England 2 South Africa 0

The South African team in England 1929

S.J Southerton

If in the net result of the tour they fared little better than the team who came here in 1924, the South Africans of 1929 were, by general consent, a stronger all-round combination than their immediate predecessors. While the winning of the rubber in the Test matches was naturally the main object of the tour, they did not subordinate all other endeavours to that end. As their captain, H. G. Deane, said when they arrived, they were a young and, to a considerable extent, an untried body of players, and, much as they knew about the game in their own country, they were here largely to learn. They certainly took to heart the lessons furnished by the tour for they were a much better side towards the end than at the outset. In one important respect - the art of fielding in its three great phases, catching, ground work and throwing in - there existed nothing our cricketers could teach them. Day after day throughout a long programme their work in the field was maintained at a uniformly high standard and on many occasions became positively brilliant. Deane, himself, set his side an admirable example and splendidly did they back him up. Nothing stood out more than the dazzling exploits of H. G. Owen-Smith, one of the youngest members of the team and an object lesson to everyone against whom he played. No matter what his position he rarely, if ever, failed. At cover point no hit was too hard for him to attempt to stop, while in the out-field he would run sprint races after the ball to the end, of the longest, hottest and most trying afternoon. Others, if not quite so good as he, were at any rate in their respective positions fit to compare with the best in English cricket, while as wicket keeper, H. B. Cameron fully lived up to the reputation he had established against the M. C. C. team who visited South Africa in the winter, of 1927-28.

Thus the South Africans, whatever their limitations may have been in batting and bowling, were always well worth watching, investing their matches as they did wherever they went, with keenness and zest. Moreover, the side played cricket with a close regard to the best traditions of the game. They came with no flourish of trumpets, made friends both on and off the field, and left behind an impression that it is given to few touring sides to attain. Beyond all doubt this was largely due to Deane himself, while on the business side, the geniality, tact and courtesy of H. O. Frielinghaus, the honorary general manager, and A. S. Frames, the secretary, added much to the pleasant relations which existed not only among the members of the team but between them and the players and officials with whom they came in contact.

It is only right to mention that the South Africans suffered during the first half of their programme from an inordinate number of accidents and illnesses, more or less severe. This entailed on those members who escaped damage and sickness an abnormally heavy burden. Instead of being able to give most of his best men a rest during some of the less important engagements, Deane found himself compelled to call on them in match after match, so that by the time the first representative encounter fell due several of the team were already feeling the effects of the strain of daily cricket. Indeed, to such an extent did misfortunes handicap the side that, for the third Test match at Leeds in the middle of July, recourse was had to the expedient of bringing in J. P. Duminy, a player against our men in South Africa, who happened to be on a business or professional visit to Europe. Prior to this experience the South Africans had drawn the first two Tests and, after being beaten at Leeds and Manchester, they wound up with another draw at the Oval. In this last game, when England were without Maurice Tate, the visitors, thanks largely to Deane himself and Taylor, batted so successfully that they were able to declare.

In selecting the team to come here the South African authorities included only three who had previously played in this country. These were Deane, Taylor and Catterall. One might naturally have expected a little time to elapse before those new to the conditions accustomed themselves to our wickets. As it happened the dry summer proved favourable to them and, although the first two games were drawn, they led off with totals of 444 for eight wickets against Leicestershire, the innings in each case being declared closed. Of the thirty-seven engagements in which they took part they won eleven, lost seven, and drew nineteen. In thirty-four matches reckoned as first-class they gained nine victories, suffered seven defeats and played eighteen draws.

Undoubtedly their best performances were the victories by eight wickets over Middlesex at Lord's in the fourth match of the tour and by 217 runs against Sussex at Brigton at the end of August. Sussex at that time could be regarded as the strongest match-winning combination in England. In first-class games the tourists also triumphed over both Oxford and Cambridge, Gamorgan, Wales, Scotland, Somerset and Essex. In addition to losing twice to England they were beaten twice by Lancashire and once each by Surrey and Gloucestershire. They also went down before an England XI at Folkestone in the concluding fixture of the tour when, as they freely admitted, they were all tired and most of them stale. Among the eighteen drawn matches were two with Yorkshire, and one each with Surrey, Kent, and Notts. Rain spoilt the finish with the champions but opportunity was afforded Morkel of being the first of South Africans to complete a thousand runs for the season. If the form in both fixtures with Lancashire left a good deal to be desired - and defeats by six wickets could, at and ten wickets saw them outplayed at practically every point - they could, at any rate, congratulate themselves on their performances against Yorkshire. Indeed, at Sheffield, they gave a very fine display of batting, scoring 441 in the first innings and declaring with only five wickets down.

