Fifth Test Match

ENGLAND v SOUTH AFRICA 1956-57

At Port Elizabeth, March 1, 2, 4, 5. South Africa won by 58 runs and shared the rubber. Considerable controversy arose over the condition of the pitch. In order to improve it the authorities imported special soil from the Durban area, but unfortunately they did not give it long enough to settle. They might have learned their lesson from Pretoria where similar efforts were made to re-lay a pitch in two months. This time three months were allowed, but it would have been a remarkable achievement to get a Test strip ready so quickly.

The result was a dead slow pitch from which the ball kept exceptionally low from the end of the first day onwards and the number of shooters was more than one sees in a full season. As a result batsmen had to adopt a new technique. Back players were at a severe disadvantage and those without power to hit strongly found that they could rarely penetrate the field. Usually, it also paid to lift the ball.

The faster bowlers, particularly from one end, were devastating. They produced many almost unplayable balls which hit one of the unusually wide, deep cracks in the ground, shot through and sometimes turned as well. Naturally winning the toss under such conditions was of paramount importance, for it meant batting before the pitch became really difficult.

South Africa played an unchanged side for the only time in the series, but England were without two of their leading bowlers because of injuries. Statham, who had not recovered from foot trouble suffered in the previous match, was badly missed; the pitch would have given his style of bowling considerable help. Two days before the Test began Wardle slipped a cartilage in the left knee which had been worrying him all the tour and a manipulative operative operation was necessary; it was too risky to include him.

With strokes so awkward to make and scoring in front of the wicket so difficult, it followed that run-getting would be unusually slow even for the slow-scoring series. South Africa batted all day except for the final fifteen minutes when bad light intervened, scoring 138 for five, but even then it was fairly obvious that this total was satisfactory.

England did well to get down the first five wickets for 78, but South Africa's recovery came at that point and they were on top for the rest of the match. Endean played his only good innings of the series and he could not have timed it better. He stayed four hours fifty minutes and with van Ryneveld added 65 for the sixth wicket.

On the second day a record crowd for the ground, nearly 15,000, saw South Africa lose their last five wickets for 26 and England struggle to make 110 for nine. South Africa batted seven and a quarter hours in their first innings. England began by losing Richardson and Compton in the second over of the innings, but excellent batting from Bailey and May followed. Both realised that it was imperative to hit the half volley hard whenever possible and Bailey forsook his normal defensive methods and, considering the circumstances, played one of the best innings of his Test career.

One of the few balls that lifted in the match accounted for May, caught at cover off the edge of his bat when trying to play to leg. Bailey fell to a shooter just after lunch, having stayed two hours twenty-five minutes. The rest of the side did little, although Lock batted for an hour and three-quarters.

The third day's was the slowest in Test history, 122 runs being scored in five hours fifty minutes. First England lost their remaining wicket without addition and South Africa, with a useful lead of 54, concentrated on increasing it as much as possible. Goddard and Funston took the score from 21 to 64 when Goddard swept a ball into his chin and had to retire. This gave the initiative back to bowlers and, despite determined efforts by van Ryneveld and McLean, batsmen never regained it. Goddard returned at the fall of the fifth wicket, but could not settle again. When going in a few minutes before the close of the second day Loader was struck on the instep first ball and could bowl only four overs on Monday before retiring.

He was one of several casualties in the match. Compton fell down a flight of stairs in his hotel and badly bruised his side; Tayfield developed knee trouble, but was able to continue, and Waite tore fibres in his left shoulder when diving for a shooter while keeping wicket, and so Endean took over shortly after the start of the second innings.

Tyson, bowling with a considerably shortened run, upset South Africa, who on the fourth morning lost their last three wickets for 12. Set to make 189, England never looked like succeeding. A spinner, Tayfield, was successful for the first time, but his wickets were mainly due to batsmen hitting out against him because it was nearly impossible to score of the faster bowlers at the other end. Tayfield brought his wickets in the Tests to 37, establishing a new South African record for one series.

Bailey and May again showed promise of staying, but once more the side collapsed when they were parted. Evans, Tyson and Lock hit powerfully whenever possible, but the almost inevitable victory came with a day and fifty-five minutes to spare. At the close the crowd swarmed to examine the unusual pitch and several people took away pieces of ground as souvenirs. Special praise was earned by Evans for his magnificent wicket-keeping under extremely difficult circumstances. He allowed only one bye--an extraordinary performance by an extraordinary man.

© John Wisden & Co