Vintcent van der Bijl – Tall and Burly Fast Medium Bowler (1968 – 1983)
Vintcent van der Bijl, a retired South African cricketer, was born on March 19, 1949, in Rondebosch, Cape Town. His fast-medium deliveries were accurate, fast, and bounced well. His height was 6 feet 7 inches. During the apartheid era, when South African sports were isolated, he reached the height of his playing career.
Vintcent Adriaan Pieter van der Bijl captured the most wickets in Currie Cup history. He set the record for most wickets in a domestic season with 65 and then broke it himself with 75. When he played outside South Africa with Middlesex in 1980, he topped the national average for regular bowlers. He confirmed what had already been widely suspected: that he was the finest bowler of modern times, never to have played Test cricket. Fielding in the slips to van der Bijl’s bowling, one thought the ball was attached to a long piece of elastic held by the wicketkeeper.
Once Vintcent Adriaan Pieter van der Bijl released the ball, it increased in velocity, even after hitting the pitch. This was until it reached the keeper’s gloves. That was a measure of how hard he hit the deck. Naturally enough, he had a rather ponderous run-up, as he was as massively constructed as a Springbok forward, but he had gathered his strength at the crucial moment.
His aim was at or outside off-stump when bowling from the nursery end at Lord’s, and thanks to his height, he always achieved some lift. He did not bowl a particularly effective bouncer, though, as his natural length was very close to the bat. This allowed the ball to swing if it wanted to.
Like most South Africans, he was well-coached in the fundamentals. His father was Director of Coaching for Western Province, as well as a Rhodes scholar, a schoolmaster, and a steady opening bat. He averaged 51 for South Africa and made a century in the Timeless Test of 1938–39. Vincent’s grandfather played first-class cricket too, while a great-uncle was picked for an England tour but declined. Vintcent van der Bijl was chosen for the South Africa to Australia tour in 1971–72, which was canceled.
His only opportunity to play outside the country was county cricket. He may have been 32 when it arrived, but he bowled with youthful enthusiasm and could not have fitted more harmoniously into the side. He fell into his rhythm immediately and took 85 wickets at 14 each to help Middlesex win the championship, not to mention the Gillette Cup. So direct was his bowling that 66 of his wickets were bowled, LBW, or caught behind.
When he returned to South Africa and Natal, he followed his success with 54 wickets at nine wickets! He was one of the finest fast-medium bowlers, like the burly Brian Statham – and of people. And had he played Test cricket, he could have been penciled in for a record similar to Brian Statham’s.
Vintcent van der Bijl of Natal, Transvaal, and Middlesex played during a 15-year first-class career (1968–1983) that brought him 767 wickets in 156 matches at a splendid average of 16.54, including 42 five-wicket hauls and 12 ten-wicket hauls in a match with a best of 8 for 35.