Fifth Test Match

ENGLAND v SOUTH AFRICA 1948-49

The excitement in the final stages was nearly as great as during the memorable First Test. Only one minute remained for play when Crapp made England's victory certain by hitting ten from three successive balls. England deserved to win for as a team they were clearly superior, yet, through their boldness in taking risks even when wickets fell rapidly in their second innings, several times they went close to defeat. How near Nourse came to success as a result of England's acceptance of his challenge to get 172 to win in 95 minutes cannot be understood from the score alone. The events of the last innings gave the answer to those who argued that a Test side could not be dismissed in such limited time. In leaping at the tempting bait of victory England sacrificed wickets so much that seven men were out for 153 and when the left-handers Crapp and Watkins came together, 19 were required in ten minutes with only Jenkins and Young to follow. More than once a reversion to defence could not have been condemned but England never departed from their pre-arranged tactics.

Whatever reasons may have caused South Africa's batsmen to show caution in previous Tests, this time there could be little justification for the extreme flattery given to an England attack accurate but far from deadly. True, South Africa again began badly, losing two wickets for 13 but, seeing that only one more wicket fell on the first day, a total of 219 runs was scarcely praiseworthy, particularly as many of these were obtained during the last hour when Compton, who conceded 39 in seven overs, experimented in the hope of breaking the Mitchell-Wade stand.

When full allowance was made for the high standard of England's ground fielding and the fine efforts of Bedser, Gladwin and Young to peg down the batsmen, for a team one down in the rubber South Africa showed a strange lack of initiative on a pitch ideal for batting. After helping to retrieve the poor start, Nourse was beginning to go over to attack when Bedser bowled him with the best ball of the day, a good-length away swinger which came back off the pitch. Wade made some efforts to hit but Mitchell was so dogged that he spent six hours thirty-seven minutes over 99. In his first Test century Wade batted five hours fifty minutes, and the overall rate was reflected by the nine hours five minutes taken over the innings.

In spite of their slow scoring South Africa looked to be well on top when England lost five wickets for 168. During that period the pitch was taking spin, especially at one end where A. Rowan bowled off-breaks with considerable skill. The game thus stood at a crisis when Jenkins joined Mann in a stand which added 100 and started such a recovery that the last five wickets put on 227.

No praise could be too high for Mann. Not only did he show the determination typical of his character but he batted in a manner which surprised some of his warmest admirers. His defence was sound and his stroke-play orthodox as well as lively. He curbed his natural but risky lofted pull-drive and he never seemed other than completely at ease. Mann batted ten minutes under four hours and hit a 6 and twelve 4's.

At no time during South Africa's second innings of three hours and a half did the batsmen appear to be intent on the bold batting which might have been expected, so that Nourse's declaration provided another surprise.

England's methods were in utmost contrast to those of South Africa. Hutton hit the first ball for four and Washbrook hooked for six the first delivery he received. Their opening stand of 58 in twenty-seven minutes put England well on the way, and Compton helped Washbrook carry the total to 100 in fifty-three minutes. A sudden breakdown occurred, five men being out for 125, and soon afterwards Gladwin and Griffith were dismissed in three balls. Crapp with punishing left-hand drives settled the issue.

© John Wisden & Co