South Africa gave a much improved display and at times seemed to be heading towards victory, but England never allowed the situation to get out of hand. For the most part the batting on both sides disappointed, but McLean for South Africa and Insole for England played praiseworthy innings.
England fielded an unchanged side which meant that Tyson, although fit, was omitted. South Africa made two alterations; Funston replaced Watkins and Pithey, a twenty-three-year-old opening batsman, made his Test debut in place of McGlew, who during the match announced that because of his injured shoulder and lack of practice he would not be available for the remaining Tests.
May again won the toss, the third time running in the series and for the eleventh time in thirteen Tests as captain of England. The start brought some of the brightest batting of the series, Richardson and Bailey scoring 103 together in two hours before lunch. Richardson, who broke the middle finger of his right hand at Queenstown a fortnight earlier, showed no signs of the injury in the first match on his return, maintaining his fine Test form with a delightful innings. When 20 he received a nasty blow on the left forearm from Heine which caused considerable pain, but even this did not upset him. The stand reached 115 in two hours twenty minutes before Richardson fell lbw for the fourth time in five Test innings.
From that moment England surprisingly lost the initiative. Between lunch and tea only 52 runs were added and three men left, the others being Compton and May, who again had an unhappy match. Meanwhile, Bailey went completely into his shell and when bad light ended play twenty-five minutes early on the first day he had batted five hours thirty-five minutes for 71 out of England's 184 for four.
Tayfield, between half-past two and five minutes to five, sent down fourteen consecutive maidens, nine to Bailey. England's complete lack of enterprise after such a good start was unexpected. Next morning the remaining six wickets fell in ninety minutes for 34. Bailey, seventh out, stayed six hours thirty-five minutes, making a valuable contribution in his own defensive way.
South Africa replied with their best opening stand of the series; Pithey showed a straight bat and plenty of promise and Goddard shaped splendidly. They lost the upper hand when Keith and Endean failed, but regained it during a fine fourth wicket stand between Goddard and McLean who put on 59 overnight when South Africa finished well placed--78 behind with six wickets left. The pair added only five more next morning, but South Africa went ahead with five wickets left.
England's bowlers did well to restrict the final lead to 65, but they could not disturb McLean who hit the first century of the tour against the Englishmen. Not so aggressive as usual, he showed extremely sound judgment in choosing the hittable ball and when he did go for his strokes they were clean and powerful. He drove and pulled particularly well, most of his fourteen 4's coming from these strokes. He batted for four hours twenty minutes.
South Africa scored only slightly faster than England and the two innings were not completed until tea time on the third day, despite the moderate totals. Wardle, bowling mostly orthodox leg-breaks, although slipping in the occasional chinaman and googly, was again England's leading bowler.
Richardson and Bailey gave England another useful start, but following a break for bad light, the third day running twenty-five minutes before the scheduled close, play was unexpectedly resumed and one run later Richardson was out. Shortly after England's innings began Bailey received a bad blow on the right hand from a short-pitched ball from Heine, and although he continued to the close when England were 48 for one, he was subsequently found to have cracked a bone at the back of his hand near the right knuckle.
Bailey did not resume his innings first thing next morning, Insole joining Compton. Rain restricted play to half an hour before lunch, at which point England had exactly cleared the arrears for the loss of one wicket. Once again they surrendered control, Compton and May being dismissed by the first and seventh balls of one over from Tayfield.
The situation then looked dangerous for England, for with Bailey injured and the last of the recognized batsmen, Insole and Cowdrey, together, they stood only 14 ahead. Insole looked like falling at any time, often being beaten by Adcock, but he gradually settled down and by careful methods the pair put on 65.
Bailey resumed at the fall of the fifth wicket with his bruised right hand in plaster and stayed fifty-five minutes, obtaining three runs before being out to the final ball of the day. Insole was then 77.
The last day began with South Africa in a satisfactory position, England being 127 on with only four wickets left. Nearly everything depended on how quickly South Africa could capture the remaining wickets. As it happened England's tail-end batsmen rose to the occasion in support of Insole and they stayed an hour and forty minutes, adding 62. Insole completed his maiden Test century with the last man in and took out his bat after a great-hearted display lasting six hours ten minutes. He played better and better the longer he remained and on the last morning was in complete control. As usual most of his runs came on the leg side, but he also cut well and occasionally produced a good cover drive.
Tayfield, floating the ball into the breeze, commanded considerable respect and finished with eight for 69, the best performance by a bowler in South Africa's Test history, beating the eight for 90 by S. J. Snooke against England in 1905-6. Tayfield was destined to improve the record still further in the next match.
South Africa needed 190 to win in four hours ten minutes, a rate of 45 an hour which, taking the series as a whole, was faster than average. They lost a wicket second ball and were so pegged back by accurate bowling that they fell farther and farther behind the clock.
Between lunch and tea they scored only 50 runs while losing three wickets and England then looked to have a chance of success. This was dashed by Funston and Endean who not only added 75 but gave their side an outside chance of victory, Funston, when 11, offered a low return catch to Wardle which, if accepted, might have won the game. South Africa needed 83 in the last hour, but when Funston and Endean left at the same total they gave up thoughts of victory and England could not capture the last four wickets in half an hour.
Bailey did not field in South Africa's second innings. The pitch gave little help to fast bowlers, getting slower as the match progressed, and the spinners were never able to turn the ball quickly enough to be dangerous.
The attendance on the first day was only 8,800, but as South Africa's hopes rose the public showed more interest, and on the last day 14,500 attended.