St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Urban Legends St George's Park - St George's Park Big Hitters
St George's Park Big Hitters
Norman Canale

They’re a rare breed, these mighty swipers of the cricket ball who abuse and intimidate bowlers by skewering them on cricketing barbed wire and giving them the collywobbles.

Macho they are, sort of Arnie Schwarzeneggers in cricket pads, who wield their bats with apocalyptic force that sends the crowds into the same convulsions of ecstasy usually reserved for rock stars.

I mean, look how the 20 000 St George’s Park crowd went ape when Adrian Kuiper hit his murderous six with an estimated carry of 115 metres on to the roof of the Firestone stand during SA’s losing third one-day international against Australia on Tuesday.

Kuiper has long been known to swing a malicious bat, but his rage to hit has never been vented more viciously than this hit off Steve Waugh.

The ball flew in a high arch to land on the roof of the media centre with a thud that had some of the journos hunching instinctively. As Kuiper swung his bat at the ball as though he hated it some wag shouted “fore!”.

“That’s got to be the biggest six ever slammed on this ground,” muttered excited spectators as the WP idol exited after he had struck 33 runs off just 16 balls (two huge sixes and three fours) in his 17 pulsating minutes at the crease. It had the seething crowd in a continuous uproar.

But was Kuiper’s the mightiest six ever struck at St George’s Park?

I spoke to three prominent EP authorities with an intimate knowledge of cricket happenings at St George’s Park, and their answer, while rating Kuiper as one of cricket’s most explosive hitters, was an emphatic NO.

“No ways ... hell no,” exclaimed Geoff Dakin, a legendary figure in Eastern Province cricket over the last 45 years, first as captain of EP and later as supremo of SA cricket for three years.

“Kuiper’s was a mighty hit, no doubt about that. And mind you, if the stand was half a storey lower, it would have finished up in the parking area for an incredible carry of some 120 metres to rate among the legendary sixes at the park.

“No, the biggest hit at St George’s in first class cricket was a 145-metre six by the charismatic Australian Keith Miller, a star in Lindsay Hassett’s great team of 1949-50.”

Miller, a swashbuckling Errol Flynn of cricket who wore shoulder-length hair long before it became fashionable, was also a classic strokemaker and a strike bowler bristling with hostility.

“Keith was batting at the Firestone stand end and straight-drove a delivery from EP spinner Harry Birrell clean over the old B stand (about the third of the height of the present Duckpond stand) and into the original duckpond.

“That had to be a carry of 145 metres and even today I am still in awe of that six.”

Click image to enlarge

The length-of-strike estimates are exactly that - estimates. There is no way, short of using instruments, to accurately measure the distances and heights of hits.

In Miller’s case, Dakin worked on the measuring basis of 75 metres from wicket to boundary, 25 metres to the foot of the stand, an average 20 metres for the height of the strike - and 25 metres to the pond itself.

But the biggest of ALL sixes slammed at the famous ground, he claims, was executed in 1962 by the late roly-poly Springbok slow bowler Atholl McKinnon, playing for PECC in a league match against Dakin’s team, Old Grey.

“The irony is that Atholl struck it off my brother John’s bowling,” laughed Dakin.

Swinging from the heels and using his bat like a lumberjack uses an axe, McKinnon hit a six an unbelievable l50metres.

“Atholl swung so mightily that I’m sure you could have heard the crack of the bat on ball way down in Rink Street as it soared over the old scoreboard to land on the lawn of Capri flats across Park Drive,” said Dakin, his voice tittle-tattling his awe.

“Man, that’s an awful l-o-n-g way from the Duckpond crease where Atholl struck it. I guess John will never forget that six either.’’

Colin Rushmere, who opened the innings for EP in the late 1950s and early 1960s and a past president of the EPCU, agrees that Miller’s six is top of the pops.

“I was a schoolboy watching those mighty Aussies and ironically at that moment with Miller on 94 we chanted ‘six, six’ to egg him on to his century,’’ he recalled.

“Boy, did Keith oblige!”

But he also rates Lorrie Wilmot’s six for EP off Kiwi off-spinner John Sparling as another mighty swipe that remains etched vividly in his memory.

Lorrie, who plundered runs off the bowlers the way the old Caribbean pirates sacked a town, lofted Sparling high over the square leg boundary and on to the top of the Memorial Pavilion where, with one bounce, it landed in what was then the B field and is now the car park.

The carry was about 120 metres!

John Ferrant, an EP player from 1956-68 and an EPRU executive for 20 years, rates a six by EP fast bowler Etienne Schmidt, struck off the legendary Mike Procter, who then played for Rhodesia, as the most dramatic “lift-off” he’s seen at St George’s.

“The powerful Schmidt, batting at the Duckpond end, sent the ball speeding out of the ground squarish of the present scoreboard and into Park Drive,” he recalled.

“From there it ran into Brickmaker’s Kloof and it seemed to me, as the manager of the EP team, a hell of a long time before it was returned so we could carry on with the game. I would say the length of that shot must have measured close on 135 metres.”

But Ferrant had a pat on the back reserved for Kuiper. “I have seen cricketing blacksmiths like Wilmot and Kenny McEwan make bowlers want to abdicate, but Kuiper is the only batsman I’ve seen capable of that particular six he hit on Tuesday.”

Eastern Province Herald
February 26, 1994.

PS. Dave Butlion sent me an email about the longest hit. Read what he has to say.

"I have read with interest the biggest six entry and would advise that the biggest six ever hit in the Eastern Province was by myself, playing for Old Grey against PECC at St Georges Park on December 17 1966.

"The bowler was John Dumbrill who had just arrived in the Eastern Province having played for Western Province.

"Batting at the duckpond end I hit him over the scoreboard. The ball landed on the roof of Capri, the block of flats in Park Drive. It bounced into Brickmakers Kloof and was found at the bottom of Brickmakers at the old bus sheds.

"At a braai at Rodney Upton's house after the game, when John arrived, his team mates baptised him as "The Capri Kid" He was not impressed.

"I would guess the year would have been around the mid 60's because Athol Mckinnon was also playing. In the same game, Athol spiked me in the foot as I was taking a quick single off his bowling, and I still have the scar on my right foot to this day."

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