Cricket great Johnny Waite dies at 81

SOUTH African cricket has been spoiled with fine wicketkeeper-batsmen over the years. One of the finest was Johnny Waite, who died this week aged 81.

Waite was the first South African to play in 50 test matches, ending his career in the 50th against England in 1965 at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth. Until South Africa’s readmission to world cricket in 1992, he had been the only player to feature in that many tests.

He made his test debut at the age of 21 in June 1951 when he opened the batting for South Africa with his uncle Eric Rowan. Waite made an elegant 76 and featured in an 82-run stand for the third wicket with skipper Dudley Nourse, who went on to make 208. South Africa won the match and drew the series 2-2. Waite was injured for the last test, having opened the batting in the first four matches of the series.

During the tour, Rowan and Waite protested against some slow handclapping by spectators at Old Trafford in the match against Lancashire by sitting down in the middle of the pitch. Waite made 122 against Lancashire, his second of his three centuries on tour.

A tall man, he was comfortable in keeping to fast or slow bowlers often standing up to the quicker ones. He kept wicket to two of South Africa’s best bowlers, off-spinner Hugh Tayfield and fast bowler Neil Adcock.

Before his retirement he ran a sports shop in central Johannesburg along with his lifelong friend and teammate Sid O’Linn.

Waite scored 2405 runs, including four centuries, and made 141 dismissals behind the stumps. He bowled only 20 balls in his test career, calling his autobiography Perchance to Bowl. — Archie Henderson


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