Australia 2 South Africa 2, New Zeland 0 South Africa 1

South Africans in Australia and New Zealand, 1952-53

Rarely in the history of international cricket has a team so thoroughly routed the prophets as did the young and markedly inexperienced side, led by J. E. Cheetham, which made South Africa's third visit to the Antipodes so momentous. The atmosphere in which the South Africans sailed could scarcely have been more gloomy. Many, acknowledged as sound and dispassionate judges, had suggested that the tour should be cancelled rather than allow South Africa's cricket, admittedly at a low ebb, to suffer a sequence of seemingly inevitable crushing defeats which could cause long-standing damage. The Australian Board of Control, remembering the financial failure of the previous years tour by West Indies, expressed apprehension of the public reaction to a side which, by general agreement, stood in danger of being overwhelmed.

This fear was met immediately by the South African Board of Control with the reply that they were prepared to lose as much as £10,000 on an educational tour which they hoped would put their cricket on the right road for the future. How wise they were! Yet the same officials must have been just as surprised as, and even more delighted than, anyone that, without so many of the men who had formed the backbone of their country's cricket in preceding years, Cheetham's team finished with a better Test record than any in Australia since D. R. Jardine's in 1932-33--and with a profit of £3,000.

Unquestionably, South Africa's achievement in winning two Tests and sharing the rubber provided the biggest cricket shock for many years. Admirable as were their earlier feats, South Africa surpassed themselves in the last Test. When Australia scored 520 in the first innings they looked to have insured themselves against any possibility of defeat, but the South Africans, whose confidence had increased from match to match, approached their task with such determination and zest that on the sixth day they raced to victory by six wickets. This was their crowning glory. The absence of Lindwall and Miller, while undoubtedly contributory, did not detract from South Africa's greatest cricket triumph.

The outcome of the Test series was the more unexpected because South Africa won only two of the other first-class matches against Tasmania and Western Australia, that in the last game of the tour, and they were beaten once, nearly twice, by New South Wales. Nor could any South African match the bowling penetration of Lindwall and Miller or the batting skill and experience of opponents such as Harvey, Miller, Morris, Hassett. The 162 not out made by Endean in the Second Test was their solitary century against six for Australia.

Two reasons contributed above all towards South Africa's success. One was a standard of fielding which truly deserved the description of brilliant. The other was a fighting determination and team spirit which won the admiration of all. From the start South Africa's new captain and his trusted friend the team manager, K. G. Viljoen, left no doubt that they would give every fraction of their energies and thought to the task confronting them. By example and speech they were equally clear that they expected nothing less from any anyone else. They were not disappointed.

On arrival in Australia Cheetham told friends that he might not be leading a strong batting or bowling side, but he was resolved they should excel in the field. At times in the opening fortnight at Perth the South Africans devoted three to four hours a day at fielding alone, and to the end of the tour they practised fielding as assiduously as batting and bowling. Before many matches had been played spectators went just as much to see the fielding of these superbly fit young men as to watch them bat and bowl.

To single out individuals would be unfair, but few of those present will forget a bewildering catch by Endean from a Miller hit sailing high over the boundary in the Second Test. This was only one of the incredible catches which more than atoned for those, mainly in the slips and apparently much easier, which went to ground.

For a long time much of South Africa's batting tended towards extreme caution, but as the tour advanced so defence changed to attack, winding up with the spectacular hitting which heralded the stirring climax to the Fifth Test. Endean, the mainstay of the batting, the dominating McLean, who added discretion to his aggression as the tour advanced, the punishing Funston, cautious McGlew and Watkins all excelled in their differing ways.

Without an opening attack to compare with that of Australia, South Africa relied to a tremendous extent on the off-break bowling of Tayfield and he was their big man. His 13 wickets in the Second Test stand as a record by a South African. He also took more wickets, both first-class and in all matches, than any bowler previously visiting Australia. With 30 wickets in the Tests he emulated the feat of A. V. Bedser in Australia two years before. In the Third Test Tayfield broke a finger trying to stop a drive by Miller. This handicapped him when he played in the Fourth Test, but again he took most wickets.

The worth of Lindwall and Miller to Australia was emphatically underlined by the injuries which limited their bowling in the Fourth Test and kept them out of the Fifth. Without their spearheads of every post-war Test series, the fallibility of the Australian attack was clearly exposed. Generally Australia did nothing to dispel the impression that they had lost some of their power, but in Harvey they possessed a batsman of such talent that the vulnerability of some of the others was not so noticeable. His Test aggregate of 834 created a new Australian record. The 17-year-old Ian Craig was the batting find of the year.

The policy of covering pitches throughout the match appeared neither to win nor lose any supporters. The South Africans also agreed to the Australian amendment to the rule making the persistent and systematic bowling of fast short balls illegal, irrespective of direction. Only in the Third Test were bumpers bowled in any number, and conflicting views were held whether the spirit of the amended rule was fully observed by Australia.

SUMMARY OF THE TOUR--RESULTS OF ALL MATCHES

Matches--Played 27, Won 8, Lost 3, Drawn 16


TEST MATCHES AGAINST AUSTRALIA

Matches--Played 5, Won 2, Lost 2, Drawn 1


Match reports for

Tour Match: Otago v South Africans at Dunedin, Feb 24-26, 1953
Scorecard

Tour Match: Canterbury v South Africans at Christchurch, Feb 28-Mar 3, 1953
Scorecard

1st Test: New Zealand v South Africa at Wellington, Mar 6-10, 1953
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: New Zealand v South Africa at Auckland, Mar 13-17, 1953
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Central Districts v South Africans at New Plymouth, Mar 18-19, 1953
Scorecard

Match reports for

Tour Match: Western Australia v South Africans at Perth, Oct 24-28, 1952
Scorecard

Tour Match: South Australia v South Africans at Adelaide, Oct 31-Nov 4, 1952
Scorecard

Tour Match: Victoria v South Africans at Melbourne, Nov 7-11, 1952
Scorecard

Tour Match: New South Wales v South Africans at Sydney, Nov 14-18, 1952
Scorecard

Tour Match: Queensland v South Africans at Brisbane, Nov 28-Dec 2, 1952
Scorecard

1st Test: Australia v South Africa at Brisbane, Dec 5-10, 1952
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Australian XI v South Africans at Sydney, Dec 12-16, 1952
Scorecard

2nd Test: Australia v South Africa at Melbourne, Dec 24-30, 1952
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: New South Wales v South Africans at Sydney, Jan 1-5, 1953
Scorecard

3rd Test: Australia v South Africa at Sydney, Jan 9-13, 1953
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Tasmania v South Africans at Launceston, Jan 19-21, 1953
Scorecard

4th Test: Australia v South Africa at Adelaide, Jan 24-29, 1953
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Victoria v South Africans at Melbourne, Jan 31-Feb 4, 1953
Scorecard

5th Test: Australia v South Africa at Melbourne, Feb 6-12, 1953
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: South Australia v South Africans at Adelaide, Feb 14-18, 1953
Scorecard

Tour Match: Western Australia v South Africans at Perth, Mar 26-28, 1953
Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co