Epic South Africa and Gloucestershire allrounder Mike Procter recalls the good, the bad and the ugly from his incredible career.
THE SCHOOLBOY PRODIGY
Teenage hits | Highbury School under 13s v Transvaal Schools, 1959
I opened and we put on 300 for the first wicket [aged 13]. I was 210 not out at the end. There was lots of applause and congratulations going about, but I just got on with it. I was a batsman back then and scored five hundreds that year. I took up bowling when I got older and stronger.
THE YOUNG PRETENDER
Gloucestershire’s David Allen had been asked to look at some young South African players and Jackie McGlew, former South Africa captain, recommended Barry Richards and me. Back then there were no overseas players in county cricket, you had to live in the county for 18 months to qualify. We played a season in the 2nd XI and were allowed to play in this tour match. Gloucestershire were 62-4 when I came in to join Barry. He got 59, I got 69 and we put on 116. Then Peter Pollock got us both out and it rained for the next two days. In 1968, when counties were allowed overseas players, Barry went to Hampshire and I went back to Gloucestershire.
THE STRAIGHT ONE
4-32 & 2-38, 16 | South Africa v Australia, 4th Test, Johannesburg, 1967
Denis Lindsay [South African keeper] had smashed 131 and we’d declared just before the close on day three. Australia needed 190 just to make us bat again but it was swinging too much and their left- handed opener Bill Lawry was leaving it well. Pitch it on middle-and-leg it was too wide, outside leg and it didn’t swing. I decided to go round the wicket. I knew Lawry would still be expecting it to swing away from him so I held one across the seam and it went straight on. Lawry left it and it bowled him. It rained the whole of day four and some of day five and they held out for the draw, eight wickets down.
South Africa’s exile | Lord’s and Bloemfontein, 1968
I was flabbergasted when Basil D’Oliveira wasn’t selected for the 1968/69 tour of South Africa. He’d scored 158 in the final Ashes Test and got a crucial wicket to help England square the series. He was in the best XI but a few days later he couldn’t make the best 16? I wasn’t surprised when the tour was eventually cancelled. After that we knew it was only a matter of time before South Africa were banned from international cricket. It was sad for us, but the ban was for the right reasons.
THE UNITED NATIONS
3-47 & 1-67, 27 & 22*| Rest of the World XI v England, Unofficial Test, Headingley, 1970
I was batting with Barry Richards and we needed 40 to win, with two wickets down, on a turning pitch. Barry was batting No.9 as he’d hurt his back. He held up one end, I got the runs at the other and we won by two wickets. There was such great camaraderie in that Rest of the World team. We won the series 4-1 against Ray Illingworth’s England, who were good enough to win the Ashes in Australia a few months later.
THE SIXTH CONSECUTIVE TON
254, 1-10 & 2-40 | Rhodesia v Western Province, Three-Day Match, Salisbury, 1971
The sixth hundred was the best, but I was lucky. I came in at 5-2 on a lively wicket, which soon became 5-3. I had 2 when I nicked one and Western Province captain Andre Bruyns dropped it at slip. I went on to get 254, my highest ever score. I was particularly pleased as we only managed 383 in total and ended up winning the game by seven wickets. [Only Bradman and CB Fry had scored six consecutive first-class hundreds before Procter. They still share the record today.]
THE RAPID CHASE
4-29 & 1-11, 22 & 111 | Gloucestershire v Yorkshire, County Championship, Sheffield, 1971
Boycott had set us 201 to win in the fourth innings in just over 40 overs. He didn’t set declarations very often. The wicket was dodgy and we were quickly 11-3. Arthur Milton, who’d been first out, for nought, told me he was off to the garage to collect my car. He thought we had no chance! Mike Bissex and me steadied things for a while and then Boycs, thinking we were going to block out for a draw, brought on John Hampshire to bowl a few gentle spinners. We took him for 38 off three overs and never looked back. Mike got 50, I ended up on 111 not out and we won with six overs to spare. Personal success didn’t motivate me. If I scored runs and took wickets and we won, it meant something. If we lost, it didn’t. I won two trophies with Gloucestershire and the Super Tests as part of the World Series Cricket world team, but this was my stand- out memory. A fun victory.
THE DEFEAT IN THE DARK
We’d lost an hour to rain at lunchtime and set Lancashire 230 to win, a decent score back then. It was getting darker and darker, heading on until nine o’clock, but the umpires didn’t want to come off. I said to our captain Tony Brown that it was too dark for me to bowl so he put the off-spinner John Mortimore on instead and David Hughes hit him for 26 in one over and won the game!
THE CAREER THREATENER
I ran in to bowl to Clive Lloyd. My knee wasn’t 100 per cent so I was on third change. One minute I was in my delivery stride, the next I was in a heap on the ground. I was helped off the ground and our chairman said it looked so bad he thought I’d never bowl again. I only played four matches that season but I was back the next year. I had knee problems for the rest of my career though.
THE WORLD SERIES BREAK
5-52 & 3-29, 23 & 2 | Gloucestershire v Sussex, County Championship, Hove, 1977
This was where Tony Greig first spoke to me about playing World Series Cricket. There were four other future World Series Cricket players in that game: Zaheer Abbas, John Snow, Javed Miandad and Kepler Wessles. A meeting was arranged at the Dorchester Hotel where Greigy, Eddie Barlow and myself discussed who would be in the world team. We suggested Graeme Pollock and Denys Hobson, a really talented leg-spinner. Neither of them were allowed to play though because they weren’t playing county cricket. Politics! We didn’t get the stick that the English players got for joining WSC. People accepted that this was a great opportunity for South Africans, who weren’t able to play Test cricket at the time.