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March 14, 1939
England 316 and 654 for 5 (Edrich 219, Hammond 140, Gibb 120, Paynter 75, Hutton 55) drew with South Africa 530 and 481
It was clear from the start this would have to be the final day if the tour party were to be bale to undertake the 1000-mile train journey to Cape Town in time to catch their boat home on March 17. There was the added worry that rain was forecast, making the 200 runs still needed by England a difficult proposition.
South Africa, whose fielding throughout has been excellent, kept England in check in the first hour when only 39 runs were scored. Norman Gordon, who had bowled without luck, was particularly effective at limiting runs with a leg-stump line, and it was only in the second half of the session that Wally Hammond and Eddie Paynter were able to up the tempo. They took every run on offer without taking risks, and Hammond farmed the strike to good effect. The South Africans visibly wilted and heads dropped.
Alan Melville persevered with his pace attack for much of the day, as much to eat into the time available as anything.
England's target had fallen under 100 when Paynter was well caught low down by the wicketkeeper off Gordon - his first wicket of the match - but by now the weather was closing in. Hammond kept attacking in between two brief interruptions for rain, until, chasing quick runs, he danced down the pitch to try to loft Eric Dalton back over his head and was stumped. His innings has lasted almost six hours and yet contained only seven fours. His attitude appeared to be that if he stayed, England would win. The runs would come as a consequence, and he was outstanding at placing the ball for the single.
The captains consulted and, for a time, it seemed as if the MCC management and South African board were considering extending the game to the Wednesday lunchtime, what would have been the 11th day. There was even talk that the squad could go on and leave the two not-out batsmen and the four yet to bat behind to play on, or even that a plane could be chartered to replace the train.
But England had to be on the train leaving Durban at 8.05pm in order to catch the Athlone Castle and so the game had to be abandoned as a draw.
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