Colin Bland, the Bulawayo-born allrounder who played 21 Tests for South Africa between 1961 and 1966, died at his home in London on Saturday night, aged 80. Bland suffered from colon cancer for several years.
Bland played first-class cricket for Rhodesia, including fixtures against New Zealand in 1961. He impressed with an innings of 98, and was subsequently included in South Africa’s Test squad. He played all five Tests against New Zealand at home that year, without significant results with the bat, but he showed off the fielding he became best-known for. In later years, Jonty Rhodes’ speed and agility was compared with Bland’s, and his groundwork was a major reason for his selection for the 1963-64 tour to Australia.
According to the Wisden Almanack, Bland “demonstrated that fielding can be both a delight and an exhilarating spectacle through scientific precision.”
He did not play the opening Test in Brisbane, but featured in the next four. In the final Test in Sydney, Bland scored his maiden Test hundred to help South Africa take a healthy first-innings lead, and draw the match as well as the series 1-1. He struck his second and final hundreds against England, the latter of those in what would become his penultimate Test, in 1965. His second-innings 127 at The Oval again contributed to a draw, but South Africa’s victory at Nottingham in the second Test gave them their first series win in England. Bland was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1966.
The following summer, he was part of the victorious squad that played in the 1966-67 home series against Australia. He only played in the first Test in Johannesburg, where he severely damaged his left knee after crashing into a boundary board. The injury ended his international career.
He continued playing for Rhodesia, and captained and coached them. In 1969, Bland moved to Port Elizabeth, where he played first-class cricket until he accepted a job as cricket and hockey coach at the University of Free State in 1971. Bland played cricket for Free State until 1973. After his playing days, Bland ventured into some coaching in cricket and squash. After his relocation to the UK, he continued to coach, and as recently as 2004, was hired by the MCC as a fielding coach.