Neil Adcock - the first South African to 100 Test wickets

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He blazed through the cricket world, cutting furrows in uncharted territories. And since then, the land has been a breeding ground for fast men.

Neil Adcock combined into a terrifying twosome with Peter Heine. Colin Cowdrey, who had cut his teeth against the Australian pair of Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall, found these two more menacing.

When Peter Richardson was felled by a short ball, Heine approached him and shouted, “Get up, I want to hit you again.” Once when Trevor Bailey walked out to bat, Heine growled, “I want to hit you Bailey, hit you over the heart.” Sitting in the pavilion Jim Laker had felt the ripples of the tension and had christened Heine, “that bloody Dutchman.”

Neil Adcock was just one inch shorter than Heine’s six foot four inches. With his fair hair and handsome looks, he perhaps came across as a contrast — as long as there was no shining red ball in his hand.

He could be a genuinely nice guy off the pitch. However, on it, he was as scary and, according to his later new ball partner Peter Pollock, a bit quicker. With the ability to make the ball rise disconcertingly from just short of good length, he was as prone to direct bouncers at the head of batsmen. The New Zealanders, especially Murray Chapple, Matt Poore, Lawrie Miller and, above all, Bert Sutcliffe, realised this with unpleasant thuds in the very second Test Adcock played.

It is not that he did not lend his voice into the fray, adding to the painful questions asked by his deliveries — but his invectives were perhaps a bit less spicy, although not by much.

Together, the two were terrifying. Tom Graveney put it simply enough: “Two of the nastiest customers I came across.”
Neil Adcock was the first South African bowler to get to 100 Test wickets. He was born on March 8, 1931.

Text: Arunabha Sengupta

Illustration: Maha