Fifth Test Match

England v South Africa

Norman Preston

At The Oval, August 18, 19, 20, 22, 23. Drawn. In some respects this was the best match of the series. It certainly produced the best batting when, with England facing a first innings deficit of 264, Cowdrey and Pullar made a splendid opening stand of 290. Not only was this the highest for the first wicket for any Test in England but only three times had it been surpassed elsewhere -- 413 by Mankad and Roy for India v New Zealand in Madras, 1955-56; 359 by Hutton and Washbrook for England v South Africa in Johannesburg, 1948-49; and 323 by Hobbs and Rhodes for England against Australia in Melbourne, 1911-12.

With Subba Row injured in the previous Test, England brought back M.J.K. Smith and preferred Greenhough to Illingworth. South Africa decided to omit Pithey and Wesley for Fellows-Smith and McKinnon, the last-named playing in his first Test. Cowdrey won the toss for the fifth time in the series, which meant that England had gained choice of innings in ten consecutive Tests--a unique run.

As a matter of fact, not for the first time in the season, England obtained no advantage from deciding to bat. Spasmodic showers which caused six stoppages on the opening day kept the pitch lively for the South African seam bowlers and also kept them fresh for their task. Apart from Pullar, who enjoyed a great match, the England batsmen shaped disappointingly in unpleasant conditions. Eight wickets fell for 131 runs, and when the side were all out for 24 more, Adcock with six wickets for 65 runs had achieved his best bowling figures against England. Pothecary gave him admirable support.

South Africa spent five hours at the crease on the second day and, though they were justified in taking care during the early stages of their innings, they overdid their caution, especially in the uncertain climate of Great Britain where it is essential that cricketers press on while conditions are favourable. As it was, Goddard, the tall left-hander, reached 42 in reasonable time and then made only a single in the next hour. One of the most astonishing incidents of a tedious day occurred when a dark cloud appeared and the batsmen successfully appealed against the light. The absence of sight-screens at The Oval must handicap batsmen on these occasions, but this comprises one of the hazards of the game. It seemed scandalous on a lovely afternoon with a big crowd present that cricket should cease even for five minutes.

Matters were going badly for England when South Africa reached three figures for the loss of McGlew, but Dexter brought relief by dismissing Fellows-Smith and McLean with consecutive balls. Fellows-Smith was brilliantly caught at forward short-leg by Smith, and McLean, pushing forward with his bat, without moving his feet, was leg-before. So South Africa finished the second day 12 ahead with seven wickets standing, Goddard being 81 not out and Waite 22 not out.

On Saturday, South Africa enjoyed their happiest day of the tour while they built a first innings lead of 264. For a long time the cricket was grim, with England failing to gather sharp chances in the slips and South Africa bent on methodically piling up the runs. Very early in the day Goddard was dropped off consecutive balls from Statham by Cowdrey and Parks, and he took seventy-five minutes to add 18 runs which took him to 99. Then Cowdrey, diving to his left, rolled over as he accepted a difficult slip catch. The umpires held a consultation before Goddard was given out.

So Goddard failed by a single to achieve his maiden Test hundred. He withstood the England bowling for six hours ten minutes, hitting nine 4's. Waite, who played his fourth innings of 50 in the Test series, gave Goddard valuable support in South Africa's highest stand in the five Tests, 115 in three and a quarter hours. Waite altogether stayed four hours twenty minutes for 77, and England again found a worthy and stubborn opponent in O'Linn.

By tea, South Africa were 330 for seven and then came the order to attack, but at 368 Trueman and Statham were able to claim the third new ball. In the Yorkshireman's first over O'Linn chopped a bouncer into his stumps. His favourite open-stance cover-drive earned most of his eight boundaries. Tayfield and McKinnon disdained the new ball and hit gaily, 80 runs being added in the hour after the interval. Altogether the South Africa innings lasted ten and a quarter hours. Trueman and Statham seemed lethargic at this late stage of the season and if the slow bowlers, Greenhough and Allen, commanded most respect, neither was really troublesome.

On Monday the character of the cricket changed completely. England turned back the calendar and, to the delight of a crowd of 12,500 spectators, played cricket of pre-war vintage. For once the problem of the opening pair was forgotten. Cowdrey made 155 and Pullar 175, his highest score in first-class cricket. Not only did they clear the first innings deficit of 264, but their long partnership realised 290 in just under four and a half hours. It was, indeed, ironical that England needed a desperate situation to bring out their best.

Cowdrey must be given the credit for taking the initiative. He led the way before lunch, when in 41 overs his share of a total of 145 in two and a quarter hours was 88 to Pullar's 53. After a shower had delayed play for fifteen minutes, Cowdrey promptly settled down, yet this story might never have been written, for he was only eight and the total 14 when he offered an easy chance off Pothecary to McLean at second slip. After that escape Cowdrey never looked back. He began with telling hooks and leg glances and he drove Pothecary magnificently, Eight fast and fiery overs from Adcock cost 29 and nine from Pothecary, of lesser pace, 24. Cowdrey greeted Tayfield with a handsome cover-drive, then a piercing leg boundary, the first over yielding 11. Though Pullar played a maiden, Tayfield's opening spell of five overs cost 25, which could have been more but for brilliant fielding at cover by Goddard.

After an uncertain start, the left-handed Pullar rarely missed anything punishable on the leg side and he excelled in straight driving. Following lunch, Cowdrey became subdued, but Pullar pressed on, though when 60 he appeared to offer a chance from Adcock that McLean and Pothecary misjudged in the slips. The square-cut became one of Cowdrey's most profitable strokes and he reached his first Test 100 at The Oval out of 175 in two and a quarter hours. When Tayfield reappeared, Pullar immediately drove him high over mid-on for 6. The stand reached 200 in three and a quarter hours and by this time there was no sign of any short-legs or silly mid-ons. McGlew had dispensed with them long ago and still South Africa were at a loss to how to check the flow of runs.

The second new ball made no difference to the batsmen and a stylish on-drive from Pothecary took Pullar to 102 out of 233 in three hours forty minutes. The partnership ended five minutes before tea when Cowdrey played a hesitant stroke and was leg-before. His chief strokes were twenty-two 4's. Pullar continued to do his best to keep the score moving but the majority of the rest of the England batsmen proved most disappointing. Finally stumped when trying to force McKinnon to the off, Pullar was fourth out at 373, having batted six hours and hit one 6 and fifteen 4's.

England were 380 for four wickets at the end of the day and on Tuesday unimaginative batting by Smith, Padgett and Allen ruined what promised to be an exhilarating finale. During the morning South Africa bowled and fielded in very light rain. At no time were the conditions bad enough for them to stop the game nor did they ask for sawdust. For some reason England batted as if they feared defeat, the only exception being Trueman, who hit 16 from four balls from Pothecary, including a mighty slash over long-on.

Cowdrey declared at lunch, South Africa being left to make 216 in three hours, but the rain became heavier and half an hour was lost while the pitch returned to its lively state of the first day. The tea interval found South Africa with three wickets down for 66 and their chance had gone, though McLean threatened trouble by hitting boundaries from four successive deliveries by Statham. Eventually the rain returned and nothing more could be done. The total attendance for the match was only 55,000.

© John Wisden & Co