"We were not one of the major sides then, so we grew up really battling," Symcox recalled.

"Brian [Mc Millan] didn't come through the system at all. Neither of us would class ourselves as natural cricketers, but we've earned what we've achieved.

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He was 34, with a wife and small son to support and the need for a glimpse of security not afforded by some distinctly unflattering bowling figures.

In a touring side which reflects the changing racial landscape of his country, Symcox represents the spirit, if not the uglier values, of the old South Africa.

"I was so mad at getting out that time I was determined not to mess it up next time.

I came in at 166 for 8 and was batting to survive, which helped. Subjected to the South African's famed chatline, the Pakistanis' discipline crumbled.

In making 108 (off 157 balls), Symcox became only the third player in Test history to score a century batting at No 10, an historic feat lent further prominence by a letter from Swansea which reached Symcox in Worcester last week.

The other two, the correspondent wrote, were recognised batsmen masquerading as No 10s.

There is still a role for Symcox's deceptive off-spin, if only as respite for the battery of fast bowlers. I'm getting close to the point where I can't walk the walk or talk the talk.

I love cricket, but I wouldn't ike to grind it out for another five years.

If he says 2pm for an interview, then 2pm it is and wise interrogators bide their time.

Symcox, along with the recently retired wicketkeeper Dave Richardson, negotiated the first playing contracts with the Board. Symcox had sacrificed a business career in the management of private hospitals to pursue the precarious life of an international cricketer.

Four years on from his last tour to England, he is not just the elder statesman of the party, his attitude and influences are a generation away from the bright, modern, young cricketers who will lead his country into the new millennium.