Fourth Test Match

ENGLAND v SOUTH AFRICA 1947

R.J.H.

At Leeds, July 26, 28, 29. England won by ten wickets. A hit for 6 by Hutton towards the end of the third day brought England their third successive victory over South Africa and decided the rubber. Hutton's stroke gave the match an appropriate finish, since his magnificent bad-wicket batsmanship played a leading part in England's success and completely atoned for his previous low scores against South Africa. Fittingly, too, his return to form coincided with his first Test appearance in his native county. Crowds of 31,000 and 35,000 on the first two days rejoiced in Hutton's triumph by cheering every run, and when he reached 100 he received a great ovation.

Both countries made two changes from the Manchester Test, England bringing in Butler and Young for Gladwin and Hollies, and South Africa called on Fullerton and Smith for Lindsay and Plimsoll. For the third time in the series Melville beat Yardley in the toss, but South Africa made such poor use of their advantage in batting first that by the end of the day England held a commanding position--122 behind with all wickets in hand. Heavy rain during the night and leaden skies all day caused unpleasant conditions, and, though bowlers received only slight help from the turf, England assumed mastery from the start. South Africa never recovered from the stunning effect of Melville's departure with only a single scored. As so frequently happened, Edrich struck the first and vital blow for England when he bowled Melville with a fast off-break in his second over. From that point South Africa struggled. By dour defence Mitchell and Dyer raised the total to 13 in an hour and in ninety minutes to lunch the score crawled to 34 for two. England set an attacking field and Yardley repeatedly switched his bowlers, but Mitchell and Nourse checked the bowling supremacy for two hours, adding 90. When Mitchell played on, Butler gained reward for consistently good bowling, and he continued to cause trouble, so that mainly through him the last six wickets fell for 50 in an hour. Butler impressed as the best England opening bowler used so far in the Tests. Apart from his analysis, he was unlucky in seeing Nourse and Mann missed in the slips. Except for these chances England fielded well, and Yardley, Edrich and Young made excellent catches close to the wicket. South Africa's total of 175, the lowest in the five Tests, took four hours and three-quarters, an average scoring rate of 37 an hour. In the last hour Hutton was the dominating partner for the first time in the series. At one period in each innings the light became so poor that the umpires advised the captains that play would have to be stopped unless the pace bowlers were replaced till conditions improved. Yardley and Melville readily responded.

The gates were closed early and thousands locked outside on Monday, when a fierce thunderstorm delayed the start for an hour and turned the wicket into one suited for spin bowlers. Against the accurate attack of Rowan, Mann, Smith and Tuckett every run had to be fought for, but Hutton and Washbrook showed supreme confidence and were not separated till the total reached 141, their highest Test opening stand to that point. Hutton's certain footwork and perfect technique enabled him to overcome all difficulties of pitch and bowling, and, by skilful wrist work, he killed the kicking ball with a dead bat. Washbrook, who showed more aggressive inclinations, offered chances when 25 and 41, but otherwise he, too, gave a splendid exhibition till Mann deceived him with a faster ball. Washbrook batted with skill for three hours and hit ten 4's. Hutton's innings ended at 218, in the same over in which he completed his first Test hundred against South Africa. He hit a ball towards cover, started for a run, changed his mind, but slipped as he tried to turn round. Hutton made no mistake and gave no chance in four hours and a half at the wicket. Edrich, Compton and Yardley played valuable innings on a still awkward pitch, and at the close England led by 142 runs with three wickets left. This represented a fine batting performance. Although the new ball became available at 105, Melville did not call for it at all, preferring to place his trust in the slow bowlers. In one unbroken spell of three hours and a half Rowan bowled 46 overs for 89 runs and one wicket, and Mann's figures for the day were even more impressive--42-16-59-4. Both bowled with commendable accuracy and imparted quick finger-spin, but Rowan might have been more dangerous with a close leg-side field for his off-breaks. More than once during the day play was stopped while the umpires ordered back spectators who overflowed the boundaries.

Although the pitch played more easily than expected following Yardley's declaration at the overnight score, South Africa batted poorly on the third and last day. Their troubles began when Edrich, as usual, took a wicket in his early overs, this time Dyer falling to a catch at slip. At 16 Mitchell became Young's first Test victim, but Melville and Nourse batted with fine resolution. Nourse made a brave effort to repeat his Manchester feat of knocking the bowlers off their length. He did succeed in forcing Young to revise his attacking field, and, with Melville also batting well, another big stand between captain and vice-captain looked imminent. Then, at 59, a superb catch by Compton at short extra cover dismissed Melville. The stroke was played hard and correctly, so that the ball scarcely rose from the turf, but Compton flung himself full length, goalkeeper fashion, to his left, and with one hand snatched the catch inches from the ground as he rolled over. Viljoen helped Nourse add 71 for the fourth wicket in the best stand of the innings, but Butler, with the new ball, caused a breakdown by getting rid of Viljoen, Nourse and Dawson for twelve runs in four overs and two balls. For two hours twenty minutes Nourse drove and pulled with fine power in another gallant rescue attempt. South Africa's tail-end weakness was revealed again when Cranston finished the innings with four wickets for no runs in one over. Fullerton was leg-before first ball, Mann caught at the wicket off the third, Tuckett and Smith bowled by the fifth and sixth.

So England needed only 43 to win, a task Hutton and Washbrook took lightly. Gross receipts of over £16,000 from the three days were a record for Leeds.

© John Wisden & Co