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99-year-old cricket hero approaches his century

From Robyn Curnow, CNN
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The gentleman's game
  • Norman Gordon turns 100 in August and is one of the world's oldest living Test cricketers
  • Gordon played in 10-day "Timeless Test" in 1939 between England and South Africa
  • "I can't stand the way cricket has gone," says Gordon

Hilbrow, South Africa (CNN) -- Norman Gordon is one of the world's oldest living Test cricketers, and at 99 years old he is having quite an innings.

A South African cricketing legend, Gordon will be remembered by many for his participation in the infamous 1939 "Timeless Test" between South Africa and England.

The match was played in a long-abandoned Test cricket format that had no time limit. Matches would continue indefinitely until one side won.

The 1939 "Timeless Test" lasted for 10 days before being abandoned. In that time Gordon bowled more than 90 overs -- an incredible feat made harder by the fact that in those days there were eight bowls per over.

"I am surprised at how easy I got through it all," says Gordon.

Gordon -- who turns 100 in August -- is still going strong. "I've never had a problem with my heath in my life," he says. "I could bowl forever!"

He now lives with his son in Hilbrow, Johannesburg. While Gordon may not play anymore, he still follows the sport closely, venturing to his local golf club to watch cricket on television.

But he says these days the sport is very different from the game he grew up playing.

I can't stand the way cricket has gone, with the sledging and bad language ...
--Norman Gordon, cricketer
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"Quite frankly it is very hard to compare cricket then and now," he says. "But I'd rather go back to when I played; I get a bit worried with things that are happening with cricket all over the world."

Cricket has had a lot of bad press in recent years, with various scandals involving alleged match fixing and gambling thrusting the sport in to the limelight for all the wrong reasons.

Gordon recalls that back in his day it was known as a gentlemen's game.

"It's far from it in some aspects (today) -- swearing and pulling everybody's leg and you're using a bit of bad language which I wouldn't have liked at all," he says.

"I can't stand the way cricket has gone, with the sledging and bad language and running and kissing the bowler when he got a wicket," he continues. "I'd have punched anyone who came and tried to kiss me!

"Of course, there's definitely a lot of ill-feeling (these days). In my day, after the game we used to have a drink with the opposite team and socialized with them in the evening.

"To me it's not the same as it used to be, and apart from the money side I don't think I'd be happy playing cricket today."

Gordon saw his first Test at the Old Wanderers cricket ground in Johannesburg when he was 10 years old and says he likes to remember the Test matches played nearly a century ago.

"Going right back to 1921, there was a fast bowler by the name of Gregory, who was about six foot seven, and on the other end was McDonald," Gordon says. "I haven't seen a better fast bowling couple than Gregory and McDonald. It was fearsome having to play them on matting, and there were plenty of bruises around."

But for all his memories of wickets taken, cover drives and catches, it is the people Gordon has met along the way that he says really matter now.

"I've got some of the greatest friends a man could ever have and we never had any money, but I think the friendships were even better than having all the money," he says.

Cricket may have changed, but at 99 and not out Norman Gordon is still a gentleman.