The Australians restored their sagging prestige with a highly successful tour of South Africa and their splendid form raised their hopes that they would recover the Ashes when England toured their country a year later. Australia had never lost a Test Match in South Africa, but on this occasion the home country were most optimistic. Their form against England in 1956-57 when after losing the first two Tests they drew the rubber, indicated that they were capable, not only of winning a Test, but of finishing victorious in a series. This proved an illusion, for Australia were generally much superior, winning three Tests and drawing the other two.
Under the youthful captaincy of Ian Craig, the Australians developed into a powerful, confident side and they went through the tour unbeaten. Only rarely were they extended and a record of eleven victories and nine draws in the 20 first-class matches clearly showed their strength.
The outstanding personality was R. Benaud, who, in bowling and batting, enjoyed a tour of unbroken success. Adding the googly to his leg-break and top-spinner, Benaud once more revealed the South African's dislike of flighted spin, bowled out of the back of the hand. The previous year Wardle, of similar type, but left-handed, took 90 wickets in first-class matches on the tour; Benaud did even better with 106, two more than any other bowler on a tour of South Africa. Thirty of his wickets came in the Test Matches and four times he took five wickets in an innings against South Africa. Only in the first Test did Benaud fail to cause chaos with the ball, but he scored 122 in that match. He also hit another century in the fourth Test. Benaud's aggressive batting made him a great favourite with the crowds and his all-round skill was a major factor in the Australian success.
The left-handed Davidson also did extremely well, with 72 wickets (25 in Tests) and four centuries. His attacking fast-medium bowling and punishing batting frequently swung the course of a match. Kline, with left-handed off-breaks and googlies, also played a valuable part.
Australia's batting strength came in the number of men able to make runs. Even Meckiff, at number ten, averaged 18.66 in the Tests. Apart from Benaud, only Burke (189 at Cape Town) hit a Test century, but consistency was the key-note. Burke, McDonald and Mackay were generally successful but Harvey fell away. Mackay, who was added to the party only after R. G. Archer had withdrawn, once more showed how difficult he was to dismiss on easy-paced pitches. He scored over 50 in five of his seven Test innings and was four times not out. Consequently, although his top score was 83 not out, his average reached 125.00.
The wicket-keeping of Grout reached a high standard and in the first Test at Johannesburg he set up a new record of six wickets in an innings, all caught. He also equalled the old record of five victims in the third Test at Durban.
Owing to numerous injuries the team was reinforced in January when R. Gaunt flew from Australia to join the party. A fast-medium bowler, he appeared in one Test.
South Africa had little cause for satisfaction. Their batting was, for the most part, tediously slow and brittle, and the bowling, apart from Heine and Adcock, the opening pair, lacked penetration. South Africa were on top in the first and third Tests, but largely due to their own cautious tactics they failed to press home the advantage. They became dispirited and were thoroughly out-played in the last two Tests.
McGlew, recovered from the injury which kept him out of four Tests against England, hit centuries in two of the matches, but he took far too long. Waite also scored two hundreds, but of the others Goddard alone gave much support. The failure of McLean, one of the few attacking batsmen in the side, was a big disappointment. He scored 50 in the first Test, but did nothing else and was finally dropped for the last game. Endean and Funston each enjoyed one good match, but, like the others, were inconsistent.
Heine did extremely well with his fast bowling in the two games at Johannesburg and Adcock's six for 43 at Durban was his best Test performance, but Goddard did little and Tayfield's wickets were expensive. Indeed, the weakness in slow bowling was most marked. Van Ryneveld, who led the side in four of the matches, could never inspire the team to greater efforts.
Outside the Tests the Australians were irresistible and of their eight victories in 15 games five were won with an innings to spare, two were won by ten wickets and the other by nine wickets.
First-Class Matches--Played 20, Won 11, Drawn 9
Test Matches--Played 5, Won 3, Drawn 2
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