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Never in anxiety, South Africa drew the match, made themselves safe from defeat in the rubber and limited the fifth Test to three days.
At no time after the first day's play did the pitch present difficulties to batsmen, and although stubborn methods by the South African players in their second innings were understandable in view of the great keenness of the tourists to win a rubber in England for the first time, much of the true spirit of cricket was missing from the final stage of the match.
In every particular, the England bowling fell below expectations. Tate, recalled to Test cricket after an interval of four years, lacked his old fire, Verity again failed to worry South Africa's batsmen and Bowes, though keeping a good length, could not force much life from the pitch. By far the most gratifying feature of the match from England's point of view was the brilliant batting success of Robins, who made a hundred for the first time in a Test match. For South Africa, Viljoen, with much responsibility devolving upon him owing to the absence, through injury, of Siedle, hit a three-figure innings for the first time off England bowling.
Nourse in place of Siedle represented South Africa's one change. Arthur Mitchell, after his triumph in the third Test match, was naturally chosen again for England, but as he had to withdraw owing to unfitness the Selectors called in Bakewell. Altogether, the eleven differed in five instances from that previously put into the field, the other changes being Leyland, Robins, Tate and Duckworth for Hardstaff, Sims, Nichols and Ames. J. C. Clay and Hardstaff were omitted from the thirteen players asked to be present, the Nottinghamshire professional acting as twelfth man.
For the greater part of Saturday, England batted in very poor light; from a wicket with plenty of grass on it Crisp and Bell made the ball swing and lift. Had South Africa held their catches, Smith and Bakewell would have been out for 15 runs, and both those batsmen were missed twice before being separated about one o'clock after scoring 71 together. In no other match during their tour did South Africa's slip catching prove so unreliable. Batting two hours twenty minutes, Bakewell stayed to see 132 runs on the board and was then bowled by a full pitch. He exploited the late cut in most skilful style.
Much was done by South Africa towards retrieving their early lapses when they got down half the wickets for 141, but Leyland and Robins in a sixth wicket stand added 105 in 75 minutes. Robins surpassed in point of skill anything he had done with the bat since his hundred in the' Varsity Match of 1928. Very quick on his feet he timed many of his off drives superbly and such was the spirited nature of his innings that in two hours ten minutes, he hit 108 (including twelve 4's) out of 197. Tate also drove strongly, hitting seven 4's, and England's last five wickets put on 216 of a total of 357 registered in just over five hours. Swift and sure fielding by Viljoen in the deep compelled admiration and only Langton, who for some reason unexplained was not put on until 175 runs were scored, bowled below form.
Scoring three runs before failing light stopped play on Saturday, South Africa in sunshine on Monday had two wickets down for 41. Then Viljoen rose to the occasion. For the next four hours and three-quarters, he batted in sound style and with abundant confidence; his back play was especially good. Viljoen undoubtedly saved his side from disaster and he had valuable help from Cameron, who hit the loose ball as it deserved - two 6's off Verity and five 4's appeared among his figures - and scored 53 out of 99 added for the fifth wicket. A blow on the body from the ball when 96 left Viljoen in pain even when making a defensive stroke, but he completed his hundred safely and went on playing admirably until dismissed. Sound in his forcing shots, he scarcely ever lifted the ball and in an innings of quiet determination he hit 124 out of 290 with ten 4's as his principal scoring strokes. Getting between them 224 of a total of 318, Viljoen, Cameron and Dalton practically carried South Africa on their shoulders. Bowes overshadowed all the other bowlers; neither Robins nor Verity looked at all disturbing to batsmen. In the field, however, Robins saved many runs by his speed and agility.
By the end of the second day England, for the loss of Smith, had increased their innings lead of 39 to 82. The inability of Bell, owing to fluid on the elbow, to bowl on Tuesday, did not prove a serious matter for South Africa, because Vincent and Langton bowled grandly against batsmen set upon making runs as quickly as possible. This led to some superb cricket. Hammond drove in his very best form for an hour and a half, but Vincent kept a remarkably steady length when on without relief from eleven o'clock until the luncheon interval, and meanwhile disposed of Robins and Tate with successive deliveries. Against this first-rate bowling and really brilliant work by a cleverly placed field, England averaged 75 runs an hour and declaring during the interval, left their opponents to score at an average rate of 72 an hour to win. Despite a brisk start by Rowan the tourists did not accept the challenge to make 271 runs. The first two hours brought only 76 and Mitchell appeared to find such extraordinary difficulty in forcing the ball away that he scored only 48 runs in three and three-quarter hours. The total estimated attendance for the three days was 64,500, the number paying being 48,230.
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