Norman storms to ton

07 August 2011 - 05:00 By LUKE ALFRED
Former administrator Ali Bacher, left, with Norman Gordon, the oldest living Test cricketer, who turned 100 yesterday. Gordon played in the Timeless Test Picture: JAMES OATWAY
Former administrator Ali Bacher, left, with Norman Gordon, the oldest living Test cricketer, who turned 100 yesterday. Gordon played in the Timeless Test Picture: JAMES OATWAY

When Norman "Mobil" Gordon, the world's oldest Test cricketer, surveyed the top field at Jeppe Boys High in Johannesburg on Friday, the memories came flooding back.

"It was all sand with quite a bit of rock protruding," said the man who turned 100 yesterday. "You could get pretty hurt if you were unlucky."

Gordon matriculated from Jeppe Boys in 1929, staying back a year so he could play in the first team twice. On Friday, considerably more frail than the beefy good-looker who appears in the 1929 team photograph, Gordon was back. He was honoured by headmaster Anton Dempsey and presented with a painting of his famous deeds. The scoreboard on the edge of the field where he played was named after him. On Friday it displayed only three numbers - 100.

Ali Bacher made a speech, recalling how in the infamous Timeless Test of 1939, Gordon bowled 92.2 eight-ball overs - or 738 balls all told, a remarkable achievement for a fast-bowler. "It was humid at Kingsmead in March and Mobil remembers sweating so much his flannels stuck to his legs," said Bacher.

There was a more risque story associated with the match. History tells that Gordon, his good friend Eric Rowan and Bill Edrich, the England batsman, used to frequent Durban's Athlone Gardens, a local nightclub.

Edrich scored a double century in England's second innings and a wag in the crowd said: "The game wasn't lost at Kingsmead, fellas, it was lost at Athlone Gardens the night before!"

Gordon was born close to his school in Belgravia. He made his Transvaal debut in 1934 but had a bad match and was dropped. It took four years for him to force his way back and in 1938 he topped the bowling averages and Transvaal won the Currie Cup. "He was coached by Cyril Vincent at Jeppe Old Boys," said Bacher.

"Vincent was on the receiving end of a Don Bradman assault in the thirties and every afternoon found them down at the club practising."

Gordon was so nicknamed because of the Brylcreem licks in his hair - useful in keeping the ball shiny. He played in five Tests before World War II.

He was hardworking, fastidious and a hit with the ladies, qualities that have clearly served him well.

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