A brief history ...
A private tour which was not deemed to be a Test series until years later, so a number of those involved died never knowing they had played Test cricket. The touring squad, assembled by Major Wharton, contained few established players but were still more than good enough for a raw and equally inexperienced South Africa team, winning both Tests by large margins. In all, there were 16 matches against teams made up of anything between 15 and 22 players before the Test.
South Africa 0 England 2 Drawn 0
Again a low-key and private tour which was only upgraded to Test status years later. To show how low-key, on the day the one-off Test started, England were also playing in Australia; three Hearne brothers played in the match, two for England and one for South Africa; and two players - Ferris and Billy Murdoch - were making their debuts for England after already representing Australia. Ferris took 13 for 91 in an innings win.
South Africa 0 England 1 Drawn 0
Another one-sided series with England, a much stronger outfit under Lord Hawke, winning two Tests by an innings and the other by 288 runs. South Africa's batsmen had no answer to George Lohmann. He took 15 for 45 in the first Test - including 8 for 7 and a hat-trick in the second innings - and then 12 in the second Test, including 9 for 28, and eight in the third. He finished with 35 wickets at 5.80, a record for a three-Test series unlikely to be bettered.
South Africa 0 England 3 Drawn 0
England, again under Lord Hawke, were given a shock in the first Test, winning by 32 runs after conceding a 106-run lead on the first-innings. It was 132 not out from Pelham Warner, who carried his bat in the second innings, that spared England's blushes. The second Test again had South Africa ahead on the first innings, Jimmy Sinclair taking 6 for 26 and then hitting 105, but set 246 to win, they managed only 35 in 22.4 overs. This was the first tour to feature first-class games outside the Tests.
South Africa 0 England 2 Drawn
Pelham Warner led a moderate England side in the first series since the Boer War, and South Africa took the lead after a battling win, their first, in the opening Test. Set 284, they were 105 for 6 before a stand of 121 between Gordon White and Dave Nourse rebuilt the innings. There were still 45 needed when the last pair came together but Nourse and Percy Sherwell steered them home. They recorded a more convincing nine-wicket win in the second match after bowling England out for 148 and 160, and secured the series in the third Test (which started after a one-day break) with a thumping 243-run victory, engineered by Tip Snooke who took 12 for 127. England gained consolation with a four-wicket win but South Africa underlined their dominance with an innings win in the last game. On matting wickets, South Africa's legspin and googly bowlers were far too good for the England batsmen.
South Africa 4 England 1 Drawn 0
The success in 1905-06 meant that the first major visit by South Africa was eagerly anticipated, but on turf wickets the spinners who had been so dominant at home were far less effective. Rain washed out the third (and final) day of the Lord's Test with South Africa following on; at Headingley, Colin Blythe was the difference between the sides, taking 15 for 99 in a low-scoring game won by England; at The Oval, South Africa were 159 for 5 chasing 256 when bad light intervened.
England 2 South Africa 0 Drawn 2
Henry Leveson-Gower's side was weak in the batting department, although it did boast Jack Hobbs, and that was to cost them a hard-fought series. Hobbs finished with 539 runs at 67.37 but no other England batsman passed 300. South Africa took the first two Tests, Bert Volger's 12 for 181 ensuring a tense 19-run success at Johannesburg. England fought back in the third with Hobbs, batting at No. 7, underpinning their chase with 93 not out. South Africa sealed the series with a four-wicket victory at Cape Town and then lost the final game. George Simpson-Hayward finished with 23 wickets at 18.26, the last time an underarm bowler played a major part in a Test series.
South Africa 3 England 2 Drawn 0
South Africa were by far the weakest side in the ill-fated Triangular Series, which also featured Australia. They lost two of their three Tests against the Australians - rain saved them in the other - and were well beaten in all three games by England. SF Barnes was at his best, taking 34 wickets at 8.29, but South Africa's batting was woeful, failing to pass 100 in three of their six innings.
England 3 South Africa 0 Drawn 0
This was to be the last tour by any side for seven years, and South Africa were a team in transition while England sent their strongest squad yet under Johnny Douglas. England won the first two matches by an innings, Barnes taking 27 wickets at 9.77. He ended the series, and his Test career, with a record 49 wickets at 10.93, and 83 wickets in seven successive Tests against South Africa. Barnes polished off South Africa as they fell 91 runs short when chasing 396 in the third, but despite another 14 wickets from Barnes, Herbie Taylor, who was the outstanding South African batsman, batted his side to a draw in the fourth Test. The final Test, in which Barnes refused to play, was nevertheless won by England by ten wickets.
