VERNON DICKINSON: OBITUARY
Vernon Edward John Dickinson
Right-hand bat, slow left-arm bowler
Born Bulawayo, 9 July 1933
Died Borrowdale Brooke, Harare, 30 July 2018
Vernon Dickinson played in 20 matches for Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), primarily as a left-arm spin bowler, between the seasons of 1955/56 and 1964/65, taking 54 wickets at a cost of 24.27 each.
His father, Ralph Dickinson, played in four matches for the national side as a wicketkeeper in 1929/30. Vernon, although born in Bulawayo, was educated in Salisbury (now Harare) at Blakiston Primary School and St George’s College, and later went to Natal University.
He was a talented all-round sportsman who also represented St George’s at golf, tennis and rugby, where he played on the wing.
He was selected for the Rhodesia Schools teams that played in the Nuffield Weeks in South Africa from 1950 to 1952, and in the final year, held in East London, he was selected for the South African Schools team that played Border at the end of the Week; he was the first pupil from St George’s to earn this distinction.
In those days he was a fine attacking batsman and a genuine all-rounder, but he was never to enjoy great success statistically in first-class cricket, where he was usually put in at about number nine. He did, however, several times provide useful supporting rôles with the bat, and his highest score of 30 was made in partnership with Ian Haig against Transvaal in 1960/61, where the pair did at least enable Rhodesia to save an innings defeat, if not the match.
In club cricket he played for Salisbury Sports Club and, chiefly, Old Georgians in Salisbury, and for Umbilo in Durban when at University, where Dudley Nourse was still captain at that time.
He was an attacking left-arm spinner who rarely bowled defensively, spinning the ball sharply and was as difficult a bowler as any on a turning pitch. Many felt, however, that the Rhodesian captain of the time, David Lewis, did not bowl him enough.
He made his début for the national side in 1955/56, but failed to take a wicket in his first four matches, including two against the touring Australian team in 1957/58. He finally broke through with success in the 1960/61 season, when in six Currie Cup matches he took 24 wickets at 16.37 each, including six for 61 against North-Eastern Transvaal and seven for 22 (ten for 85 in the match) against Eastern Province.
There was little first-class cricket in 1961/62 because of the New Zealand touring team in South Africa, but he returned to Currie Cup cricket in 1963/64 — the B Section — taking 21 wickets at 23.04 in five matches, including coincidentally another six for 61 against North-Eastern Transvaal, though this time in Pretoria rather than Salisbury.
He finished his first-class career on a high in 1964/65 against the touring Worcestershire team, when he and Jack du Preez bowled Rhodesia to victory, taking five wickets each in the second innings, with Vernon claiming the wickets of five past or future Test cricketers in Don Kenyon, Ron Headley, Tom Graveney, Basil D’Oliveira and tail-ender Norman Gifford; his figures were 20 overs, with 6 maidens, 44 runs and five wickets.
Soon after this he decided to retire from cricket. Outside the game he owned a service station called T & D Motors in Harare.
The former national captain and opening batsman Ray Gripper, a former team-mate of his and almost a lifelong friend, says: “He was always an enthusiastic person and played his sport with gusto and determination. On retiring from cricket he became a two-handicap golfer and again played the game with great enthusiasm.
“Vernon had many interests which again he pursued enthusiastically, including wild life, especially birds, trees and plants of many varieties; he was a very keen and competent fisherman, and was also sought after by many who needed to access his expertise.
“Vernon was a very popular team member of all the sports he played as he was always helpful, happy and always displayed the same temperament. He will be sorely missed by all those who knew him and remembered with great affection. He leaves behind his wife and three children, all of whom grieve his passing greatly.”
In his later years he suffered from numerous health problems and consequent depression, dying at his home in Borrowdale Brooke on 30 July 2018.
- John Ward
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