Thursday, 23 August 2012

John Harcourt (Jackie) du Preez


At the age of seven he began bowling natural leg-spinners in a dusty Glendale farmyard. At the age of thirty-six, in September 1979, Jackie du Preez became the first Zimbabwean (formerly Rhodesian) to be granted an official benefit match.

 That the Zimbabwe Cricket Union awarded him such a benefit was a fitting tribute to outstanding loyalty in a first-class career which spanned nineteen seasons and brought many notable deeds and records his way, including becoming the first specialist leg-spinner to play for the Springboks since the days of Ian Smith (1947-58) and Percy Mansell (1951-55).

 That so many world-class players — including Graeme Pollock, Mike Procter, Vince van der Bijl and Denis Lindsay — readily rallied to his benefit cause underscored Jackie's immense popularity with colleagues and opponents alike. His demeanour and sportsmanship were never questioned in his long career and he always met both triumph and disaster on the field in his typically nonchalant way. He always had the same sprightly walk (which earned him the nickname 'Jaunty') and the unflappable temperament that was the secret of much of his success. He always played his cricket with a sense of purpose, adventure and enjoyment which endeared him to spectators everywhere.

 The only player to reach 100 first-class caps (up to the end of 1979-80) for the country, he is also one of a select band to have achieved the coveted double of 2 000 runs and 100 wickets in Southern African cricket. He played in 113 first- class matches for Rhodesia between his debut in 1961, shortly before his nineteenth birthday, against John Reid's New Zealanders and the Currie Cup match against Transvaal at Bulawayo in November 1979, just six days before his thirty-seventh birthday.

 He had scored 3 994 runs, just six runs short of becoming the fourth in the country to amass 4 000 runs in company with Brian Davison, Stuart Robertson and Ray Gripper. Du Preez scored one century 20 half-centuries, held 71 catches and claimed 279 wickets — third on the all-time list for the country, just a shade behind 'Goofy' Lawrences record 296 and Joe Partridges 281. He took five
 wickets in an innings on ten occasions.

 Repeatedly one of the outstanding all-rounders in Currie Cup competition, Du Preez earned a ranking second only to Percy Mansell in this regard in Rhodesian first-class cricket history. A large part of his charisma and success was his unflinching courage when facing adversity — so often he would be the saviour when all seemed lost.

 End of 95

 Born at Salisbury on 14 November 1942, John Harcourt (Jackie ) du Preez was introduced to the game at Highlands Junior School, where he was initially coached by former Springbok, Chris Duckworth, and later by the Sussex professional, Jim Cornford.

 "I remember when I started trying to bowl as fast as I could," recalls Jackie. "Every kid was trying to be a fast bowler in those days and it wasn't until Duckworth noticed that every ball was a leg-break, that I started spin-bowling."

 At the age of twelve he was in the school 1st XI and at fourteen he made his first national appearance in the Rhodesian junior team, the Fawns. Before graduating to Prince Edward School, Salisbury, he had acquired a reputation as a leg-spinner and batsman of note, with a handful of junior school centuries to his credit. In his final year at school he placed both feet on the lower rung of the ladder to fame and gained selection for the Rhodesian Nuffield XI, attending the same Nuffield Week as Graeme Pollock at Port Elizabeth in 1961. The two men have since remained firm friends and Jackie and his wife Lorraine named their first son —who also excelled as a sportsman at Highlands — Graeme.

 In his first year out of school, Jackie's enormous natural ability and potential were recognised and he was thrown in at the deep end for his first-class debut against New Zealand at the Queens Ground at Bulawayo in October 1961. The youngster batted at number 10 in a team that read: A. Pithey, R. Gripper, D. Arnott, D. Lewis, C. Bland, I. Haig, R. Robertson, V. Dickinson, G. Griffin, J. du Preez and
 J. Partridge.

 Rhodesia put up a splendid performance, reaching 311-8 on the first day (Bland 91) while fine bowling by Partridge and Griffin, who each took four wickets, saw the tourists dismissed for 262.

