Former Springbok cricketer Oswald Charles "Ossie" Dawson died at his Rolling Hills, Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZulu-Natal home on December 22, 2008 at the age of 89. He had been in poor health for the past four years after suffering a series of strokes.
Educated at Michalhouse in KwaZulu-Natal, during the Second World War he served in the Royal Durban Light Infantry in Italy where he reached the rank of Major and was awarded the Military Cross in December, 1945 for bravery in battle. As well as cricket he represented Natal at baseball.
Dawson represented South Africa on the first overseas tour after the end of the Second World War in austere England - one of 17 tourists - where he was the leading all-rounder, scoring 1, 002 runs (average 32.32), usually in the middle-order and capturing 54 wickets (26.07) with his right-hand medium-pace bowling. He lacked true pace and failed to worry the outstanding batsmen of the series, Denis Compton and Bill Edrich, who both scored freely against what was basically just a useful South African attack.
Back in South Africa he played four Tests in 1948/49 against George Mann's England team with little success.
He made his first-class debut against Walter Hammond's 1938/39 team for Natal at Kingsmead at the age of 19 in December, 1938 but did little, and in the return match with the tourists he scored a stout 45 not out to show his promise. The following season, 1939/40 a half-century followed against Orange Free State and in his fourth match against a powerful Transvaal containing nine Test players, he scored 129, but Natal were beaten by an innings and 168 runs after Eric Rowan scored 306 not out.
Useful batting and bowling performances for Natal during the 1946/47 season - the first Currie Cup season for eight years - saw Dawson selected for the tour of England, He made his Test debut in the first Test at Trent Bridge, Nottingham and scored 48 in a South African total of 533, of which skipper Alan Melville scored 189 and Dudley Nourse, the vice-captain 149. His first Test victim was fellow-debutante Tom Dollery of Warwickshire, who was bowled. Near the end of the tour Dawson scored a brilliant 166 not out against the South of England team which include 10 Test players, bringing up his 1,000 runs for the tour.
Although he scored 61 and 58 in two separate matches against the very strong Australian touring team in 1949/50, he was not recalled by the South African selectors.
He started a relatively successful period for Border from late 1951 and was in sparkling form against a Rowan-led Transvaal team at the Jan Smuts ground in East London in January, 1953 when he scored 182 - his highest - and Border totalled 442, their highest first-class score to that date, and the visitors were beaten by an innings and three runs.
In 1954/55 he and Keith Kirton each scored centuries before lunch in a Currie Cup match against Rhodesia at the Jan Smuts ground in East London. Dawson scored 139 and the pair added 255 and Border won an exciting match narrowly by eight runs.
His swan-song was against John Reid's New Zealanders in East London in February, 1962 when he was already 42 years old and hadn't played first-class cricket for almost four years. He scored 6 and 34, but bowled only one ball in the match which was hit for a boundary to give the tourists a nine-wicket win after Reid had scored a century in their first innings.
In nine Test matches Dawson scored 293 runs (20.92) with a highest of 55, and took 10 wickets (57.80). In 75 first-class cricket, mainly for Border and Natal, he scored 3,804 runs (34.58) with six centuries - highest 182 - and took 123 wickets (27.86) with a best of 5-42. His son, Kevin, played for Northern Transvaal during the 1970s.
Dawson leaves his wife, Maureen, to whom he was married for 61 years, five children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
(Article: Copyright © 2008 Peter Martin)