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The South Africans had abundant reason to feel satisfied with the general result of their English tour. To say that they far exceeded general expectations is to understate the facts. No one in this country, except the members of the team sent out to Cape Town by the M.C.C. the year before last, realised their strength or thought they would do well. There was, indeed, a widespread feeling that in asking to be placed on the same footing as the Australians and given Test matches with England they were courting failure. Before they had been playing a month, however, they convinced everybody that they had in no way overestimated their powers. It was not their good fortune to win a Test match, but the three great fixtures of the tour proved them to be a very fine side. At Leeds, in the only match of the three that was played out, England, with the best of luck, had to work desperately hard to win, and the drawn games were stoutly contested. In the first one at Lord's, when the third day was rendered blank by rain, the South Africans made a splendid recovery after following their innings against a balance of 288 runs, and at the Oval they made a daring though unsuccessful effort to force a victory, scoring for a time at a tremendous pace.
Altogether their tour comprised thirty-one matches, of which they one twenty-one, lost four, and left six unfinished. The defeats, apart from the England match at Leeds, were suffered at the hands of Surrey, Notts and the M.C.C. In one sense their record is a little flattering, six of their victories- two in Scotland, two in Ireland, one in Cardiff and one in Durham- being gained over opponents who had no pretensions to meet them on equal terms. Still, one must not dwell too much on this point. Even now, with all their prestige, the Australians are indulged with three or four matches that in the nature of things they cannot lose.
Among the twenty-one victories the best were over the M.C.C. (in May), Yorkshire, Kent, Middlesex, Lancashire, Sussex, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, the England eleven at Uttoxeter, and the two over Essex. Success against Somerset, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire was, on the year's form, almost inevitable. In meeting Oxford and Cambridge the South Africans were robbed by rain of easy wins, neither University being able to extend them. Looking back upon all these matches, there are three that, for excitement and changes of fortune, stand out above the rest- those with Kent, Sussex and the M.C.C. Against the two counties the South Africans showed at the highest point their capacity to play an up-hill game. They snatched a win from Kent by two runs after following their innings on a treacherous wicket, and they beat Sussex by 39 runs, though in the first innings of the match they were all out for a total of 49. These victories were gained by strenuous effort in face of great odds. The match with the M.C.C. furnished a curious contrast. In this case the South Africans, approaching a light task in the last innings with far too much caution, were in danger of losing a game that had looked to be in their hands. They won in the end by three wickets, but they had many anxious moments. The match with Yorkshire was hard fought, but not especially eventful, and Lancashire cut up very badly indeed.
As regards the defeats the details of the four matches will be fresh in the memory of all who follow cricket at all closely. Surrey gained the first victory and fully deserved it. The game was one of the few during the tour played right through on a good, fast wicket, and Knox, bowling for once in his form of 1906, had a big share in Surrey's success. In the Test match at Leeds, on the other hand, the wicket was always difficult, and Blythe's bowling, together with a masterly innings by C.B. Fry gave England a victory by 53 runs. Notts, like Surrey, won by fine cricket, Hardstaff batting so well as to earn a place in the M.C.C.'s team for Australia, and the M.C.C. in September inflicted the only single innings beating they experienced.
For the success of the tour the South Africans had chiefly to thank their remarkable bowlers. The batting was very even, and the fielding as a rule excellent, but the bowlers made the side. Not since the days of the early Australian elevens, when Spofforth and Palmer astonished us by their improvements on old methods, has there been such a revelation. Schwarz and Vogler, and in a lesser degree Faulkner and Gordon White, were the talk of the season.