 Rhodesia scored 197-5 declared, in their second innings, setting the Kiwis a target of 246 in 195 minutes. To their credit the challenge was accepted, but falling wickets eventually saw them holding on desperately for a draw, with their last pair at the wicket and only 162 runs on the board. After bowling 3 overs for 23 runs in the first innings, Du Preez was rewarded with his first first-class wickets in this second innings, taking 2-42 in 13 overs. Rhodesia had come close to winning for the first time against an official international team.

 The second match against New Zealand was played at Salisbury, but unfortunately rain ruined a game that held the promise of another exciting finish. Set four hours to get 259, the tourists were at 27 without loss when rain prevented any further play.

 In 1962 and 1963 Ron Roberts brought out a Commonwealth XI and for the first time non-European players were seen in Rhodesia, including great stars such as Hanif Mahommed, Everton Weekes, Chandra Borde, Sonny Ramadhin, Wes Hall, Rohan Kanhai and Basil d'Oliveira. This meant Du Preez was fortunate enough to gain a wealth of experience against many of the world's best cricketers in his early years. And he showed up well.

 The diminutive Rhodesian spinner took 4-97 and 3-71 at Salisbury, Tom Graveney and d'Oliveira being among his victims.

 Richie Benaud's Cavaliers came on tour in 1963 and faced Rhodesia at Salisbury. Norman O'Neill of Australia was at his rampant best, scoring 96 and 136. Du Preez bowled only nine overs in this match. Ray Gripper (111) and Tony Pithey (141) batted superbly to see Rhodesia safely to a draw.

 Du Preez was, however, continuing to be close to cricketing greatness and he was absorbing the experience and gaining inspiration and confidence. Chosen to play for a South African Invitation XI against the Cavaliers, he got a further taste of big-time cricket, taking 1-42 in the first innings and 2-70 in the second, dismissing both openers, John Edrich for 72 and Phil Sharpe, whom he caught and bowled, for 47. Although Trevor Goddard got 122 for the South Africans, the Cavaliers won by six wickets with some exhilarating batting by O'Neill (158 not out) in the first innings. In the season 1962-63 Du Preez played nine matches, taking 27 wickets at an average of 22,0.

 The season 1966-67 was to be the most momentous in Du Preez's career. He staked his claim for Test recognition against Bobby Simpson's Australians at Salisbury when, in the opening innings of their Southern African tour, he captured six wickets in succession to return an analysis of 6-95 in 32 overs, his 'scalps' including Ian Chappell for a 'duck' and Keith Stackpole. At one stage his analysis  read 6-33. It was in this match that towering wicket-keeper Howie Gardiner made a big name for himself with a rampaging innings of 81, including six sixes and seven fours. However, the Aussies could not be contained and they won by eight wickets with a day to spare, though Du Preez also caught and bowled Redpath in the second innings. Gardiner had, in a non-first-class two-day warm-up match for the Aussies at Bulawayo against a Matabeleland XI, also hit 86 in 58 minutes with five gigantic sixes, for a total of eleven sixes in two innings against the tourists.

 During the season, Du Preez also took 6-128 against Natal, fighting a lone battle in vain as Natal stormed to victory by an innings and six runs, Mike Procter being their main strikeforce with 7-25 in 20 overs. But Du Preez proved his all- round ability by top scoring for Rhodesia in each innings — 28 and 76 not out when he valiantly defied Procter.

 Against Eastern Province at Port Elizabeth in December 1966 he also notched his maiden — and only — first-class century against a formidable attack that included Peter Pollock and Gordon Den. Rhodesia's batting was a two-man effort, Du Preez (112 with 16 fours and a six) and Tony Pithey (93) contributing a record Rhodesian fourth wicket partnership of 210 that was still intact at the close of the 1979-80 season. Du Preez gave Pithey an hour's start and when he reached his century his captain was on 75. In the second innings Du Preez again dominated the bowling and played a lone hand, scoring 70. In a thrilling finish, Easterns scraped home by one wicket on the first innings.

