Third Test Match

ENGLAND v SOUTH AFRICA 1947

R.J.H.

At Manchester, July 5, 7, 8, 9. England won by seven wickets. Few Test matches can have contained as many as three innings of such merit as those by Nourse, Edrich and Compton, who all showed exceptional skill and courage in conditions suited to bowlers. Nourse's display on the last day nearly enabled South Africa to avoid defeat, but the full value of his batting might have been more obvious if England's second innings task had been 100 runs greater, since the ball was rearing and turning almost viciously towards the end.

England's selectors sprang a surprise by the inclusion of K. Cranston, the Lancashire captain and all-rounder, whose first-class experience was then limited to his thirteen county games in 1947. He and Gladwin, the Derbyshire medium fast bowler, replaced Bedser and Hollies. South Africa brought in Dyer and Plimsoll for Harris and Smith.

For the greater part of the match the weather was unpleasant; on no day more so than Saturday, when a bitterly cold north-westerly wind straight down the pitch frequently lifted off the bails, and on one occasion reached such velocity that it blew down a sight-screen. Criticism of South Africa's batting in these circumstances might seem unjustified, but a rather ordinary English attack was flattered by an average scoring rate of 46 runs an hour on an easy-paced wicket. The batting struggles which came later probably gave South Africa cause for regret at their ability to score only 278 for six wickets in the full day's play. Still the early loss of Melville, well caught low down at short-leg at 32, the cheap dismissal of Nourse and the running-out of Mitchell were three severe blows at periods when the batsmen appeared likely to take the initiative.

Dyer overcame his first difficulties against the fast attack and for three hours defended with determination. He helped Mitchell add 93 for the second wicket, and on his departure came the only real aggression of the innings. From his first three balls, by Edrich, Nourse hit 10 runs, and he continued to invest his strokes with power till he followed Cranston's in-swinger into short leg's hands. With Viljoen as partner, Mitchell scored more freely, and a big stand again appeared probable before the combined circumstances of Viljoen's ill-judged call for a stroke to deep mid-on, Mitchell's slowness in starting and Hutton's swift and accurate throw-in caused Mitchell to be run out by yards. Mitchell defied England's attack for three hours forty minutes in getting 80 out of 182. One run later Cranston hit Dawson's middle stump with an off-break, making five men out for 215, but Viljoen found a useful partner in Rowan and by scoring 66 before the close raised the possibility of hitting his second Test century at Manchester.

In view of heavy rain during the night and the probability of the pitch becoming difficult, South Africa on the second day obviously regarded time spent at the wicket just as valuable as runs scored, and their last four wickets held out for 115 minutes while adding 61. Viljoen soon received a painful blow on the instep and was rapped three times on the thumb, but, though limping, defended stubbornly till a spectacular left-hand slip catch, high and wide, by Compton brought about his departure when seven short of the century. In 15 overs Edrich dismissed three of the last four batsmen for 30 runs.

Sun and wind during lunch hastened the turf's drying, and Washbrook immediately began to attack the fast bowlers, taking three 4's in an over from Tuckett, before the ball started to lift from a good length. Such deliveries accounted for England's opening pair, which brought Edrich and Compton together again, with two men out for 48, the pitch difficult, and the bowlers eager to take advantage of their opportunity. They wore down the fast attack, dealt severely with the slow bowlers, and looked quite at ease when Tuckett and Plimsoll returned. By this time the batsmen were so much on top that they took 38 from the first three overs with the new ball. Three times in this spell Edrich made huge pull-drives for 6 off Plimsoll. Compton passed 50 in eighty minutes, and an hour later reached his third successive Test century against South Africa. In three hours ten minutes the stand put on 228 before Compton was taken at short-leg. His chanceless innings, full of delightful and impudent strokes, contained seventeen 4's. As at Lord's, Barnett followed a big Edrich-Compton partnership, but he began hitting too soon. England fielded without Wright, suffering from a poisoned foot, and a bruised instep prevented Viljoen from fielding for South Africa.

Rain limited play to three hours on the third day. In that time England progressed much nearer victory. From the start the ball began to fly, and Yardley quickly made it clear that aggression was his policy. In an hour he scored 41 out or 74. Several times Edrich was hit on the arms, hands and thighs, but he added 50 to his overnight score before he played outside a fast ball which hit his leg stump. Edrich's 191 out of 375 was made in five hours twenty minutes, and included three 6's and twenty-two 4's. He gave one chance, to mid-off when 101, but otherwise made no mistake in an admirable display of skill and determination. England's last four wickets fell for 48, so that South Africa needed 139 to avoid an innings defeat. With 12 scored, England met with initial success, Gladwin beating Dyer with a break-back.

The last day was notable for a gallant exhibition by Nourse, which compared favourably with any innings played during the season. The loss of Mitchell at 42 once more threw heavy responsibility on Nourse and Melville, for batting was a difficult task on a pitch which took spin and from which the ball went through at varying heights. Some of Compton's deliveries rose shoulder high, but fortunately for South Africa he did not strike his best bowling form. Melville played attractively till Edrich repeated his Lord's success by sending the off-stump flying. This made three wickets down for 96, and England seemed well on top, but Nourse received splendid help from Viljoen, who concentrated on defence while Nourse went his cavalier way. When the stand produced 121 in ninety-five minutes, South Africa looked almost certain to save the game, but such a transformation occurred that the last seven wickets fell in an hour for 50. Nourse, bowled by a yorker form Edrich, batted two hours twenty-five minutes for 115 out of 183, including two 6's and thirteen 4's. Despite his daring hitting, he made nothing like a mistake, and hooked, square-cut and drove with tremendous power.

For being left to get only 129 in a possible two hours and a half England owed much to Edrich. To the end of the second South African innings he was on the field all the time except for half an hour, and, besides making his highest score in Test cricket, he sent down 57 overs of considerable speed for eight wickets, including those of Melville, Nourse, Viljoen, Dyer and Dawson. Apart from him and Wright, who was handicapped by his foot, England's bowlers looked ordinary. Washbrook again showed his intention of scoring quickly before the effects of the rolling wore off. In fifty-five minutes he punched his way to 40 out of 63, and his appreciation of the position soon afterwards became evident when Mann's left-arm leg-breaks began to turn nastily. Hutton and Compton found this to their cost, but Barnett hit merrily, and his winning stroke brought a Manchester Test to a definite conclusion for the first time for ten years.

© John Wisden & Co