South Africa 0 England 4 Drawn 1
Frank Mann led a reasonably strong side for the first post-war series but they went behind with defeat in the opening game, squaring the series in a gripping one-wicket win at Cape Town. Durban was marred by poor weather, and the fourth match, watched by a record crowd, also ended in stalemate. The decider, back in Durban, was played to a finish and Jack Russell, in what was to be his last Test, scored hundreds in each innings, the first Englishman to do so, to steer England to a 109-run win.
South Africa 1 England 2 Drawn 2
Rain blighted the summer and South Africa's batting was not good enough to cope with unfamiliar conditions. The series started in dramatic fashion when GM Parker was summoned from the Bradford Leagues and took 6 for 152, but South Africa then capitulated for 30 in 48 minutes. They batted much better second time round but still lost by an innings. Catterall followed his hundred in that defeat with another at Lord's, but then Hobbs, Sutcliffe and Woolley all made centuries as England piled up 531 for 2 and won by an innings and 18 runs for the second time. South Africa followed on for the third successive Test when losing at Headingley, and then rain ruined the last two matches.
England 3 South Africa 0 Drawn 2
A remarkably weak England side, led by Ronnie Stanyforth, who had never played county cricket, won the first two Tests and then drew the third. South Africa kept the series on the boil with a win in the fourth Test thanks to a hundred from HW Taylor and eight wickets from George Bissett. England, who lost all five tosses, were put in and after a close first innings, Bissett, aided by a strong wind, took 7 for 29 and South Africa squared the series with an eight-wicket victory.
South Africa 2 England 2 Drawn 1
England's batsmen managed ten hundreds between them in a well-fought series. The first two Tests were drawn - games were still only over three days - and despite a hundred from Tuppy Owen-Smith (who played rugby for England), South Africa lost by five wickets. The only one-sided match came at Old Trafford where Tich Freeman took 12 for 171 as England won by an innings. South Africa controlled the Oval Test, taking a first-innings lead of 234, but hundreds from Wally Hammond and Bert Sutcliffe secured a draw for England.
England 2 South Africa 0 Drawn 3
England learned from their mistakes of 1927-28 and selected a much stronger squad, but still ended up losing the series. The one-eyed Buster Nupen, not South Africa's first choice spinner, took 11 for 150 in a 28-run win in the first Test, and there followed four draws. The second Test in Cape Town was the first in South Africa to be played on turf as opposed to matting, while the fourth in Johannesburg was the last on matting. Rain affected three others games to varying extents and Deane, South Africa's captain, retired mid series and was replaced by Horace 'Jock' Cameron.
South Africa 2 England 0 Drawn 3
South Africa recorded their first series win in England with the only result of the summer coming at Lord's where Xen Balaskas, a legspinner of Greek ancestry, took 9 for 103 and Bruce Mitchell made 164. England pressed hard for a series leveller but South Africa's batsmen held firm, and in the final Test South Africa piled up 476 on a perfect pitch and England, who replied with 534 for 6, had no chance of forcing the win they needed. A successful tour ended in tragedy when former captain Jock Cameron contracted a fever on the boat home and died. He was 30.
England 0 South Africa 1 Drawn 4
A series that will forever be remembered for the fifth Test in Durban which ended in a draw after ten days. It was enough to sound the death knell for timeless Tests. Wally Hammond, who had switched from professional to amateur, led England and he and Eddie Paynter both topped 600 runs in the series. The first two matches were high-scoring draws, but the third Test was won by England by an innings after South Africa collapsed for 103 in their first innings. South Africa had the best of the fourth Test - Hammond's eighth successive correct call - but rain washed out the final day. With the series up for grabs, the fifth Test was deemed timeless. The pitch was perfect, and rain during the game baked it hard and made it, after rolling, almost as good as new. South Africa scored 530 and 481; England replied with 316 and, set 696, were cruising on 496 for 3 at the end of the ninth day. But Hammond realised they had to leave to catch their ship, and with rain in the air, he ordered his batsmen to hit out. At 4pm a thunderstorm hit Durban with England 654 for 5, 42 short of victory and that was that.