 That season, Du Preez topped the Rhodesian batting averages, scoring 394 runs in seven matches at 35,81 each. His 24 wickets were also easily the most by a Rhodesian bowler and came at a cost of 28,16. His magnificent achievements brought rich rewards — he won his Springbok cap for two Tests against Simpson's Australians, was named one of South Africa's Five Cricketers of the Year and was
 honoured by Rhodesia as the nation's Sportsman of the Year by the award of the John Hopley Trophy.

 He made his Test debut in the fourth match of the series at the Wanderers from 3-8 February 1967 and was included at the expense of David Pithey. The twenty-four-year-old Du Preez was the ninth Rhodesian to win Springbok colours, following Dennis Tomlinson, Percy Mansell, Chris Duckworth, Colin Bland, Godfrey Lawrence, Joe Partridge, Tony Pithey and David Pithey.

 Scenting a possible South African victory, a 20 000 crowd watched the fifth and final day at the Wanderers with Australia having to survive a full day at the crease for the draw. In only his second over in Test cricket, and with the last ball before lunch, Du Preez deceived Bob Cowper to bowl him for 16 and claim his first Test wicket — he has kept the stump the ball hit. He also dismissed Stackpole, caught by Goddard for five, but rain came and saved the Aussies from certain defeat. Du Preez, who did not bowl in the first innings, recorded figures of 14-6-22-2. However, batting ahead of Procter, he failed to score in his debut innings.

 South Africa won the fifth and final Test at Port Elizabeth by seven wickets to wrap up the series 3-1, Du Preez requiring only two overs in the first innings to take Graham McKenzie's wicket without conceding a run, and eight overs in the second innings for 29 runs. Again he failed to score and so has the dubious distinction of never having scored a Test run, though he only batted twice. His three Test wickets cost 51 runs at 17,00.

 "1 think the moment I remember most off the field," recalls Du Preez, "was in the plane travelling from Durban to Salisbury after I had been twelfth man in the third Test against the Aussies. I didn't expect to make the Springbok final team and was quite ready to go back to my farm. Lindsay Tuckett, one of the selectors, was on the flight with me. At Johannesburg, when he was about to disembark, I went over to say goodbye before travelling on to Salisbury. He just smiled and said: 'See you next week at the Wanderers'... I knew I was in the Bok side."

 Du Preez completed the first-class double of 1 000 runs and 100 wickets in 1967-68 when he was again Rhodesia's highest wicket-taker with 28 at 23,75, three times claiming five wickets in an innings. Against Transvaal B at Salisbury he claimed 11-132 with a career best of 8-92 in the second innings after he had scored 72, to add to Peter Carlstein's 93, to lead Rhodesia to victory by 39 runs.

 The next month Du Preez spun out Griqualand West with a first innings analysis of 28-12-74-6 when Rhodesia won by nine wickets at Bulawayo. He also participated in one of Rhodesia's most memorable matches against Free State at Bloemfontein early in 1968, when three batsmen mutilated the record books. Rhodesia won by an innings and 62 runs, losing only one wicket in the entire match while Free State were dismissed for 252 and 235, Rhodesia piling up a massive 549-1 declared. Ray Gripper's 279 not out was a new Currie Cup record, eclipsing Eric Rowan's 277 not out for Transvaal against Griquas in 1950-51. He batted for 6½ hours to establish a Rhodesian record first-wicket partnership of 268 with Jono Clarke (130) and an all-wicket record for the country with Rob Ullyett (126 not out), amassing 281 in an unfinished stand.

 Du Preez had developed into a fine attacking batsman and as a spinner was the best at his craft in Southern Africa. In 1968-69 he was unluckily run out for 91 against Transvaal at the Wanderers (Rhodesia lost by 10 wickets), took 4-104 in 37,1 overs, took 6-149 against Natal at Salisbury (including Barry Richards and Mike Procter), scored 89 in the abandoned match against Transvaal at Salisbury and finished the season with 19 wickets and 364 runs.

