First Test Match

AUSTRALIA v SOUTH AFRICA 1952-53

At Brisbane, December 5, 6, 8, 9, 10. Australia won by 96 runs. Long before the game was over the South Africans had provided convincing reason for a revision of the general opinion on their worth. For four days they pressed Australia hard, and the struggle did not turn against them until the fifth when their batsmen crumpled before a reinvigorated Lindwall.

Australia received their first surprise on the opening day. A keen attack, to which the opening bowlers, Watkins and Melle, gave the inspiration, supported by tigerish fielding, kept their batsmen on the defensive for most of the day. Only during the third-wicket stand of 155 by Harvey and Hassett were Australia in command. Then came collapse against the new ball, Harvey, Miller, Hassett and Hole being dismissed in three-quarters of an hour for 35 runs. Harvey (fourteen 4's) showed a tightening of defensive power without losing any brilliance in stroke-play. His left-hand drives, cuts and hooks were stamped by quick footwork and exact timing. Hassett, as elegant as ever, became the seventh Australian to pass 15,000 runs in first-class cricket.

Melle and Watkins maintained an admirable consistency of length and hostility and some of the catches were of the highest class. For instance, Innes, while deputising for Cheetham, who had hurt a shin, flung himself forward and held Harvey as the batsman flicked Melle to square-leg. Tayfield, from Hole, and Watkins, from McDonald, made equally fine catches.

The hottest heat-wave experienced in Brisbane for eight years marked the start of South Africa's innings. They survived Australia's pace bowling well enough, but few met the leg-breaks of Ring with assurance. His varied flight and pace worried batsmen attempting too often to play him from the crease. The one note of aggression came from Mansell, who punished Miller for 16 in one over with the second new ball.

Although the general fielding standard was again superlative, South Africa committed costly blunders in Australia's second innings. Harvey should have been caught off Tayfield when 19, McDonald and Lindwall gave stumping chances, and a wild throw wasted a run-out chance when the opening pair arrived at one end together after a misunderstanding. Compared with Morris, who struggled for three and a quarter hours to regain his best form, Harvey dazzled, but even he rarely collared the tireless Tayfield.

A throat infection prevented Miller from bowling during South Africa's attempt to score 337 to win. In his absence the Australian attack looked ordinary, and McGlew and Funston stood firm in a third-wicket stand which, by the end of the fourth day, left South Africa needing 187 to win with eight wickets left. Three men went for 56 before lunch on the last day, however, and South Africa's subsequent batting broke down before the speed of Lindwall and Johnston and the dipping off-breaks of Johnson. The last five wickets fell for 31.

© John Wisden & Co