South Africa v England 1938-39

Fourth Test match

South Africa v England 1938-39

At Johannesburg, February 18, 20, 21, 22. Drawn. The loss of the third day through rain spoiled prospects of an interesting finish. England, who brought back Goddard for Wright, were nothing like so impressive as in the previous Tests, and South Africa fairly shared the honours. Hammond won the toss for the eight consecutive time in Test matches, but, with the weather unsettled, this was of doubtful value. Showers, early in the game, affected the turf and although the wicket never became sticky it gave bowlers an amount of help. South Africa fielded brilliantly, and Grieveson, who took the place of W. W. Wade, kept wicket capably on his first Test appearance. Newson, brought in for E. Q. Davies, bowled accurately in long spells, and Gordon sent down many good balls. Langton, in England's first innings, showed a glimpse of the form which brought him prominence during the 1935 South African tour in England. Melville, Rowan and Mitchell were South Africa's best batsmen, but Hutton and Hammond were the only England players to exceed fifty in either innings. Edrich, once more given a chance to reveal his batting abilities, failed again. During the match Ames dismissed his 93rd victim in Tests, beating the record of A. A. Lilley and becoming runner-up to W. A. Oldfield who holds the record with 130.

After a sharp shower which did not delay the start, Hutton and Gibb opened the batting for England. With 14 runs on the board a sudden downpour stopped cricket for a quarter of an hour, and afterwards bowlers were able to make the ball get up awkwardly on the damp wicket. Gibb, at 18, fell at slip to a delivery which lifted, but Hutton and Paynter, by cautious methods, stayed together till lunch when the score was 75 for one. Another shower, which caused half an hour's hold-up with the total 96, had unfortunate results for England, two wickets falling for the addition of three runs. Paynter, who helped to add 78, edged a ball to slip immediately the game was resumed. A single by Hutton, completing his 1,000 runs for the tour, recorded a minor England achievement, but at 99 disaster occurred in the dismissal of Hammond. He was surprised by an inswinger which rose nastily and went off the shoulder of his bat to silly mid-on who held the catch cleverly with one hand. Ames, favoured with some over-pitched balls, began with several brilliant drives through the covers, and he continued confidently till a well-disguised slower ball from Langton beat him and ended a useful stand of 60 put on in less than an hour. Luckily for England, Hutton stood firm. He was 75 not out at tea, taken at 159 for four, and the value of his effort was increased by later happenings. Valentine left at 187, and with the total unaltered Hutton, needing only eight more runs for a hundred, saw his leg-stump knocked out of the ground by a big off-break. He batted nearly three and a half hours and hit seven 4's in a defensive display punctuated by well-placed strokes. Indifferent light did not help the remaining batsmen and the innings was soon over, the last five wickets having added only 28. An analysis of five wickets for 58 by Langton was fully deserved; his accuracy and ability to turn the ball sufficiently to beat the bat troubled everyone.

Melville decided to open the South African innings with Van der Byl. They scored 11 runs in playing out time and on Monday had the satisfaction of making a century stand. Weekend rain prevented play till two o'clock, but the turf, after causing a little liveliness, became easier and the batsmen scored readily. They were assisted by uncertain English fielding and made the most of their good fortune. Melville drove grandly, and justified his own policy of going in first. He hit ten 4's before a partnership of 108, scored at just over a run a minute, ended with his dismissal by a catch in the gully. England immediately struck another blow, Van der Byl going with the total unaltered, but Rowan and Mitchell restored the advantage to South Africa and gave their side the lead in a fine third-wicket stand which realised 116 in under two hours. Mitchell, third out at 224, batted faultlessly, with powerful drives and strong hits to leg his chief means of run-getting. Rowan, slow but sure, was 53 not out at close of play when South Africa, with seven wickets in hand, stood 34 on.

South Africa's chances of forcing a win were frustrated by the weather. The teams hung about all the third day, and as late as four o'clock it was hoped a start might be made, but nothing could be done.

On the last day England recovered some of her lost ground. With 31 runs added, Nourse hit his wicket; Langton left at 294, and at 311 Rowan, whose early watchfulness did not please the spectators, fell to a yorker. His innings, occupying nearly three and three quarter hours, included only five boundaries. When the morning's cricket had produced 100 runs in 105 minutes, Melville declared with a lead of 134. Three and three quarter hours were left for play and England easily saved the game. Hutton and Gibb being with a stand of 64, and although Paynter and Ames did not do much Hammond dashed whatever hopes his opponents might have entertained of victory. Driving beautifully, he reached 50 in 85 minutes and when the game was given up he and Valentine had added 58. Grieveson kept wicket splendidly and caught three of the four men dismissed.

© John Wisden & Co