South Africa v England, 5th Test, Durban, 1938-39, 1st day March 3, 1939

van der Byl hundred grinds England down

Cricinfo staff

South Africa 229 for 2 (van der Byl 105*, Melville 78) v England

A rare attacking shot from Pieter van der Bijl on his way to his painstaking hundred © Cricinfo
Winning the toss on a pitch expected to be good for batting, South Africa made laborious progress in reaching 229 for 2 by the close. Under mainly blue skies and basking in a warm breeze, the 5000 spectators did not seem unduly bothered by the relatively funereal pace of the batting.

The morning session set the tone for the day, Pieter van der Byl and Alan Melville batting with such extreme caution that by lunch they had only put on 49 without a single boundary. van der Byl - a big man and, on his day, attacking batsman - took three-quarters of an hour to get off the mark. Bizarrely, given the level of caution, Melville was lucky not to be run-out early on taking a sharp single, but Eddie Paynter's shy at the stumps was wildly inaccurate.

The afternoon was, by comparison, livelier. Melville registered the first boundary of the day soon after the restart when he hooked a no-ball from Reg Perks for four through midwicket, and he also provided England with their first breakthrough when he went back too far attempting to pull Doug Wright and trod on his stumps.

The final session again was attritional, 61 runs coming for the loss of Ethol Rowan, beaten by an inswinging Yorker from Perks. van der Byl enjoyed a lucky escape when he had made 71, Wright just failing to hold on to a tough caught and bowled. As it was he brought up his hundred in a shade under five hours, but it included one over where he took 22, including five fours, off Wright, and another where he deposited him onto the pavilion roof. But that aside, his tactics were defence from the off.

Perks, making his debut, was the pick of the bowlers, moving the ball both ways and deserving his 1 for 33 from 14 overs. Hedley Verity was at his parsimonious best, at one stage bowling nine overs for eight runs. Wright, however, struggled and finished with 1 for 64 from his 18 overs.

England made two changes from the drawn Johannesburg Test, Perks and Wright coming in for Trevor Goddard and Len Wilkinson. Eddie Paynter had been a doubt after withdrawing from the previous match with a strained leg muscle, but a late fitness test which involved him running round Kingsmead convinced the selectors he was ready. South Africa retained the same XI.


  • Wally Hammond kept faith with Bill Edrich, despite him being in no form with 21 runs in the four Tests. Questions were asked why the in-form Hugh Bartlett was not called upon but it later emerged that during the same match in which he had scored a hundred in Bloemfontein the previous November he had also stolen a local girl that Hammond had his eye on.
  • This Test was broadcast live back to the UK, Jim Swanton being allowed 15 minutes near the close to describe the day's play. This tour was the first time any live broadcasts had been made from overseas Tests.


  • Hammond, in his ninth Test as England captain, lost the toss for the first time.

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