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South African cricket received a splendid boost by the achievements of the team in Australia during the three and a half months from October 1963 to February 1964. Not only did they share the series, each side winning one game with the three other Test Matches drawn, but they surprised and delighted everybody by the quality of their play.
For years South African batting, with one or two exceptions, had been notable more for its dour, defensive qualities than for anything else. During this tour they showed that they possessed an array of attacking batsmen who made the team a big attraction. The selectors are to be congratulated on choosing this type of side.
When the tour began there seemed little chance that South Africa would provide much in the way of a serious challenge or attract the crowds. As the tour progresses and player began to build their personalities the interest developed considerably. In the end the total attendances reached 500,000, the highest for a South African visit to Australia, and the profit was over £3,000.
Happy enough though they were, the South Africans were a little disappointed that they did not win the series. In the main their batting and bowling were superior to Australia's, but they were let down by poor catching. Indeed, the fielding throughout the tour was well below the high standard usually associated with South Africa.
The big successes were R.G. Pollock and Barlow, in batting, and P. Pollock and Partridge, in bowling. R.G. Pollock, a 19-year-old left-hander, established himself as a big draw. His thrilling, powerful stroke-play delighted the crowds and he hit centuries in the third and fourth Tests.
Barlow, a bespectacled, stocky player, also hit strongly, although in a less orthodox way. He scored 1,523 runs in first-class matches on the tour. Few visitors to Australia have done anything like that. He hit centuries in three of the Tests including 201 in the fourth match.
The highlight of these two batsmen came during the fourth Test at Adelaide where they put on 341 for the third wicket, the highest stand ever made for South Africa. The total of 595 in the first innings was also the highest in the history of South African Test cricket. They won that match by the convincing margin of ten wickets. Australia had previously won the second Test at Melbourne by eight wickets.
Generally the bowling was adequate, but it depended almost entirely on speed. P. Pollock worked up a lively pace and was considered faster than Trueman. Partridge relied more on accuracy, stamina and swing. Between them they claimed 50 Test wickets.
Two of the younger members of the party, Bland and Lindsey showed plenty of promise as batsmen. Lindsey was also a capable wicket-keeper.
The side was led intelligently by Goddard, whose all-round ability did much towards the success of the tour. K.G. Viljoen proved an excellent manager.
The Australians disappointed. The absence of Davidson, who had retired, was a big handicap to the attack, but the batting was expected to be powerful. In fact, only Booth and Lawry justified themselves to the full.
Benaud gave up the captaincy after the first Test and Simpson took over. He had the satisfaction of leading his side to victory in his first game as captain, but thereafter had a difficult task in saving the series.
The South Africans went on to New Zealand where they could not maintain their top form. The three Tests were drawn, although South Africa were obviously the stronger combination. At Auckland, Sinclair scored 138, the highest Test innings by a New Zealand player in New Zealand.
First-class Matches -- Played 18, Won 6, Lost 3, Drawn 9
All Matches -- Played 35, Won 17, Lost 4, Drawn 14
Test Matches -- versus Australia: Played 5, Won 1, Lost 1, Drawn 3
versus New Zealand: Played 3, Drawn 3