In many aspects the Australian tour of South Africa followed the pattern of Don Bradman's team in England during the summer of 1948. As on that visit, the Australian cricketers won four of the five Test matches, the other being drawn, and maintained an unbeaten record throughout the tour.
The parallel can be taken a stage further. In the Third Test Match at Durban the Australians, after being dismissed for 75--the lowest total ever made against South Africa in Test cricket--found themselves in a comparable position to that experienced by the 1948 side in the Fourth Test at Headingley. They were called upon to make 336 in the fourth innings, which was a slightly less exacting task than the 404 at Leeds, but on a pitch responsive to spin, formidable enough. It says much for the Australians' fighting approach to the situation that in both instances the objective was attained with that calculated certainty which seems an inherent part of these relentless yet intensely human cricketers.
The Australians, who were the first players from their country to visit the Union since the triumphant tour of Victor Richardson's team in 1935-36, arrived at a time when the standard of South African cricket appeared at its lowest.
The complete lack of success by the national side since the war set the Union selectors a tremendous problem, and they were not helped by a leg injury to Athol Rowan, who could not play in any of the Tests. The loss of such a gifted off-spin bowler--he took fifteen Australian wickets for 68 in the Transvaal match a fortnight before the first Test--and the failure of several new comers to the international setting, were severe blows, though the hard lessons learned by these young players may stand them in good stead when South Africa visit England this year. Eric Rowan, at the age of forty, and Nourse, the two most dependable batsmen, fought an unenviable battle with the abundant forces at Australia's disposal, while of the bowlers only Mann, McCarthy, H. Tayfield, a young off-break bowler of undoubted promise, and Melle, fast-medium--son of an old Oxford Blue--justified expectations.
The retirement of Sir Donald Bradman resulted in the leadership of Australia passing to Hassett, and the new captain impressed everyone. In fact, the excellent feeling which prevailed was due, in no small measure, to his unobtrusive yet dominant personality. He batted in his customary correct style and reached peak form while making 167 in the Fifth Test, when Australia amassed a total of 549 for seven wickets declared.
For sheer consistency and invigorating stroke play no one matched the 21-year-old left-hander Harvey, who hit four Test hundreds, including a remarkable innings of 151 not out, which turned impending defeat into victory, at Durban. He also created a record during the series for a batsman playing in South Africa by scoring 660 runs at an average of 132.00.
Morris, though not so successful as in England, seldom failed to give the side a good start and, like Harvey, scored eight hundreds in first-class matches. His opening partner, Moroney, also from New South Wales, showed himself to be a dogged batsman with considerable powers of concentration in the tradition of Collins and Woodfull. Moroney played in all the Tests and achieved the distinction of scoring a hundred in each innings of the fourth match.
South African crowds would probably have missed the infectious enthusiasm of Miller but for an injury to Johnston in a motor-car accident. Miller, who had been surprisingly omitted from the original party, was hurriedly summoned, and soon demonstrated his own dashing, if sometimes unpredictable, qualities as an all-rounder. Supporting this impressive array of batting strength were Loxton, who recorded his maiden Test hundred in the first match at Johannesburg, and Archer, the youthful Queensland player.
Whereas the easy-paced nature of most pitches offered every inducement to firm-footed stroke play, much of the South African batting lacked assurance, and for this reason Australia's fast bowling quartet, Lindwall, Miller, Johnston and Walker, enjoyed more success than they were reasonably entitled to expect in such conditions.
Noblet, a tall, fast-medium bowler, Johnson, off-spin, who sent down more overs than any of his colleagues, and McCool, leg-breaks, emphasise how well equipped were the Australians in all phases of attack.
Saggers kept wicket competently, and Langley though missing a number of games because of an injured finger, made an efficient deputy. The fielding proved of uniformly high standard, with perhaps Harvey, Archer and the irrepressible Miller taking major honours. South Africa could learn a great deal from these three Australians, whose unflagging efforts seemed to typify the difference between the two countries during an enjoyable series.
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