South African Norman Gordon, who was the oldest former Test cricketer, has died at age 103 in Johannesburg.
“Norman died peacefully this morning in the flat where he lived for 60 years,” friend and former South Africa Test skipper Ali Bacher told reporters on Tuesday.
The former fast bowler played in the famous ‘timeless’ 1939 Durban Test, which lasted 10 days before being drawn because England had to catch a boat home.
England were 42 runs short of victory when play was abandoned in a Test where Gordon bowled 92.2 eight-ball overs.
That marathon spell remains a record for balls bowled by a fast bowler in a Test.
Gordon played only five Tests – all against England during the 1938-1939 season – because his career coincided with World War II.
Born Jewish, Gordon loved recalling an incident during his Test debut against England in Johannesburg when a spectator shouted “here comes the rabbi”.
“Fortunately, I took five wickets in the innings,” Gordon said decades later in an interview, “and that shut him up for the rest of the tour”.
After the war, Gordon played for the then Transvaal until 1949 and concluded his first-class career with 126 wickets from 29 first-class matches.
A highlight for then 99-year-old-Gordon was a surprise visit by West Indies cricket legend Brian Lara.
Thrilled Gordon said at the time: “I was so happy to meet him and could not believe what a modest person he was.”
Lara was equally delighted after the meeting.
“It was a humbling experience,” he recalled.
“His appreciation of the game and knowledge of the changes to it since his last Test made me smile.”
Larger than life, Gordon practised accountancy part-time until 94 and played golf until 96 when failing eyesight forced him to quit.
Nicknamed ‘Mobil’ because he greased down his hair, Gordon cut a dashing figure at the height of his career, making him extremely popular with women.
The death of Gordon leaves another South African, 95-year-old ex-fast-medium bowler Lindsay Tuckett, as the oldest living former Test cricketer.