The Pacemen: 100 Years of South African Fast Bowlers December 14, 2013

Men of South Africa

South African cricket is synonymous with fast bowling, and a new book celebrates the best of it

One of the thrills of quality bowling is that the few seconds it takes for the ball to leave the hand of its deliverer, reach the batsman and wreak magic can form the basis for entire stories. It could be the story of Krom Hendricks, told through the bullet he shot out to blast Jock Hearne's off stump out of the ground; or of Craig Cumming's face, rearranged courtesy a quick one from Dale Steyn.

The stories of 32 South African fast bowlers, in bite-size chunks of around 1000 words each, are fleshed out in Mail and Guardian journalist Drew Forrest's book, The Pacemen, written in an engagingly informative style that educates and entertains.

Hendricks' tale, of which not much is known, is tinged with sadness. His chapter ends: "First-class career: None, Tests: None." In Buster Nupen, Forrest introduces us to "probably the only Norwegian to play Test cricket", who lost his eye to a steel splinter as a seven-year-old and faced amputation as an adult. You also learn how Bob Crisp found out he was picked for the 1935 tour of England (Hint: he was not standing on ground level at the time).

These well-researched nuggets provide insight into men we thought we understood, through the fear they could ignite when standing at the top of their marks. In daily existence, they were far more gentle. Peter Heine is described as "mild-mannered, genial and a 'great favourite with the ladies', according to Neil Adcock", who also features in the book. Adcock was trained by a prominent former football coach and put on 20 kilograms in an effort to become stronger.

The book covers South Africa's quicks through the ages and across various divides. Vince van der Bijl and Clive Rice share space with Eric Petersen and Dik Abed. None of them played Test cricket but all four were widely acknowledged as being among the best of their generations.

Forrest's work reveals more interesting human facts about past players - perhaps because we did not know them - and more statistical and technique-based information about the modern generation. Makhaya Ntini's approach from wide of the crease is singled out as the reason why only 6% of his Test dismissals were obtained with lbws, compared with 21% of Shaun Pollock's. Vernon Philander's records as one of the best newcomers on the scene are explored in detail in the last chapter of the book.

What is common to all the bowlers described is that they are the men on whose backs South African cricket's reputation was built and continues to grow. With this book, Forrest gives them the recognition they deserve.

The Pacemen: 100 Years of South African Fast Bowlers
Drew Forrest
221 pages

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Testcricketistop on December 15, 2013, 13:55 GMT


    Sadly you are wrong.

    SA won 5 tests in India, India won 5 tests in india and there has been 2 draws.

    Dale Steyn has taken 26 wickets in 5 tests in India at an average of 20.23 Mkaya Ntini has taken 18 wickets in 5 tests in India at an average of 27.77 Alan Donald has taken 17 wickets in 4 tests in India at an average of 16.11 Shaun Pollock has taken 13 wickets in 4 tests in India at an average of 27.38

  • android_user on December 15, 2013, 2:15 GMT

    yard he is absolutely in good rethm

  • dummy4fb on December 15, 2013, 0:31 GMT

    Sreesanth's most significant performance to date in Test cricket was his role in the first Test of India's 2006 tour to South Africa at Johannesburg. After losing the limited-overs series 4-0, Sreesanth produced took 5-40 in a display of pace and swing to help dismiss South Africa. This performance helped to bowl South Africans out for just 84, leading to first Indian win on South African soil, for which he was named man of the match. Again, Sreesanth's emotional antics, which have led him to be regarded by some commentators as eccentric, were frequently noted. He was fined after breaching the International Cricket Council's advertising logo policy, and also for "conduct contrary to the spirit of the game"

  • dummy4fb on December 14, 2013, 21:46 GMT

    True that SA has produced average bowler. If you take DS out then SA's bowling attack could be compared to NZ and Bangladesh. They live in lala land. Pakistan and Australia have produced quality bowlers and India has produced quality batsmen.

  • Martensad on December 14, 2013, 21:44 GMT

    Sounds like a great book, but only available in SA.

  • FieryFerg on December 14, 2013, 20:47 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster: nix is closer to the truth than you. SA may not have won many in India but they haven't lost many either! What was Aus result there this year? Compare Donald, Pollock and Steyn's records in India with Lillee. He's always hailed 'the' an all-time great yet his record in the sub-continent is virtually non-existent and what there is is dismal.

  • dummy4fb on December 14, 2013, 20:36 GMT

    South Africa have always produced excellent fast bowlers. Adcock, P Pollock, Procter, van der Bijl, Rice, Donald, S Pollock and Steyn were/are outstanding bowlers. The world missed out on many of them because of the Proteas's isolation during the 70s and 80s. A strong pace attack is one of the main reasons for South Africa's cricketing success. Wish to see more quicks in the future!

  • Karthi_2K11 on December 14, 2013, 17:42 GMT

    The RSA pace attack of the early -to -late 1990s was one of the best you would ever see. Allan Donald, Fanie (de vinige) De Villiers, Brian McMillan, Meyrick Pringle, Brett Schultz, Mornantau Hayward, Lance Klusener, and tearaway David Terbrugge, were more than a handful, and these spearheads operated in tandem to defend Hansie Cronje's statistics as a Captain, against the likes of West Indies, and even Australia - in its heyday. It would be nice to read Drew Forrest's book, and especially know more about the transition from RSA's Test-playing status to an being ostracized when they had the likes of Mike Procter, and Peter Pollock, through the apartheid years, when they had the likes of Garth Le Roux, and Vince van der Bijl, down through the re-entry phase, and now have a diverse set of pace bowlers (Makhaya Ntini, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, and Vernon Philander). Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Jacques Kallis, Marchant de Lange, and company, have a really rich legacy from which they can feed off of.

  • Cpt.Meanster on December 14, 2013, 17:26 GMT

    @ nix_moviefreak: What "very good" record are you talking about ? SA have hardly beaten India in India. Their only major win came way back in 1998/99 when they beat India in a test series; a poor Indian team with Tendulkar as captain. Since then, they have done nothing. A string of draws with India winning some contests in between. One day cricket is also a mixed bag for them with India winning most series. Perhaps by "very good" record you mean the drawn series ? As a cricket lover from Canada, draws mean nothing to me. It's winning or losing. For the most part, SA fast bowlers have been less effective in Indian conditions. It's a simple fact. It really baffles me how people overlook some things.

  • nix_moviefreak on December 14, 2013, 16:50 GMT

    @Paulson Prasad: what is wrong with u? Tmrw if sum1 write a book abt rich legacy of indian batsmen r u goin 2 challenge them to perform well outside subcontinent? No one is forcing u to buy d book. Give respect when it's due. Btw SA has a very good record against India in India and I am an Indian.

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