Johannes Jacobus Kotze
August 07, 1879, Hopefield, Cape Province
July 07, 1931, Rondebosch, Cape Town, Cape Province, (aged 51y 334d)
Right hand bat
Right arm fast
Johannes Jacobus Kotze, known as 'Kodgee', was one of the fastest bowlers in the history of the game. Born in Hopefield, Cape Province, he toured England with the 1901, 1904 (104 first-class wickets) and 1907 South African teams, having a good deal of success on the first two tours, when Tlum' Warner thought him to be second only to Kortright for speed.
How are we to gauge the pace of the fast men of yesteryear? Although the wicketkeeper, beefsteak in his gauntlets, usually stood up to the wicket for him, occasionally even effecting a legside stumping, his bowling evoked all the superlatives we have read in modern times of Tyson, Hall, Thomson and Holding. Like Tom Richardson, Kotze had the stamina to bowl fast at the end of a long day; but unlike the mighty Surrey man, he often became deeply despondent at dropped slip catches. One of his teammates once said that he would learn to be more charitable to his fieldsmen if he could only stand at slip himself to his own ferocious bowling.
A burly man, Kotze had a long run to the crease which climaxed in an intimidating leap. His grip of the ball was odd. He held it between middle- and forefinger. And he seemed to retain it a micro-second longer than expected, which probably increased the thrust. His body-swing helped impart violent swing to the ball, and on his day he must have been altogether a nightmare to face.
His Test record is of little account: two home encounters with Australia in 1902-03, when he did at least capture the wickets of Trumper, Hill, Gregory and Duff, and one Test at Lord's in 1907, South Africa's first-ever in England, when Jessop hit him hard. He took 331 wickets in big cricket between 1901 and 1910, at an average of 17.96, with two hat-tricks and 8 for 18 his best figures (Transvaal v Griqualand West at Port Elizabeth, 1902-03). In the 1906-07 season he took as many as 54 wickets, including a career-best match return of 13 for 90 for Western Province v Orange Free State at Pretoria. He became groundsman at Newlands, and died in 1931 at the age of 51, apparently of heart failure. It is conceivable that in an age when fast bowlers had to toil very hard for their success, his exertions shortened his life.
David Frith, Wisden Cricket Monthly
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