Fifth Test match

England v South Africa 1935

Played at Kennington Oval, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, August 17, 19. 20. Drawn. The position of the rubber - to win it South Africa had only to avoid defeat - tempted R. E. S. Wyatt to take a course of action that was probably the most daring ever adopted in Test cricket. Tremendous surprise was caused when, winning the toss, he called upon South Africa to bat on a perfect Oval wicket. The gamble, however, did not come off. Although for the fourth time in this series of Test matches, England's captain found himself in a position to declare, South Africa drew the game and, by virtue of the triumph at Lord's in the one Test match brought to a definite conclusion, they won a rubber in England for the first time.

That success might have fallen to England had four days been allotted to this contest - a matter that was strongly debated at the time - must remain problematical. Humiliating to Englishmen, the fact has to be recorded that our cricketers in turn lost the honours in a series of Test matches with Australia, West Indies and South Africa in the course of about sixteen months.

There is good reason for stating that Wyatt, even before he inspected the wicket, had considered very seriously the question whether in the event of the toss going in his favour he should put his opponents in. The experience of England's opening batsmen in the games at Leeds and Manchester, when the wicket - to all appearances perfect - proved extremely difficult for the first hour or so may have influenced his decision. Wyatt hoped, perhaps, that England's bowlers on this occasion might find the pitch sufficiently moist to give them some help and with three fast bowlers available he decided to attack from the start. The plan, as it happened, miscarried because the turf showed no trace of dew and played easily. No wicket fell until after lunch time and South Africa stayed in until nearly one o'clock on Monday. Wyatt's policy which naturally provided lively discussion and will continue to do so for many a day, had the support of more than one member of his team and of famous England players of the past. The chief argument of those who condemned Wyatt's action was that, with South Africa weakened in attack by the absence of Bell and Balaskas, first innings by England left the way easier for the building up of a big total with consequent moral effect before the opposing side batted.

Originally picking thirteen players, the England Selectors brought back Ames to keep wicket but dropped Verity, who had played in all the four preceding Test matches and in all five against the 1934 Australian team. On the withdrawal of C. F. Walters owing to a thumb injury an invitation was extended to E. R. T. Holmes but neither the Surrey captain nor Barber (twelfth man) gained a place in the team. This meant that, as in the two previous Test matches at the Oval, Surrey had no representative in the eleven. J. C. Clay, who travelled to Leeds and Manchester but did not play, and H. D. Read appeared in an England side for the first time.

The game proceeded very slowly on Saturday when South Africa scored 297 runs for the loss of six wickets. Never taking the slightest risk Mitchell, for four hours and forty minutes, remained master of all the bowling brought to bear against him. He and Siedle scored 116 for the opening partnership; then Robins in the course of his first four overs disposed of both Siedle and Rowan at the same total and Nourse was beautifully caught left hand by Wyatt at backward point. Not until Read took the new ball after the tea interval did England get rid of Mitchell who, so far from developing more freedom as his innings progressed, treated the bowling with unnecessary respect. All the same, he was remarkably sound in style, defence and command of strokes. Scoring 128 out of 234, he hit eleven 4's. Wyatt did not bowl Robins at all while the total rose from 139 to 261; such tactics inclined one to think that he considered Clay's control of length and flighting furnished more of a problem for the batsmen. Read certainly bowled with energy and enthusiasm and sometimes made the ball break back very quickly; in fact England's attack on a plumb wicket did not deserve harsh criticism. The fielding was uniformly good.

Monday furnished another surprise. It was reasonable to anticipate the four outstanding South African wickets would fall cheaply, but England had to field for two more hours while 179 runs were hit off their bowling. Dalton did most to confound England's expectations. Following upon his first hundred of the tour in the previous match - against Essex - he made his first three-figure score in Test cricket. Viljoen, who had gone in third wicket down and batted nearly three hours, did little more and Vincent was eighth out at 333 but Dalton hooked and drove superbly. If rather fortunate, and decidedly uncomfortable during some early overs from Robins, he shared in a stand of 137 in seventy minutes with Langton. In this record partnership for the ninth wicket in England v. South Africa matches the bowlers had no peace. Dalton hit 117 out of 216 in two hours 20 minutes, with a five and eighteen 4's as his chief scoring strokes. Langton played his highest innings of the tour and South Africa's total fell only 16 runs short of their highest in a Test match in England. Their last four wickets realised 222 runs.

Although Arthur Mitchell stayed an hour and a half, England were in a nasty position when at 98 Hammond and Leyland came together. These two batsmen however rose to the occasion, setting up a new record for the fourth wicket in a match of this kind by adding 151 runs in 100 minutes. Using his feet cleverly in meeting Vincent, Hammond made some beautiful drives, but Leyland rather overshadowed him with fine pulls and drives, on straight hit off Vincent for 6 being memorable. Hammond escaped a run-out before Cameron stumped him very smartly; Leyland carried on his innings more carefully and reaped reward. Before he got himself out on Tuesday in going for quick runs he shared in another record stand in Test matches with South Africa, adding 155 with Ames and so surpassing the fifth wicket partnership of Mead and P. G. H. Fender at Durban in 1922-23. Leyland scoring 161 also played his highest innings in a Test match; he batted two hours ten minutes, and in a most skilful and attractive display hit a 6 and seventeen 4's.

Driving grandly Ames also completed three-figures - he was at the wicket roughly three and a half hours - and had a 6 and fourteen 4's among his figures. It was a fine point whether his innings or that of Leyland was the better. After England, leading by 58, declared at lunch-time, quick successes for Read and Bowes kept the game alive, and at ten minutes past three South Africa had lost three wickets for 67. The pitch was obviously a little worn, and Verity's assistance at this point might have been very valuable to England. The game, however, turned again in South Africa's favour after a catch offered by Viljoen was dropped, and the remainder of the cricket did not possess much importance. In the match 1297 runs were scored and only 22 wickets fell. On the three days the total number of people paying for admission was 55,253.

© John Wisden & Co