A side so rich in bowlers has perhaps never gone on tour, Sherwell having at his command eight men, any one of whom could be put on at the start of an innings. Practically, however, all the success was gained the four bowlers who in their different ways represent the new development. As will be seen from the average table, Schwarz took 143 wickets, Vogler 133 and Gordon White and Faulkner over seventy each, the cost per wicket varying from 11½ runs in Schwarz's case to 15½ in Faulkner's. Schwarz and Vogler were the mainstays of the eleven, Faulkner and White being more uncertain in their command of pitch and, though often extremely puzzling, proving less consistently successful. The four men, however, formed a remarkable combination. As was said over and over again during the season their special difficulty lay in their ability to bowl an off break with to all appearance a leg break action. While quite individual in style, they have all laboured to improve upon the method that Bosanquet discovered. Schwarz is now an off break bowler pure and simple, having given up the leg break from fear of losing his length. Vogler, Faulkner and White, on the other hand, rely chiefly on the leg break, their off breaks being all the more difficult because unexpected. A good many batsmen thought that on his day Faulkner was the most difficult of the four bowlers, but in the general result he fell far below Schwarz and Vogler. All the four men had one great advantage, as, with such resources to draw upon, Sherwell never had to persevere with them when they were ineffective. The best bowlers in our county elevens do not as a rule enjoy anything like the same good fortune. It is pure conjecture on my part, but I think that if Schwarz, Vogler and Faulkner all played for different elevens, and had to bear a greater responsibility, Vogler would in the long run be the most valuable bowler. So far as last season's play was concerned, however, Schwarz beat him to the extent of nearly four runs a wicket. Such was the success of the slow bowling that Kotze and Sinclair, who in the tour of 1904 took between them over 200 wickets, had comparatively little to do. It is likely enough, however, that in a dry season they would have been far more often called upon.
As regards the batting, there has never been such a level team. It did not matter who went in first, as of the men who played regularly everyone was likely to get runs. It was, of course, this evenness that made the side so hard to beat. In no individual case, however, was the best Australian standard approached. S.J. Snooke headed the averages, but taking one day with another, Nourse and Faulkner were the most dependable batsmen. Nourse combines good hitting powers with a very watchful defence, but as a left handed bat he cannot be compared with Clem Hill or Darling. Before the tour began the South Africans thought that batting would be their strong point, but the wet wickets upset all their calculations. In a fine summer Gordon White would probably have upheld the reputation he enjoys at home of being the best bat in the team, but as it was he gave only occasional glimpses of his form. He played one very brilliant innings against Gloucestershire at Bristol, but he had many failures, and did nothing at all, in the Test matches. Another disappointment was Hathorn, who suffered a good deal with rheumatism and seldom seemed to play his real game. Tancred, greatly handicapped for a long time by the effects of illness, was only at his best during the last ten days of the tour. Sherwell captained the side with excellent judgement and proved himself an exceptionally good wicketkeeper, taking the breaking bowlers with a skill that was very rarely at fault. In the quietness of his method- free from the last trace of showiness- he recalled memories of Richard Pilling. As a batsman he played a great innings against England at Lord's, but he never afterwards showed the same form. The fielding of the team was admirable all round, the catching, especially in the deep field, being very safe. Gordon White, at cover point, was nearly always brilliant. So great was the interest excited by the matches that, despite the bad weather, the tour yielded a profit of, roughly speaking, £1400- a striking and very pleasant contrast to the financial experiences of previous trips. Wherever they went the players made themselves popular. They treated cricket as a game and not as a business, and played it on all occasions in the best possible spirit.
Match reports for
Leicestershire v South Africans at Leicester, May 20-22, 1907
Essex v South Africans at Leyton, May 23-25, 1907
Marylebone Cricket Club v South Africans at Lord's, May 27-29, 1907
Oxford University v South Africans at Oxford, May 30-Jun 1, 1907
Cambridge University v South Africans at Cambridge, Jun 3-5, 1907
Tour Match: Northamptonshire v South Africans at Northampton, Jun 6-8, 1907
Tour Match: Middlesex v South Africans at Lord's, Jun 10-12, 1907
Tour Match: Hampshire v South Africans at Southampton, Jun 13-15, 1907
Tour Match: Warwickshire v South Africans at Birmingham, Jun 17-19, 1907
Tour Match: Derbyshire v South Africans at Derby, Jun 20-22, 1907
Tour Match: Kent v South Africans at Catford Bridge, Jun 24-26, 1907