In the winter of 1910-11 the South Africans were seen for the first time in Australia. At one time there seemed some danger that the tour would fall through but all difficulties were smoothed over in good time. It was only on condition that the South Africans paid them a visit in advance that the Australians agreed to the Triangular Tournament in England in 1912. Apart from the absence of Gordon White, who could not spare the time required for the tour, the South Africans had a thoroughly representative side, the fifteen players selected including eight of those who came to this country in 1907. Moreover the team was strengthened by the presence of Llewellyn, who had terminated his engagement with Hampshire. It would have been better, however, if Hathorn had stayed at home. He was in no condition of health to bear the fatigue of the trip, and only took part in two or three matches.
From the South African point of view the tour was a disappointment, Australia winning four of the five Test matches. The vast superiority of the Australian batting was, from the first, freely admitted, but some people thought that the three bowlers who had done such wonderful things in England - Vogler, Schwarz, and Faulkner, - would redress the balance and win the rubber for their side. Unfortunately for the South Africans, however, Vogler was in no form at all, and except on rare occasions, Schwarz and Faulkner had few terrors for the Australian batsmen.
As Mr. P. F. Warner had predicted before the team, left home, the bowlers found the Sydney and Melbourne wickets very different indeed from the matting pitch at Johannesburg. More than this the side needed as a contrast to their slow bowlers at least one bowler of real pace. The result of the Test matches did not come in any way as a surprise to those who realised the enormous strength of Australia"s batting and, allowing for Vogler"s deplorable failure, it may be said that the South Africans got on quite as well as could have been expected. They led off with a brilliant victory against South Australia at Adelaide, but this success was soon discounted by defeats at the hands of Victoria and New South Wales. Late in the tour they beat Victoria by eight wickets, won their return match with South Australia, and only succumbed to New South Wales in an extraordinary match in which all four totals exceeded four hundred. It was of course, however, on the Test matches that they had to stand or fall.
In the first of the five games they were badly beaten by a single innings, but in the second - played at Melbourne - they hit up a score of 506 in their first innings, and looked to have victory in their hands when left with only 170 to get to win. To everyone"s surprise, however, and to their own intense disappointment, they were helpless against the fine bowling of Whitty and Cotter, and went down for a paltry total of 80, nothing in the condition of the wicket excusing the collapse. By dint of most stubborn batting they gained a hard-earned victory at Adelaide by 38 runs, but in the two remaining matches at Melbourne and Sydney, the Australians proved altogether too strong for them. It was a summer of delightful weather and even for Australia the run-getting was abnormally high.
Among the South African players, Faulkner stood right out by himself. He failed in bowling, but his batting was magnificent. No English batsman - not even MacLaren or the late Arthur Shrewsbury - ever met with quite such success on Australian wickets. In the five Test matches, Faulkner scored 732 runs and, with no not out innings to help him, averaged 73, while in all the eleven a-side fixtures of the tour, he scored 1,651 runs, with an average of 61. On the testimony of all the Australian critics, he combined in a marvellous degree watchful defence and powerful hitting. Next to Faulkner"s batting, the feature of the tour was the superb wicket-keeping of Percy Sherwell, the captain. Such an impression did Sherwell make that some Australian writers placed him on a level with Blackham at his best. Nourse was no doubt the second best batsman on the side. As regards both aggregate of runs and average, he was close up to Faulkner in all eleven a-side matches, but fell far below him in the Test Games. Zulch, who has yet to be seen in England, made 100"s in the third and fifth Test matches, but though he played very well he owed something to fortune.
It was in bowling the team failed, Schwarz alone in the Test matches doing anything worthy of his reputation. Vogler was left out of three of the tests, and only took four wickets in the other two. His failure was an irreparable blow to the side. The Australian batting in the Test matches was wonderfully good, Trumper playing finer cricket than at any time in his career except his tour in England in 1902.
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