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Inasmuch as the English team in South Africa during the winter of 1922-23 won the rubber and, in a programme of twenty-two matches, suffered only one defeat, the tour on the face of it was a complete success - one might almost say a triumph. Examined in detail, however, the trip, though in many ways highly satisfactory, did little to restore the damaged prestige of English cricket and afforded no real compensation for the crushing defeats so recently inflicted by Australia. As in all similar tours in these days the Test Matches meant everything, the other games being quite subsidiary - many of them in this particular case insignificant.
Our team, as Hobbs and Hearne declined the M. C. C.'s invitations, could not be described as representative, but the combination when the players left England seemed more than strong enough for the task in hand. No one pretended that South African cricket approached the standard of 1907 and the Australians, speaking from their own experiences on their way home in 1921, had told us we should have an easy job. The tour was looked forward to without any sort of apprehension. This being the general feeling it came as a shock to us when our men lost the first Test Match by 168 runs and only just scrambled home by one wicket in the second. After that things steadily improved. Still in the final match, on which the rubber depended - two draws having been played meanwhile - the issue hung very much in the balance till Arthur Gilligan helped Russell to put the English side in a winning position.
Russell's feat of getting two hundreds in this final Test Match put into the shade everything else that was done during the tour. His success was the more remarkable as during part of the time that divided his two innings he was ill in bed. Two other hundreds were obtained for England in the Test Matches - 181 by Mead and 115 not out by Woolley. Taking one day with another Sandham, was by far the most consistent batsman on the English side - he had the highest aggregate for the trip - but though quite himself on other occasions he never found his finest form in the all-important games, his best score in nine innings being 58. The English bowling for the whole tour came out very well, but it did not seem specially adapted to matting wickets. No one approached, even distantly, Barnes's wonderful form in 1913-14. Fourteen players were originally chosen but as Livsey, the wicket-keeper, had one of his fingers broken, Street of Sussex was cabled for.
As regards the South African cricket, H. W. Taylor as a batsman was in a class by himself. He did wonders, making in the Test Matches scores of 176, 101, 102 and 91, and with an aggregate of 585 runs in nine innings averaged 64. Against the English team in 1913-14, with only one score of a hundred to help him, he had a Test Match average of 50. South Africa's bowling had neither the novelty nor the excellence of the googly days, but Hall did some fine work in the Test Matches and Blanckenberg, though expensive, was in the opinion of some of the English batsmen very good. One point in connection with the tour must not be forgotten. No captain of an England side beyond the seas has ever been more popular than F. T. Mann.
The M. C. C. Team consisted of:
Match reports for
1st Test: South Africa v England at Johannesburg, Dec 23-28, 1922
2nd Test: South Africa v England at Cape Town, Jan 1-4, 1923
3rd Test: South Africa v England at Durban, Jan 18-22, 1923
4th Test: South Africa v England at Johannesburg, Feb 9-13, 1923
5th Test: South Africa v England at Durban, Feb 16-22, 1923