Vintcent Adriaan Pieter van der Bijl
March 19, 1948, Rondebosch, Cape Town, Cape Province
Right hand bat
Right arm fast medium
Vintcent van der Bijl was one of the best bowlers not to play Test cricket, his entire career spanning the years of South Africa's sporting isolation (although he was chosen for the squad which for the cancelled tour of Australia in 1971-72). In his pomp he was probably the leading fast-medium bowler in the world, combining awesome accuracy with deceptive pace and bounce (as expected from a man of 6ft 7½in) as well as a stamina which belied his size. His appearance was deceptive (he was described by John Arlott as looking like Lord Longford "only not nearly as forgiving") and he remained fit throughout his career, even developing into a surprisingly sound fielder and useful tail-end hitter. His performances throughout the 1970s for Natal were legendary - he held numerous records, including most wickets for Natal, most wickets in a South African season (65), most wickets by any South African bowler, and most wickets in domestic one-day competitions.
By 1980 he was in the twilight of his career and had just given up teaching (he was never a professional cricketer) and gone into business when he was offered a chance to play for Middlesex. His new employers gave him six months off to allow him to fulfil the dream of playing outside South Africa. Unknown to many, he made an immediate impact with a resurgent Middlesex side led by Mike Brearley, helped by his new-ball partner, Wayne Daniel, who had been expected to be absent with the touring West Indies. van der Bijl ended with 85 wickets at 14.72 apiece, finishing virtually top of the first-class bowling averages. He made a massive contribution to Middlesex's victories in the Schweppes County Championship and the Gillette Cup. Hugely popular, he returned for a one-off appearance for them against MCC in 1981. "Most of all he brought, Wisden wrote, "a breath of fresh air with his immense enthusiasm, his love of playing cricket, and his bubbling friendship for other cricketers. He would have enjoyed it however it had worked out, and would have remembered it all his days. In the event, a lot of others, players and spectators, were to remember it too."
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