unfortunately for England, Duncan Fletcher is a Zimbabwean.

Barry Jarman, the man D’Oliveira dismissed in 1968, was the match referee for the third Test in Durban during the recent English tour. Roger Prideaux now lives in Cape Town and does radio commentary. The full story of the D’Oliveira saga is superbly told in his autobiography, Time to Declare, written with the BBC’s Patrick Murphy. Murphy recently collaborated with Allan Donald to produce White Lightning

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