 Although 1973-74 was a poor season for Rhodesia, who finished bottom of the A Section Currie Cup table, Du Preez stood out, especially with the bat. In eleven matches he scored 582 runs at an average of 32,33 and with five half- centuries. But a second first-class century continued to elude him and at the Wanderers against Transvaal he became the only man in Currie Cup history to be run out for 99, after striking 14 delightful fours and facing 126 balls in a merry innings. However, as an all-rounder for the season he was behind only Eddie Barlow and Procter and was deservedly chosen for the South African Invitation XI to play Brian Close's Derrick Robins XI at Newlands. In the first real test of strength for South African cricket since the 1970 Australians, the home team was, E. Barlow (capt.), B. Richards, H. Ackerman, G. Pollock, L Irvine, M. Procter, D. Biggs, J. du Preez, A. Smith, P. Swart and V. van der Bijl. The batsmen were in command in this draw, Du Preez taking 1-22 in 12 overs and playing in the second match against the Robins side at Durban, another draw. The South African XI piled up 454, with Richards scoring 180.

 In the Salisbury match against Western Province in 1974-75 Du Preez skittled out the visitors with 6-102 in a match which was won by Rhodesia by 113 runs, when Howie Gardiner was out for 99. Du Preez reached the magical milestone of 100 caps for Rhodesia in 1975-76 against Natal at Durban.

 From the mid-1970s, 'Jaunty Jackie's' cricketing career was in decline as he was paying more attention to his farm at Melfort, near Salisbury, and could no longer afford to devote the hours of practice so necessary to stay at the top. Most fittingly, however, he took part in his country's greatest cricket triumph when Rhodesia won the inaugural one-day knockout Datsun Shield (the successor to the Gillette Cup) in 1977-78 at the Wanderers, beating Eastern Province in the final. And he contributed significantly to that success by bowling maestro Graeme Pollock for only 36 before he could tear apart the attack, as he was threatening to do.

 In 1978-79 he played only two games for Rhodesia before being somewhat harshly axed, especially after a heroic match-saving 75 not out on a sticky wicket against Van der Bijl's Natalians at Bulawayo. In 1979-80 he appeared with little distinction in the opening three matches.

 He had played in 91 Currie Cup games, a record for Zimbabwe, bettered only by Lorrie Wilmot, who played in just under 100, and Graeme Pollock who played in 92, both for Eastern Province.

 As a fitting end to this chapter, here are the words of Rhodesia's finest captain, David Lewis, under whose direction Du Preez performed during his first years playing for the country. "Jackie will always be remembered for his entirely relaxed, honest and happy approach to the game. This endeared him to spectators and he became one of our most popular cricketers.

 "I think the aspect of his play that will live with me longest is his absolutely incredible ability as a catcher behind the wicket. His capacity for anticipation and holding the impossible catch was something to be remembered — and it was done with consummate ease. A very talented and remarkable cricketer, he has made a most worthwhile contribution to the game in this country."

CAREER FIGURES

FOR RHODESIA
BATTING
1961-1980
Matches:  113
Innings:  186
Not Out:  24
Runs:  3 994
Highest Score:  112
Average:  24,65
100:  1
50: 19

BOWLING
1961-80
Balls:  16,960
Maidens:  607
Wickets:  279
Average:  3,47
5WI: 10
10WM: 1
BBI:  8-92

RHODESIA FIRST-CLASS CRICKET RECORDS
UP TO END OF SEASON 1979-80


Players making 50 or more appearances:   
J. H. du Preez:  113
B. F. Davison:  90
D. A. G. Fletcher:  87
R. A. Gripper:  79
S. D. Robertson:  77
D. J. Lewis:  73
G. B. Lawrence:  66
A. J. Pithey:  65
P. B. Clift:  65
J. T. Partridge:  56
K. C. Bland:  55
P. N. F. Mansell:  55
H. A. B. Gardiner:  54

Players scoring 3 000 or more runs:
B. F. Davison:  4 480
S. D. Robertson:  4 343
R. A. Gripper:  4 107
J. H. du Preez: : 3 994
A. J. Pithey:  3 987
M. J. Procter:  3 662
D. J. Lewis:  3 254
P. N. F. Mansell:  3 027

Players taking 200 or more wickets:
G. B. Lawrence:  296
J. T. Partridge:  281
J. H. du Preez:  279
P. N. F. Mansell:  203

BYROM.
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