HARARE – The great former South Africa all-rounder Mike Procter, who went on to become his country’ first coach in the post-isolation era, died Saturday afternoon in Durban at the age of 77 following a cardiac arrest while in intensive care.

Procter was a fearsome fast bowler and equally capable batsman whose international career was limited to just seven Test matches for his country due to the effects of apartheid.

Durban-born Procter was however able to play 401 first-class games, scoring 21 936 runs at an average of 36.01 with 48 hundreds and 109 fifties. He also took 1 417 wickets at an average of 19.53.

A legendary figure at English county Gloucestershire, with whom he posted a huge chunk of that success, Procter is best remembered in Zimbabwe for his world record as one only three men in history to score six first-class centuries in a row.

Playing Currie Cup cricket in the 1970-01 season for Rhodesia – as Zimbabwe was known before majority rule in 1980 – Procter smashed 119, 129, 107, 174, 106, and 254 in succession. The scores were against Natal B, Transvaal B, Orange Free State, Eastern Transvaal, Griqualand and Western Province. Three of the innings were at home in Rhodesia, twice in Salisbury (now Harare), and once in Bulawayo.

Alongside Procter, the only other batsmen to have hit six first-class centuries in succession are the legendary Englishman CB Fry and Sir Don Bradman of Australia, probably the best batsman to have played cricket.

“He will be remembered for his performance in Rhodesia between initially 1970-01 and then 1975-6,” veteran Zimbabwean cricket administrator Nick Chouhan, a former national board member, told SportsCast.

“In 1970 he entered the record books playing for Rhodesia in the Currie Cup, scoring six successive first-class centuries, and a top score of 254 runs. He was the third man to make over 500 runs and taking 50 wickets twice in a domestic season during the 1972-3 season.”

John Kelley, an expatriate journalist from England who worked in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe for nearly 50 years, lays claim to being the only journalist to have watched those historic six tons by Procter.

Writing from the UK for Harare-based newspaper The NewsHawks in February 2021 to commemorate 50 years of Procter’s accomplishment, Kelley in jest referred to the South African icon as a “mercenary” cricketer because of his decision to cross the border into Rhodesia.

“Procter had been engaged specifically to assist in Rhodesia’s objective as a B Section Currie Cup side, which until then had tended to be brushed aside by the SA Cricket Association, to move up against the top South African teams,” wrote Kelley, who is now retired and living near Portsmouth.

“The selected 15 players under captain Ray Gripper (father of former Zimbabwe Test player Trevor Gripper) was scheduled to play three matches in South Africa and more back home, intent on victories so huge that the SACA could not ignore any further Rhodesia’s claim to A Section membership.

“With Procter’s huge scores and impressive fast bowling averages they made an unanswerable claim.  His first three centuries were racked up against Bloemfontein at The Ramblers, North-Eastern Transvaal at Pretoria’s Berea Park and Griqualand at Kimberley.

“After a wait of a few weeks in the New Year, he continued his century sequence in style ‘back home’. This was not of course Test cricket. But it was indeed first-class cricket, even though there was some debate about that until eventual resolution.

“Apart from the team manager Alwyn Pichanick – later to become Zimbabwe’s national cricket board president between 1976 and 1990 – I was the only person to witness all six centuries and to write about them for the Rhodesia Herald.

“After my large file for the back page following the sixth, I offered a front page story to the duty assistant editor. This having been declined, I went off to the Liberty Cinema in Cameron Street, Salisbury, present-day Harare, to see ‘A Man For All Seasons.’

 “That seemed rather fitting at the time, but I was sent for half-way through the film to write in haste that front page piece.”

Kelley also recollected some lighter moments from his days covering Procter’s stints in Zimbabwe.

“Soon after being appointed sports editor of the Sunday Mail, I engaged Procter to write a weekly column titled ‘Procter on Sunday.’

“But he rather let me down by not bothering to actually produce it and so I had to do so myself.

“Consequently, it had to be done in a bland fashion, avoiding any controversy appearing below his name!

“Another recall of the Procter saga – he injured an ankle rather badly and was detained at the Harare Hospital in Southerton.

“I went there to check on his progress ahead of the next match, but the senior doctor refused me entry, saying ‘This is a sanctuary for the sick, Mr Kelley.’ A sanctuary? For Mike Procter? For years it was others needing sanctuary. From him!”


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