Fifth Test Match

ENGLAND v SOUTH AFRICA 1947

H.P.

After four days of fluctuating play in extreme heat South Africa finished 28 runs short of victory with three wickets in hand. The position warranted a spirited effort by each side to achieve success, but batsmen and fieldsmen alike seemed worn out by prolonged exercise in scorching sunshine, and the last few overs suggested lethargy when normal keenness might have brought triumph to South Africa or further proof of the superiority shown by England in the series of Tests. Perhaps the three wins to the credit of England after a drawn match created some feeling of indifference, but the rush for a souvenir stump gave some of the fieldsmen more impetus than the necessity of stopping the ball off many strokes that earned runs.

The pitch, although showing distinct signs of wear as each day advanced, responded satisfactorily to the medium-weight roller next morning, and, on the authority of the umpires, it was faster and easier on the Wednesday than on any of the three previous playing days. Seldom did runs come at all fast. England occupied seven hours and three-quarters over their first innings. Hutton, fourth out at 178 to a quite exceptional ball -- the left-hander's break-back which turned quickly and removed the off bail -- hit only six 4's during three hours and a half, but he always appeared confident, though of his first fifteen runs thirteen were singles, largely because Melville placed men at a distance to prevent boundaries, and the ball moved so fast on the dry turf that often a two was impossible. Only Robertson, in his first Test match, and Copson, last man, fell cheaply, but the best stand was 98 by Compton and Hutton, both out at the same total. Yardley and Cranston followed with 93, and no one showed better stroke play than Evans, who was out because Gladwin refused to respond to a perfectly safe call properly made by the batsman for a stroke to deep mid-off. The analysis indicates the accuracy of the bowlers. Mann excelled; his first 35 overs, of which 16 were maidens, yielded only 33 runs, with Washbrook and Hutton victims of his slow left-handed guile.

Mitchell, after seven hours and three-quarters in the field, became the central figure of the match by playing two innings which placed him on a level with Melville, who made two centuries in the Test at Nottingham, their higher innings being equal -- 189 -- Mitchell having the additional merit of carrying his bat, so that he was off the field for only fifteen minutes while the last two wickets fell on Monday. Eighth out at 293 after batting six hours and a quarter, Mitchell hit fourteen 4's -- clear evidence of how he waited in his own inimitable manner for the ball to punish. He received little help until Melville saw 86 added, and Dawson showed most freedom with 55 out of 79 in an hour and a half. Howorth, the slow left-hander, was far the best England bowler, though Cranston twice got a wicket soon after taking the ball. Copson, with the new ball, after being cut to the boundary, got the last three wickets, including that of Mitchell, without cost, his figures during that spell reading 7 overs 6 maidens 4 runs 3 wickets.

By far the most attractive cricket of the match came when England batted a second time, leading by 125. Hutton and Washbrook fell when forcing the pace, and half the side were out for 180, but Compton, then 53 after an hour of his best and most versatile stroke play, went on with such freedom that, when caught from an on-drive, he claimed 113 out of 178 put on during an hour and three-quarters; his drives, cuts and forcing strokes brought fifteen 4's. His fourteenth century of the season was brilliant in every way. Howorth made 27 out of 87 in forty minutes, and with Evans, hitting very freely, 58 runs were rattled up in thirty-five minutes; so Yardley was able to declare 450 ahead, England having scored 325 in three hours and a half.

In the remaining half-hour on Tuesday South Africa lost Dyer for eight runs, of which three were extras, which came in the first five overs bowled by Copson and Gladwin. The final stage belonged to Mitchell. At times dreariness itself, he scored only 36 in two hours and a half before lunch and occupied four hours fifty minutes reaching 102 out of 275. Nourse, missed when 30 at short slip off a sharp cut which Hutton could not hold with his left hand, showed his usual aggression in hitting a dozen 4's while 184 runs came in two hours twenty-five minutes. He was bowled by a ball which just removed the leg bail. This stand suggested the possibility that South Africa might win, but three wickets fell for 34 more runs before Mitchell, suddenly hitting Howorth straight and to leg for 4, completed his hundred. After tea Mann alone fell, and, with 111 wanted in the last hour, runs came very fast, while Yardley tried all his bowlers except Gladwin -- passed over even when Copson came on with the new ball. Mitchell got 25 and Tuckett 21 in the final thirty minutes, figures indicating what might have been brought about with a little more enterprise at different periods earlier in the day. This unbroken stand produced 109 runs in ninety minutes.

The aggregate attendances on the four days numbered 77,317, of whom 71,201 paid at the turnstiles, and the receipts totalled £14,103. The largest crowd, 26,980, assembled on Monday, and the terraces presented a dazzling scene with the sun blazing down on the compact mass of people in the lightest permissible summer attire.

© John Wisden & Co