First Test Match

England v South Africa

Norman Preston

At Edgbaston, June 9, 10, 11, 13, 14. England won by 100 runs with three and a half hours to spare. The margin of victory was a fair indication of England's superiority in a match which produced much tedious cricket, some memorable hitting by Dexter and McLean, two fighting innings by Waite -- who batted six and a half hours for 114 runs, once out -- and notable fast bowling by Statham, Trueman and Adcock. Tayfield and Illingworth, the rival off-spinners, also performed well.

A powerful wind and showers of rain, which caused interruptions, contributed to the batsmen's and bowlers' difficulties. England chose ten of the men who had played in the West Indies and introduced two new caps in Barber and Walker. Although Barrington averaged 50 runs an innings in his previous ten Tests, he had scored only 14 runs in his last five innings, and he was left out. So for the first time at home in eleven years England included no Surrey player. Also for the first time, as far as one could remember, England included five county captains, Cowdrey, Dexter, Subba Row, Smith and Barber. Three South Africans, O'Linn, Fellows-Smith and Griffin were new to Test cricket.

On the first day, when Adcock persistently bowled short of a length and Griffin was erratic in direction, England, who won the toss, made only 175 runs in five and a half hours while losing three wickets. Griffin got through his first big trial without being called for throwing. McGlew gave him four overs at each end before lunch, so that both umpires received an early opportunity to judge him.

South Africa took the initiative in Adcock's seventh over when Cowdrey, touching an outswinger, gave Waite the first of six catches that he held during the match. Then came some masterly batting by Dexter. He drove Goddard superbly off the back foot and proceeded to hit the same bowler four more times to the boundary with powerful square-cuts and drives before the first brief stoppage occurred.

Pullar stayed two hours fifty minutes before falling to a spectacular low catch at square-leg by McLean. Half an hour later, Dexter, having waged a tense battle with Tayfield, unwisely lashed at him with a cross bat and was bowled middle stump; his 52 included eight 4's.

With three wickets down for 100, England were unhappy, but Subba Row and Smith exercised much care and were together at the close of the first day. Next came the news that Pullar, in fending off a bouncer from Adcock, had cracked a bone in his left wrist and was unlikely to take any further part in the match, though in fact he did go in last on the fourth day, playing only one ball single-handed.

The second day was notable for the fact that Tayfield bowled unchanged from the city end from 11.30 till England were all out at 3.17 p.m. In that time seven wickets fell for the addition of 117, Adcock taking three of the last four in nine overs following lunch for 10 runs. The fourth wicket partnership had put on 96 when Smith was beaten by a fine ball he intended to drive. Subba Row remained stubborn and occupied four hours over 56 before being fifth to leave.

When South Africa replied, it was refreshing to see Statham and Trueman keeping the ball up to the batsmen and aiming at the stumps. Each employed an umbrella field with seven men behind the batsman as well as a fielder close at short square-leg. Soon a brilliant right-handed catch very near the ground by Smith in this last-mentioned position accounted for Goddard and so well did the two fast bowlers and the fielders perform that in ninety-five minutes half the wickets were down for 91. McLean had threatened trouble, but he hooked a full toss high towards long-leg and Statham, racing from the leg-trap, covered nearly forty yards before he held the ball with outstretched arms as it came from behind him over his head.

Statham, apart from one over by Dexter when he changed ends, bowled without relief from 3.30 p.m. till five minutes before the close at 6.30, his only rest being the tea break. It was a stupendous effort; Trueman bowled whole-heartedly for two hours. At the crisis, Waite received valuable support from O'Linn, the left-hander, during the last sixty-five minutes of the second day when they put on 53 without being parted.

On a humid third day the attendance reached over 15,000, easily the best of the five days. While Waite relied on defence, O'Linn grew bold, but soon after the danger of a follow-on had been averted, he chopped a catch to slip. The stand yielded 85 and at this stage Illingworth put in a fine spell. He removed Waite with a ball which came across and took the leg-stump and he followed by getting Fellows-Smith leg before. Griffin played on and Statham with a grand return, ran out Tayfield from third man, finishing the innings.

England gained a first innings lead of 106, but South Africa kept the issue open. The second ball brought them a wicket without a run on the board when Cowdrey played a bouncer into his stumps. Dexter again hit strongly, but after finding the boundary four times he suffered in the same way as Cowdrey. Before the day ended Subba Row, who went in first, and Parks also left, England winding-up with a score of 89 for four wickets.

Things went so well for South Africa on Monday that they soon removed Illingworth, Smith and Barber, but Walker distinguished himself in his first Test with powerful off-drives and leg sweeps. Trueman punished Tayfield for 16 in an over, scoring 22 in twenty minutes, compared with Smith's 28 in two and a half-hours. Statham also hit freely until joined by Pullar and then he appeared to throw away his wicket possibly so that his partner would not further damage his broken wrist.

South Africa began the last innings wanting 310 to win at a comfortable rate of no more than 35 an hour, but when McGlew and Goddard fell to Statham for five runs, England were clearly on top. Pithey and McLean battled nobly, adding 53 before Pithey played on. The next ball Waite steered gently against the stumps, but it did not disturb a bail and from that moment McLean launched an all-out assault. A cavalier cricketer, McLean played magnificently. In the last sixty-five minutes he and Waite added 62 in an unbroken stand and McLean in two and a half hours claimed 68, including twelve 4's.

Thanks to McLean, the last day found South Africa requiring 190 with seven wickets left, but instead of playing himself in again, McLean swept recklessly at the second ball of the day. It kept a trifle low and he was leg-before. This was a sad ending to a great display that had promised so much for South Africa.

On McLean's departure, England never looked back. Indeed, they needed only two hours to capture the seven outstanding wickets. Waite alone showed any mastery of the bowling which included a very good spell of one hour by Barber, whose mixed wrist-spin fully justified his selection.

© John Wisden & Co