South Africa 0 England 1 Drawn 4
In a boiling summer, crowds flocked to matches in unprecedented numbers as the post-war passion for any sport continued. The year was dominated by Denis Compton and Bill Edrich, who both passed 3500 runs, and although South Africa were in the firing line more often than not, they battled hard and competed throughout. Alan Melville, their captain, scored hundreds in the first three innings of the series and deserved to steer his side to victory in the opening match when they finished on 166 for 1 chasing 227. At Lord's, in front of their adoring home supporters, Compton made 208 and Edrich 189, Doug Wright took 10 for 175, in an innings win, and both batsmen scored hundreds in a seven-wicket win in the third Test. Len Hutton made a hundred in a ten-wicket win at Headingley, and the summer concluded with a gripping game at The Oval where South Africa, with Bruce Mitchell making 120 and 189 not out, finished on 423 for 7 chasing 451. It was a year to be a batsman: Compton made 753 runs, Edrich 552 (and 16 wickets), Mitchell 597, Dudley Nourse 662 and Melville 569. v
England 3 South Africa 0 Drawn 2
Humiliated by West Indies in 1947-48, MCC drew up rules with meant they would always send the best side available, and that was fortunate as they played a tight series, winning 2-0 thanks to narrow victories in the first and last Tests. The win in Durban went down to the wire, England scrambling home by two wickets in the last over. Batsmen largely dominated thereafter, and it was only some bold captaincy from Nourse, looking for a series-levelling win, that enabled England to sneak a three-wicket victory in Port Elizabeth after being set 172 in 95 minutes. Seven batsmen averaged more than 50.
South Africa 0 England 2 Drawn 3
Dudley Nourse's 208, made with a fractured thumb, laid the platform for South Africa's win in the first Test where, despite being skittled for 121 in their second innings, they bowled England out for 114 to win by 71 runs, their first win for 16 years. At Lord's South Africa were trapped on a wet wicket and Roy Tattersall (12 for 101) spun them to defeat on the third afternoon. England won the third Test by nine wickets, Hutton finishing on 98 not out, two short of what would have been his 100th hundred. After a high-scoring draw, the decider at The Oval went to England by four wickets, but only after Hutton had become the first batsman to be given out obstructed the field in a Test.
England 3 South Africa 1 Drawn 1
As was too often the case during the decade, play was on the whole slow and the captaincy too cautious. More than 100,000 watched the first Test where Trevor Bailey (5 for 20) bowled out South Africa for 72 and gave England a 131-run win, and they were again dismissed for 72 in the second, Johnny Wardle taking 12 for 89, as England went two-up with a 312-run victory. Hugh Tayfield's 8 for 69 was not enough to prevent England battling a draw in the third Test, but in the fourth he took 9 for 113, bowling unchanged for five hours, as England lost their last five wickets for 39 to lose by 17 runs. The final Test was played on a poor, relaid pitch in Port Elizabeth and Tayfield squared the series when he grabbed 6 for 78 as England, chasing 189, made 130. On the third day of the game only 122 runs were scored. Tayfield finished the series with 37 wickets at 17.18, Wardle with 26 at 13.80.
South Africa 2 England 2 Drawn 1
A series overshadowed by the no-balling of Geoff Griffin at Lord's. In a damp summer, South Africa were no match for England and lost the first three Tests by large margins in conditions which favoured the seamers. It was not until the fifth Test that South Africa passed 250. With the game dominated by fierce debate over throwing, Griffin's hat-trick at Lord's was overshadowed when he was no-balled 11 times. He never played Test cricket again although he remained on the tour as a batsman. Even the draws at the end of the series were dreary, South Africa set stiff targets which were always beyond them. Fittingly, rain ended the last day of the summer early.
England 3 South Africa 0 Drawn 2
Mike Smith's side won the series but the signs of how good the South Africans were to become were clear. England won the first Test after piling on 485 for 5 and then Fred Titmus and David Allen, who shared 35 wickets in the series, spinning South Africa out twice on a deteriorating wicket. England were poised for victory in the second Test only for Colin Bland to defy them with a gutsy hundred. The third and fifth Tests were drawn, and England had to cling on in the fourth where they finished on 153 for 6. The obdurate Ken Barrington made 508 runs at 101.60.
South Africa 0 England 1 Drawn 4
South Africa's last tour for 29 years and one which seemed at the time to herald the start of a golden era for South African cricket. The three-Test series in a split summer was superb. England held on, seven down, in the Lord's Test; at Trent Bridge Graeme Pollock played one of the great innings, making 125 in 140 minutes in damp, bowler-friendly conditions, and then his brother Peter took nine wickets in a 94-run win. The Oval Test was set for a thrilling climax with England on 308 for 4 chasing 399 when a thunderstorm struck.
England 0 South Africa 1 Drawn 2
MCC went as far as naming a side, but were lambasted for leaving Basil D'Oliveira out despite a big hundred at The Oval. When Tom Cartright withdrew from the squad, D'Oliveira was drafted in but that infuriated the apartheid government in South Africa and they made clear that the Cape-coloured D'Oliveira was unwelcome. South Africa's prime minister John Vorster fumed: "This is not the team of the MCC ... it is the team of the anti-apartheid movement." There was no backing down and the tour was scrapped.
The end of the pretence that normal sporting relations were possible. Despite government pressure and massive public disquiet and threats of violence, the tour was on until as late as May 23 when the board finally, and reluctantly, accepted that it was not possible to guarantee the safety of the tourists or spectators.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo