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Derbyshire connection with South Africa

Friday 2nd March 2018
& News
Written by Danny Painter

Pace bowling will be the order of the day for Derbyshire in the first half of the 2018 season after announcing South Africa fast bowler, Duanne Olivier, as overseas until the end of June.

Heritage Officer David Griffin takes a look at the connection between Derbyshire and South Africa cricketers.

The signing of Olivier means that the new ball could well be in the hands of two highly-skilled fast bowling operatives from South Africa come April, with Hardus Viljoen ready to welcome his fellow countryman into the Derbyshire ranks.

Olivier will become the 26th player born in South Africa to play for Derbyshire since the first, Eric Murray, played just three first-class games for the county back in 1911.

Murray, rather curiously, played those games for Derbyshire as an 18-year-old before captaining Repton School in the following season, never returning to play any more matches for the county.

Following Murray’s brief venture into county cricket, it was to be a further 59 years before anyone born in South Africa would play for Derbyshire, when Chris Wilkins, an occasional wicketkeeper, a useful one-day bowler, and a regular striker of a cricket ball, arrived in Derbyshire during the Club’s centenary season of 1970.

Wilkins scored nine centuries and 27 fifties during his three-year stint as Derbyshire’s first formal overseas player, and although the county tried an India off-spinner (Srinivas Venkatraghavan) and a West Indies batsman (Lawrence Rowe) over the next three seasons, it was to South Africa that Derbyshire turned once more when, in the winter of 1975, it was announced that Eddie Barlow was joining the Club on a three-year contract beginning in 1976.

At the time, it was reputed that Garry Sobers was being paid £5,000 for a summer at Trent Bridge, and that he was the highest-paid cricketer in the country. Derbyshire, with an ebullient Chairman in George Hughes, guided by Charlie Elliott, a 1936 County Championship winner, offered Barlow £10,000.

The cricket world was staggered by this audacious move, although Hughes, addressing the 1976 Annual General Meeting in The Grandstand said; “…these gentlemen (pointing at Elliott in particular), have assured me that Barlow will make up ten places in the championship…”

Derbyshire were truly in the doldrums, but Barlow arrived and brought about a change in both attitude and fortunes, never seen before or since in Derbyshire. He did take the team from bottom to seventh in the championship – making good on Elliott’s promise – and a Lord’s final in the Benson and Hedges Cup.

He scored a remarkable 217 against Surrey at Ilkeston in 1976, including 138 runs off his own bat between lunch and tea. He also took 111 wickets at an average of just 16 in three seasons of one-day cricket, but it was his inspired leadership which is still fondly remembered today by anyone who saw or met this great cricketer.

In more simple terms, Eddie Barlow made Derbyshire – players, staff, supporters – believe that anything was possible.

Whilst at Derbyshire, Barlow recruited another South African, the diminutive, and inexperienced, Peter Kirsten.

Over the course of five seasons, Kirsten would demolish bowling attacks in both first-class and one-day cricket, scoring a county-record six double centuries, five of which were unbeaten. It was arguably only the ludicrous first innings limitation of 100 overs which prevented Kirsten from becoming the first Derbyshire batsman to score a triple hundred.

His greatest season was in 1982, when he scored eight centuries in the county championship (another county record which still stands), while New Zealander John Wright scored seven. At times, in 1982, it seemed as if they were the only two players batting for Derbyshire, such was their dominance.

The next South African to make a significant impact was Adrian Kuiper, who was described by the then-Derbyshire Chairman at that years’ AGM as; “…the South African Botham…”, and from the opening game of the Refuge Assurance Sunday League against Sussex at Hove in 1990, he set about living up to the reputation.

Derbyshire needed 10 an over from the last seven overs – difficult even by modern standards, but almost impossible nearly 30 years ago. However, Kuiper and a very young Chris Adams smashed the ball to all parts of the ground to bring about an unlikely victory.

Over the course of that campaign, Kuiper produced several other match-winning knocks, amassing 775 one-day runs at an average of 43, including a nerveless pull for six out of the ground at Taunton when one run was needed from the final ball of the match.

Whilst the 1990 triumph was undoubtedly a team effort, Kuiper was the clear catalyst for the success. He was immensely strong and capable of clearing any boundary with what seemed the minimum of effort.

Daryl Cullinan stepped into the overseas berth in 1995, replacing Mohammad Azharuddin. He was unflappable at the crease and scored five first-class hundreds and a further one in one-day cricket. The best tribute that can be paid to Cullinan, is that when he scored a quite brilliant 134 against Sussex at Derby on his debut, he drew comparisons to Kirsten, such was the brilliance of his stroke-play.

As the 21st century dawned, Derbyshire turned to Australia for overseas players, but retained an interest in signing players from South Africa, either as Kolpak-registered, or on a qualifying basis, while some South Africa-born players were eligible to play in England without any qualifying period.

Chris Bassano produced a debut performance unmatched in county championship cricket, scoring a hundred in each innings against Gloucestershire at Derby in 2001.

Bassano played at Derbyshire for five seasons, becoming a very effective one day batsman, scoring four List A hundreds in 2003.

Ant Botha scored masses of runs and took plenty of wickets whilst qualifying in league cricket in Derbyshire before making his debut for the county in 2004. A left-handed middle-order batsman and slow-left arm bowler, Botha could be very effective in all forms of the game, scoring over 3,000 runs and taking almost 250 wickets.

Greg Smith first played for Derbyshire in 2006 and was a very stylish middle-order batsman and a useful bowler of both seam and, latterly, off-spin, too. His explosive hundred against Yorkshire at Headingley in 2008 was Derbyshire’s first in Twenty20 cricket and is still one of only two for Derbyshire in that format.

Charl Langeveldt had two spells at the club, although his first was infinitely more profitable than the second, when he took 55 first-class wickets at an average of just over 22 in 2008.

Garry Park, although South Africa-born, had played all his competitive cricket in England and joined Derbyshire from Durham. He scored almost 3,000 runs for the county in all forms of the game, including 1,000 first-class runs in 2009, averaging just over 42 with two hundreds and eight fifties. He was also one of the finest fielders ever to play for Derbyshire; lightning fast across the ground and with a fast, low, accurate throw. He fielded for England as 12th man on several occasions, including, in 2008, against South Africa.

Tim Groenewald joined Derbyshire from Warwickshire and was a hugely instrumental figure in the 2012 County Championship Division Two winning side. He opened the bowling throughout that season alongside Tony Palladino, taking 42 wickets at an average of 25 and scoring crucial runs on several occasions.

All-rounder, Robin Peterson spent just one season at Derbyshire, in 2010, taking 51 wickets with his left arm spin, and scoring 484 runs batting in the lower middle order.

Loots Bosman arrived as a specialist Twenty20 player with a reputation for aggressive batting and fast-scoring and delivered at Headingley in just his second outing for the club, scoring 94 against Yorkshire in an innings which lasted just 49 minutes, facing 50 balls and hitting six sixes. I can’t recall a more brutal innings played by a Derbyshire batsman.

Several South Africa-born players had short stints at the Club, often, but not exclusively, as Twenty20 specialists, including Hashim Amla, James Bryant, Mornanteau ‘Nantie’ Hayward, Stephen Moore, Albie Morkel and Dominic Telo.

In 1982, Stephen Jefferies played just a single match – against the touring Pakistanis at Chesterfield. Six years later, when Jefferies was playing for Hampshire, he destroyed Derbyshire’s batting in the Benson and Hedges Cup Final at Lord’s, taking 5-13 from 10 overs.

In 2009, a young man arrived from South Africa keen to play county cricket after a stint in the Lancashire League, and after impressing in the 2nd XI, was handed a first team debut at Cheltenham in July of the same year. Wayne Madsen scored 170 in the second innings, the highest debut score in Derbyshire’s history, and began a run – largely unbroken – of consistent, heavy scoring in all forms of the game.

With 25 first class hundreds for Derbyshire, he sits sixth on the all-time list for the Club, and broke records galore with the bat in the 2017 T20 Blast competition which saw Derbyshire reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2005.

Madsen captained the side when Derbyshire won the 2012 Division Two title, and he seems set to continue challenging the Derbyshire batting records in the years to come.

Daryn Smit and Hardus Viljoen both arrived in 2017, and in only his fourth first-class game for the county Viljoen recorded match figures of 15-170 in the win against Sussex at Hove. These are the fifth best match figures ever for Derbyshire, and the best since 1952, when Cliff Gladwin took 15-84 against Worcestershire at Amblecote.

Smit – signed ostensibly as a middle-order batsman – impressed observers with his fielding and wicketkeeping, as throughout the season he took a series of amazing catches both in the slips and with the gloves on.

Finally, Conor McKerr, on loan from Surrey, and in only his second-ever first-class match, took 10-141 in the match against Northamptonshire at Northampton.

Overall, the South African connection must be viewed historically as a good one for Derbyshire. In fact, only the counties of Derbyshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire have provided Derbyshire with more players than the 25 from South Africa, and some of the club’s finest players have come from that country, and hopefully, spectators will enjoy watching the latest, Duanne Olivier, in action when April comes around.

The full list of players born in South Africa and who have played (in chronological order) for Derbyshire is as follows;

  1. Eric Murray
  2. Chris Wilkins
  3. Eddie Barlow
  4. Peter Kirsten
  5. Stephen Jefferies
  6. Adrian Kuiper
  7. Daryll Cullinan
  8. Chris Bassano
  9. Ant Botha
  10. James Bryant
  11. Greg Smith
  12. Dominic Telo
  13. Charl Langeveldt
  14. Garry Park
  15. Tim Groenewald
  16. Mornanteau Hayward
  17. Wayne Madsen
  18. Robin Peterson
  19. Loots Bosman
  20. Albie Morkel
  21. Stephen Moore
  22. Hashim Amla
  23. Daryn Smit
  24. Hardus Viljoen
  25. Conor McKerr

Vitality Blast is back! Derbyshire Falcons host seven Twenty20 games this July and August. Purchase your tickets in advance and save from £4. Buy online or call 01332 388 101.

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