Obituary

Tufty Mann

MANN, MR. NORMAN BERTRAM FLEETWOOD, died in a Johannesburg nursing home on July 31, aged 30. The untimely death of this modest and likeable man, known throughout the cricket world as "Tufty", was yet another grievous blow to a country which has lost so many fine cricketers in their playing prime. Taken ill soon after the Fourth Test in England in 1951, he underwent an abdominal operation and stayed in England for three months before flying home. He bore his troubles with the steadfastness and patience which characterised him in all things, but another operation became necessary midway through 1952 and he died some six weeks later.

Born at Brakpan, Transvaal, on December 28, 1921, Mann was first educated at Michaelhouse College. He represented Natal Schools at cricket, and at the age of 16, won the Natal Amateur Golf Championship. Subsequently he went to Cambridge. Although bowling well in the Freshmen's match there in 1939 he did not gain a place in any of the University games, but, turning his attention again to golf, he won his Blue. Going back to South Africa, he played for Natal in the 1939-40 season. His first experience of big cricket could have been anything but encouraging, for Mann was a member of the Natal attack against which Transvaal scored 608 runs for six wickets. E. A. Rowan's 306 not out still remains a South African batting record. With two wickets for 106 in 45 overs, Mann did not suffer so much from Rowan's flogging as did his colleagues.

During the war Mann was captured in Italy, but he escaped and was hidden by peasants. On his return to South Africa he settled in Port Elizabeth and began his association with Eastern Province. He quickly made his mark by impeccable length, direction and control of spin, and in December 1946, against Transvaal at Johannesburg, he established a then world record by bowling 542 balls (67.6-38-69-6) in an innings.

The Selectors merely confirmed the opinion of all South African cricketers when they chose him as the left-arm slow bowler to make the tour to England in 1947.

In a high-scoring series of Tests, Mann headed the South African bowling averages with 15 wickets, average 40.20. Making his international debut on a typically docile pitch at Nottingham, Mann conformed so successfully to the tactics required by his captain that he opened with eight successive maiden overs against such punishing batsmen as Denis Compton and Edrich -- in their peak year -- and in the match sent down 80 overs for 104 runs. More accurate bowling on an unhelpful pitch scarcely could be imagined. Another good performance was his four for 68 in 50 overs in the Fourth Test.

Throughout the tour he completely fulfilled the two main functions of a left-arm slow bowler -- to seal up one end when conditions favoured batsmen and to extract full advantage when they offered him the slightest assistance. Although indifferent eyesight compelled Mann to wear glasses and also handicapped his batting, he occasionally delighted spectators with powerful hitting made with a free swing of the bat. That season he trounced the Glamorgan bowling for 97 out of 122 in a stand with A. M. B. Rowan lasting fifty-five minutes. He fell to a catch in the deep when trying a big hit which would have completed his only century in first-class cricket.

From the time of his entry into Test cricket, Mann became an automatic choice for South Africa and, until illness forced him to withdraw from the Fifth Test at The Oval in 1951, he played in nineteen consecutive Tests, fourteen against England, five against Australia. Earlier in that 1951 season Mann's four for 24 in the second innings at Nottingham helped South Africa to gain their first Test victory for sixteen years and the second in all visits to England.

Few better illustrations of Mann's accuracy could be provided than the fact that, on seven occasions when he bowled fifty or more overs in Test cricket, only once did he give away more than 100 runs. Two of his best feats were eight for 59 against Western Province at Capetown in 1947-48 and six for 59 against F. G. Mann's M.C.C. Team in the Durban Test of 1948-49. His record in Currie Cup games bore comparison with any bowler of his type in the Union. In the twelve games in which he participated he took 75 wickets, including twelve for 102 against Rhodesia in 1950-51.

© John Wisden & Co