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The young South African team so ably led by Peter van der Merwe proved one of the most attractive sides to reach Great Britain from the Cape.
If there was any question whether their representative matches should be labelled Tests since their enforced withdrawal from the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1961 the excellence of their cricket definitely settled the matter.
The great pity was that this splendid team had to share the season with New Zealand. They arrived in mid-June, their programme being confined to seventeen first-class matches, including three Tests.
A few months earlier, M.C.C. had toured South Africa unbeaten and one victory in the five Tests sufficed to give England the rubber. Now, South Africa levelled the score by virtue of winning the second Test at Trent Bridge, the other two, at Lord's and The Oval, being drawn. During the ten visits by South African teams to England only once previously had they taken home the rubber--in 1935 when H.F. Wade's combination won at Lord's.
The most heartening feature of the tour was the willingness of these gay young men to hit the ball. Their enterprisisng methods were in marked countrast to those of the teams of 1951, 1955 and 1960.
Much of the credit for the transformation must surely go to that exuberant character R.A. McLean, who fought a lone battle for initiative in those far off days. McLean moulded the new Springboks when he brought the Fezela side to England in 1961. Under his direction they played positive cricket and among them were six of the present team, van der Merwe, Barlow, Lindsay, Bland, P.M. Pollock and Botten.
Entering England in the middle of the season left these South Africans at a disadvantage. They had to face opponents in full match practice whereas they themselves had to find their form in somewhat strange conditions. They went down to Derbyshire in their first match by seven wickets.
There followed four drawn games before they gained their first win, over Minor Counties. All the time they were becoming more efficient and their colours were not lowered again until their final first-class match at Scarborough where, entering into the spirit of Festival cricket, they played with reckless abandon in their hour of triumph.
In the brothers Graeme and Peter Pollock, and Colin Bland, the Springboks possessed three key performers. Their value to the side is emphasised by the three appearing among the Five Cricketers of the Year, in which section full details can be found about each of them.
At the age of twenty-one, Graeme Pollock proved a most attractive left-handed batsman. His biggest success was in the second Test at Trent Bridge where he hit 125 and 59 and his brother with five wickets in each England innings at a total cost of 87 runs made it a family victory as well as a National one.
Bland shone with the bat in the other two Tests, for he scored 39 and 70 at Lord's and 39 and 127 at The Oval. Making the most of his height, Bland excelled with the straight drive and thrilled the crowds with his mighty sixes. Moreover, Bland at cover or mid wicket was the outstanding personality among a splendid set of fielders. The way he gathered the ball and threw down the wicket in the same movement will be long remembered.
The team had a splendid opening batsman in Barlow, but there was no settled partner for him, this being one of the side's few weaknesses. Barlow hit two hundreds during the tour as well as six other scores of over fifty. Moreover, he was a brilliant first slip.
Bacher also enjoyed marked success with the bat and, like Graeme Pollock, completed 1,000 runs including two hundreds and seven other innings of fifty. Considering his limited experience he showed surprising confidence and steadiness in defence.
Lance was not happy when going in first, but fared better in the middle of the order, as did Lindsay. Both were fine upstanding batsmen and Lindsay shone behind the stumps while Lance, with van der Merwe, came next to Bland for general brilliance in the field.
While Peter Pollock stood out at the spearhead of the attack, three other seamers of lesser pace, Botten, Dumbrill and MacAulay (left arm) were no mean performers. On occasion, Pollock was inclined to overdo his use of the short pitched bouncer, but as the tour developed he improved his length and variation of swing and altogether he took five wickets in an innings six times.
McKinnon, the sole survivor of the 1960 combination, put in some valuable spells with his left-arm slows. Outside the Tests, Crookes and Bromfield enjoyed some success with their off-spin, Crookes greatest day being when he took eight Middlesex wickets for 47 runs at Lord's.
One of the reasons for the South Africans success was their excellent team spirit. They were never involved in unpleasant controversies and the presence of anti-apartheid demonstrators in some places left them unperturbed.
Generally, they found the pitches everywhere slow for their batsmen and their bowlers. Many times Bland was caught in the deep because the ball did not come on to the bat as he was accustomed in his own country. Peter van der Merwe paid a tribute after the Oval Test to the high efficiency of all the umpires who had controlled their matches.
The side was well served behind the scenes by their popular manager, Mr. Jack Plimsoll who came to England as a player with the 1947 team. Large crowds flocked to see this admirable set of players and they returned home having earned a handsome profit of £15,000 for a short, happy tour.
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