Mike Procter, South Africa’s great allrounder, dies aged 77

Mike Procter, South Africa’s legendary allrounder and their first coach of the post-Apartheid era, has died at the age of 77, following complications during heart surgery.

Widely renowned as one of his country’s greatest players, Procter’s international career was cut short due to South Africa’s sporting isolation in the 1970s and 1980s, and he was limited to just seven Tests, all of which came against Australia in 1966-67 and 1969-70.

In those, however, he claimed 41 wickets at 15.02, bowling high-class seam and swing famously “off the wrong foot” – an inimitable chest-on action that involved him releasing the ball early in his delivery stride, at high pace and often from unconventional angles, wide on the crease or from round the wicket.

He helped South Africa to victory in six of his seven Tests, the other being a draw, with his best figures of 6 for 73 coming in the second innings of his final appearance at Port Elizabeth, to seal a crushing 323-run victory.

Procter was a formidable ball-striker too – he averaged 34.83 in the second of his two Test series, a memorable 4-0 whitewash of Bill Lawry’s Australia in 1969-70, alongside fellow members of South Africa’s lost generation, including Barry Richards, Graeme and Peter Pollock and captain Ali Bacher.

Thereafter, however, his greatest performances were limited to domestic cricket, for Natal initially and then Rhodesia in the Currie Cup, and perhaps most famously for Gloucestershire, where he was a stalwart for 14 seasons between 1968 and 1981.

In that time he made 259 first-class appearances for Gloucestershire, scoring 14,441 runs at 36.19 with 32 centuries and a best of 209 against Essex in 1978, and claiming 833 wickets at 19.56, including his career-best haul of 8 for 30 against Worcestershire at New Road in 1979.

One of his most memorable feats, however, was his haul of four wickets in five balls in the Benson & Hedges Cup semi-final at Southampton in 1977, when he ripped through the cream of Hampshire’s batting, including their legendary opening pairing of Gordon Greenidge and his fellow South African Richards.

That performance set Gloucestershire on their way to Lord’s, where they surged to victory over Kent, although he had already helped the club to secure their first silverware of the 20th century in the Gillette Cup final of 1973, when his mighty allround return of 94 and 2 for 27 had seen off Sussex.

He was named as one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year in 1970, after a 103-wicket season for Gloucestershire in 1969, and at Taunton in August 1979, he secured another niche entry in the record books by slamming Somerset’s Dennis Breakwell for six consecutive sixes, albeit not in the same over.

Back in South Africa, he emulated Don Bradman and CB Fry in scoring six centuries in consecutive innings, starting with 174 from 203 balls against North Eastern Transvaal on New Year’s Day 1971, and encompassing a career-best 254 against West Province.

After South Africa’s readmission to international cricket, Procter was named as the team’s head coach, overseeing their famous return to Test cricket against West Indies in Bridgetown, as well as their 1992 World Cup campaign, in which he guided the side to the semi-finals before falling foul of the tournament’s infamous rain rules in defeat to England in Sydney.

He later served as an ICC match referee between 2002 and 2008, and was also South Africa’s convenor of selectors. He died in hospital near his home in Durban, and is survived by his wife Maryne and two daughters.

Leave a Comment