It is perhaps a little difficult to form a very close estimate of the real value and strength of the team. Reference has already been made to the fielding, and while for the most part the batting was sound and, in some respects, excellent, this did not always remain reliable. The team never created the impression of being as difficult a side to get out as the Australians. Yet on several occasions when the reputedly strong batsmen failed one or other of those in the lower half of the order saved, or did much to save, the situation. To Taylor belonged the distinction of heading each list of batting figures. He came out with an average of over 55 for the three Tests in which he took part; over 38 in the first-class matches and over 40 in all engagements. Well as he performed it would be idle to pretend that he was the dominating personality of a few years ago but that he was still the man England had most to fear, received ample confirmation when, after three wickets had fallen for 20, he in company with Deane, played his great innings in the fifth Test match at the Oval. On many occasions, and especially during this display, he showed all his former versatility in scoring strokes and his ability properly to punish anything in the nature of a loose ball. Catterall - not nearly so aggressive a player as in 1924 - was, at times, and particularly in the Test match at Birmingham, scarcely recognisable as the hard and fearless hitter of the previous tour. Deane, while often batting well, did not quite live up to his reputation in South Africa, but he captained the side with unerrring judgment.

Of the men new to this country Siedle, though a failure in the three Test matches in which he took part, was very consistent otherwise and never looked an easy man of whom to dispose. He watches the ball well and had a nice variety of strokes. In first-class matches Mitchell obtained the highest aggregate. He could, as he showed on occasion, drive well; equally he could, if the situation demanded present an almost impregnable defence. He gave a great display of endurance in the Birmingham Test match but, beyond that, his cricket in that innings was featureless. Morkel, like Christy a fine driver, nearly always looked a good batsman. He made excellent use of his reach and strength, showed himself possessed of sound defensive strokes and when the opportunity arose hit very hard. Dalton did not run into form until late in the season but then, at the end of August, came out in a blaze of triumph, scoring 157 and 116 not out against Kent at Canterbury and making in the next match 102 and 44 not out against Sussex. Over and above his fielding, Owen-Smith was always a joy to watch as a batsman. However depressing the outlook nothing daunted him and if he had done little else, his innings in the Test matches at Lord's and Leeds when, with his side in hopeless positions, he - with admirable assistance each time from Bell - scored 62 not out and 129, stamped him as the cricketer for the great occasion. Cameron, in addition to his splendid wicket-keeping, batted, for the most part, admirably.

The South Africans would probably be the first to admit that they laboured under a disadvantage in being without a fast bowler of real class. Ochse worked hard but his limitations were somewhat pronounced. In his action he recalled J. J. Kotze but he, did not have that famous bowler's pace either through the air or off the pitch and was very often erratic. In Quinn and Vincent, the South Africans possessed two uncommonly good left-hand bowlers similar in style and with ability to make the ball break or swerve. They, however, found that the ball would not get up so straight off turf wickets as it does off matting. Moreover, the dry summer warm rather against them; on rain-affected wickets both would probably have met with greater success. A glance at the bowling fingers will clearly show that, effective as the attack often was, the wickets taken coat far too many runs. In the Test matches the lowest bowling average was over 31 by Ochse and, in all games, as well as in the other first-class matches, no bowler had an average of under 23. McMillan, with his slow leg breaks, obtained most wickets and Bells medium right-hand, with a deceptive swerve, bowled extremely well, particularly in the Test match at Lord's, but day in and day out the best bowler on the side, and the best all-rounder of the team, was Morkel. Fast medium right-hand, with a high delivery, Morkel, with plenty of spin, made the ball come off the pitch full of life and, at the start of an innings, always seemed likely to get two or three wickets cheaply. The impression left by the tour was that South Africa will, in the near future, be a far more difficult side to beat than they were last season.

Match reports for

1st Test: England v South Africa at Birmingham, Jun 15-18, 1929
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: England v South Africa at Lord's, Jun 29-Jul 2, 1929
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: England v South Africa at Leeds, Jul 13-16, 1929
Report | Scorecard

4th Test: England v South Africa at Manchester, Jul 27-30, 1929
Report | Scorecard

5th Test: England v South Africa at The Oval, Aug 17-20, 1929
Report | Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co