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Whatever Time's devouring hand wrests from the memory of the South Africans' visit to England in the golden summer of 1955 it will not be the name of Derrick John McGlew. His batting achievements and leadership in the two Test matches which the Springboks won, ensure that.
To England's bowlers he became a solid, unflinching and likeable opponent with a bat which looked uncommonly broad. The terse comment "McGlew's still there" was sufficient to encourage hope or temper enthusiasm, according to whichever camp allegiance lay.
In tenacity of purpose McGlew follows very much the approach of two other distinguished South African opening batsmen, Bruce Mitchell and Eric Rowan. McGlew, too, has equanimity, in cricket a quality of rare value. Symptomatic of his temperament was the way in which he hit hundreds in the Tests at Manchester and Leeds after bagging a pair in the Lord's game. He possesses no especial mannerisms at the crease, yet you cannot watch him for long without sensing his individuality.
At the age of four the summer game had already caught his fancy. There is a photograph at his mother's home showing a determined little figure in cricket pads clutching a bat some sizes too big.
When he went to Merchiston Preparatory School in Pieter-Maritzburg, McGlew held a place in the first XI from the time he entered Standard III until he moved on to Maritzburg College after reaching Standard VI. He captained the team during his last two years at Merchiston and was also vice-captain of the Rugby XV, a middle distance runner and a useful high jumper.
Just as McGlew was developing his talents in the field of sport an attack of diphtheria laid him low and threatened to put an end to his athletic career. He was unable to take part in any physical recreation during his first year at Maritzburg but made such a recovery that he ended his College days captain both of the cricket and rugby teams. Here, indeed, was an early example of his courage when things looked gloomy.
Subsequently, McGlew represented Natal as a fly-half and he also turned out on the wing for the Wanderers, a hockey club in Pietermaritzburg. Further distinction came his way when he was invited to captain Natal Schools in his first Nuffield Week. In that team were Goddard, McLean, Waite, Melle and Arthur Tayfield, a brother of H. J. Tayfield. A year later, in 1948, he led the South African Schools' XI against Natal.
About this period the Provincial selectors chose him to open for Natal against Orange Free State. He made 25 before being run out and followed this by scoring 69 against North-Eastern Transvaal at the end of February.
All the time McGlew was improving and increasing his range of strokes. He did not satisfy those who insist upon the straightest of bats in defence--he still moves too far across the wicket for the purist--but he made runs just the same and in 1951 he realised a boyhood ambition to play for his country. He visited England under the leadership of A. D. Nourse, junior; played in the first two Tests, scored 1,002 runs in all matches at an average of 38.53 and hit centuries against Hampshire and Glamorgan.
When he returned home McGlew succeeded Nourse as captain of Natal and under his guidance the Currie Cup was regained. Next came his selection as vice-captain for the tour of Australasia where he was soon able to demonstrate afresh his natural powers of leadership, for Cheetham strained a groin in the second game against South Australia. Because of a hand injury, McGlew himself missed the fifth Test which South Africa won to share the rubber. He was back in the side for the first Test against New Zealand at Wellington in March, 1953, and set up a seventh wicket Test record of 246 with Anton Murray. McGlew's 255 was the highest individual Test score made by a South African, surpassing Eric Rowan's 236 in the fourth Test against England at Leeds in 1951.
And so in 1955 to a second tour of England where his concentration and physical endurance at the wicket became an integral part of the Springboks' cricket. Attrition is not a popular method of progress. McGlew himself has not always batted this way, but circumstances wrought the change of style.
South Africa depended so much on his performances that he found it necessary to curb those strokes which were charged with risk. The course was justified. McGlew rarely failed his country last summer. When Cheetham was hurt, he took over the captaincy and led the team to their splendid victories in the third and fourth Tests which brought the series level. At Headingley, he and Goddard established a fresh record for a South African side in England by scoring 176 together for the first wicket.
In the field he was the very essence of energy, chasing everything in an arc from cover to mid-off. Only the fittest of men could have projected such vitality. McGlew exercises assiduously every day of his life. It is such thoroughness in all that he does which assures McGlew of a place among the great names of South African cricket. Posterity may rank him alongside a wider company of the game's élite. He is, after all, only twenty-seven years of age. -- R. C. S.