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At Johannesburg, December 27, 28, 29, 30. Drawn. Bowlers were not sorry when the first Test match to be played on the new Ellis Park ground came to an end. From the first to last ball everything was in favour of batsmen. The pitch played perfectly and in the rarefied atmosphere the ball did not swerve or swing. Not only did Hutton and Washbrook set up a Test record partnership for the first wicket with 359, but all through batsmen were so much on top that 1,193 runs were scored for the loss of only 22 wickets, four men hit centuries, four others passed 50, and on the last day no more than one wicket went down. At the end of the match the turf showed no signs of wear.
More than 35,000, the biggest crowd to watch a cricket match in South Africa, baked under a scorching sun while England's opening pair beat record after record and finished only eleven short of the best stand for any wicket in England-South Africa Tests, the 370 by W. J. Edrich and D. Compton at Lord's in 1947.
Hutton and Washbrook first concentrated on wearing down the attack, and they made 65 in 105 minutes before lunch. When the bowling had lost its sting they gradually increased their pace, and after tea runs came at a fast rate, so that 359 was reached in 290 minutes before the tiring Hutton threw away his wicket. His off and cover drives touched perfection and he scored many runs with a leg sweep. Hutton hit sixteen 4's. Washbrook, who also had showed signs of tiring, lifted a catch to long-leg in McCarthy's next over. After a quiet start Washbrook hit freely in his highest innings in Test cricket, which contained eighteen 4's. Full-blooded hooks and square-cuts predominated in his chanceless display.
Further severe punishment of the attack came in a third-wicket stand of 150 by Compton and Crapp, but attempts by the remaining batsmen to score quickly were not successful, the last seven wickets falling in seventy-five minutes for 89 runs. Like Hutton, Compton made full use of the leg sweep. His fifth century of the tour brought his average at this stage to 116 in eleven innings. The analysis did no justice to the fine spells of off-break bowling by A. Rowan, who caused the batsmen most trouble.
On a pitch still ideal for batting, England's prospects of dismissing South Africa twice looked slight. Accordingly the swift loss of Wynne and E. Rowan was a big blow to South Africa, but Mitchell, Nourse and Wade brought about a recovery, and the ease with which Tuckett and Mann batted in a ninth-wicket stand of 40 revealed the big task still facing England. South Africa's moderate total could be explained largely by a combination of England's attacking bowling and brilliant fielding, together with a series of batting blunders unlikely to occur again in the same match.
Even when Wynne was out quickly in the follow-on, chances of a definite result seemed remote. England's chief hope lay in separating E. A. Rowan and Mitchell early on the last day, but by rigid defence they removed practically all danger. Rowan, whose omission from the Third Test was known earlier in the day, stayed to the end of the match, batting altogether six hours ten minutes for the highest score made against M.C.C. in the tour. He allowed himself no freedom till he had seen South Africa safe from defeat. The irony of the situation was apparent to all--not least to Rowan himself--but in view of the proximity of the Third Test and the large distances players had to travel the Selectors could not do otherwise than choose the side while the Second Test was in progress. The only blemish in Rowan's innings occurred when with his total 59 he gave a sharp chance to mid-off from Wright, but an injured ankle prevented Mann from getting to the ball as fast as he would have done otherwise. After Mitchell was caught at short slip, Nourse helped Rowan play out time in an unbroken partnership of 163. Sympathy could be felt for England's bowlers and fielders, who toiled for over thirteen hours in intense heat in the forlorn hope of dismissing South Africa twice.
The attendance for the match reached 75,000, a record for South African cricket.