John Watkins, South Africa’s seam bowling-allrounder, passed away at the age of 98 in Durban. He was the oldest living male cricketer at the time of his death. The all-rounder was laid low by the Covid-19 virus 10 days ago. Watkins, who made his Test debut versus Australia in Johannesburg in 1949, was renowned for bowling with exemplary control, capsulized by his economy rate of 1.74. He picked up 15 scalps and aggregated 612 runs in 15 Tests. The highlight of his Test career came in the 1952-53 season in Australia when he scored 408 runs and ended up with 16 scalps.
His death leaves fellow South African Ron Draper, 95, as the oldest surviving Test player, while Australian Neil Harvey, 92, is believed to be the only player still alive who played Test cricket in the 1940s. Draper played his only two Tests, against Australia, in the early 1950s.
The win enabled the underdog tourists to share the series, a performance credited to the outstanding fielding and fitness of a team led by Jack Cheetham. Before making his first-class cricket debut, Watkins trained as a Spitfire pilot with the South African Air Force during World War 11 before being consigned to air traffic control because of color blindness.
According to CSA, Watkins had been in failing health before contracting coronavirus 10 days before his death last Friday.
Former South Africa allrounder John Watkins died in Durban on Friday after being infected with Covid-19 ten days ago, CSA said in a statement, adding that “he had been in failing health for some time”. He was the oldest Test player that too from South Africa to be alive. Watkins made his first-class debut versus Rhodesia on New Year’s day in 1947 in the Currie Cup and went on to play 59 more first-class games. He finished with 2158 runs and 96 wickets in first-class cricket. “On behalf of the CSA Family I extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and cricketing colleagues,” commented CSA Acting Chief Executive Pholetsi Moseki.
Watkins was also known for his slip fielding and the high point of his career was the Australia tour in 1952-53, in which he scored 679 runs at 28.29 and took 31 wickets at 27.74, of which 408 runs and 16 wickets came in the Tests. In the final Test at the MCG, he scored 92 (his best in Tests) and 50, helping South Africa to a six-wicket win and a share of the series.
John Watkins’ demise leaves fellow South African Ron Draper, 95, as the oldest surviving Test player. Also, Australian batting great Neil Harvey, 92, becomes the only player still alive who played Test cricket in the 1940s. John Watkins’ demise leaves fellow South African Ron Draper, 95, as the oldest surviving Test player. Also, Australian batting great Neil Harvey, 92, becomes the only player still alive who played Test cricket in the 1940s.
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Watkins, who was known for his stroke-play, notched up twin fifties in the MCG Test of that series to power the tourists to a four-wicket win. The series was drawn at 2-2, and it turned out to be the first time Australia didn’t win a Test series versus South Africa. Watkins’s best Test haul of 4 for 22 came versus New Zealand in Wellington in 1952-53 when he ran through the middle and lower order to propel his side to an innings win. Watkins played his final Test match versus England in the 1956-57 season.
He finished his Test career with an economy rate of 1.74, the sixth-best overall. He had a distinguished career for Natal, and played 60 first-class matches overall from 1946-47 to 1957-58, for 2158 runs at 24.80 and 96 wickets.