When the Proteas’ T20I series against Australia concludes on Sunday, it will mark the end of an era for Hollywoodbets Kingsmead institution Wilson Ngobese, who has been working on the strip since the heyday of KZN legends Barry Richards and Mike Procter.
The 64-year-old groundsman is about to retire and he was visited at Kingsmead by the two players he reckons are the best to have set foot on his hallowed turf — Richards and Procter.
The pair were in the South Africa team captained by Ali Bacher that annihilated Australia in the 1969/70 series, with Richards scoring a magnificent century before lunch on the first day of the Test in Durban.
The Aussies, captained by Bill Lawry, were expected to beat the South Africans but they lost all four Tests, spawning the memorable newspaper headline “Ali Bacher and his 4-0 thieves.”
Ngobese started work at the ground in 1975 and has been tending the turf ever since. He has been head groundsman since 1999 and says he lovingly looks after the pitch “like a child”.
Ngobese’s best memory was when Natal needed seven runs off the last ball of a 50-over game against Transvaal — Jonty Rhodes hit a six and then the umpired ruled that the ball had been a no-ball, giving Natal the win.
“I have been blessed to work with some wonderful cricketers,” Ngobese says. “The likes of Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener and Malcolm Marshall but my favourites are Procter and Richards. Wonderful cricketers and true gentlemen of the game.”