Jackie McGlew was a mainstay of South Africa’s Test team in the 1950s, even if his batting did little to entertain the crowds.
Jackie McGlew became synonymous with South African cricket in the 1950s. His batting fitted his name: he was a sticker, and concentration, discipline, commitment and athleticism were the abiding virtues of his own game, and that of his team. He became famous – or notorious – for some of Test cricket’s slowest innings. He batted nine hours 35 minutes for 105 against Australia at Durban in 1957/58; his 545-minute century remained the slowest in first-class cricket for 20 years. “Although as a feat of endurance and concentration it was remarkable,” said Wisden, “it is doubtful whether South Africa benefited by it.” They led by 221 on first innings but could not bowl Australia out.
McGlew grew up in Natal, and was pictured waving a bat as a four-year-old. He went on to captain the province’s schoolboys, and made his debut for Natal in 1947/48. In 1951 he was picked to tour England on the strength of 138 in a 12-a-side (and thus non-first-class) Test trial at Kingsmead. He hit 40 when South Africa won at Trent Bridge but failed in his next three innings, and was dropped.
But he scored consistently in the county games, and his agile fielding in the deep was widely noted. When the young South Africa team stunned Australia by drawing their series 18 months later, McGlew was established as the opening bat and, aged only 23, as vice-captain.
Though he missed the crucial win at the MCG through injury, he returned in New Zealand with 255 not out in eight hours 54 minutes, then South Africa’s highest Test score. He was on the field throughout the match. Back in England in 1955, he scored centuries in both South Africa’s Test wins, at Manchester and Leeds, having bagged a pair at Lord’s the game before.
McGlew was captain in both games because Jack Cheetham was injured; South Africa lost the other three Tests. McGlew was a Cricketer of the Year; Wisden noted both his dourness at the crease and his vitality in the field. “Attrition is not a popular method of progress. McGlew himself has not always batted this way, but circumstances wrought the change of style.”
McGlew, Derrick John, died on June 9, 1998, aged 69.