England 3 South Africa 1

South Africans in England, 1951

The South Africans came to England in 1951 hoping to write a new chapter in the history of cricket on the Veld, but they returned home to a large extent disappointed. One thing they did achieve: in McLean, Waite, Melle, McGlew, van Ryneveld, Mansell, Endean and Tayfield they brought to the fore some promising cricketers who should form the nucleus of their near future teams. Perhaps Dudley Nourse's combination suffered because A. Melville's side of 1947 failed somewhat in that respect.

Like some other modern touring teams, the South Africans reserved their best performances for the Test matches. True, they lost the rubber by three victories to one, but the issue might well have gone the other way at Old Trafford and Kennington Oval.

For some years most South African batsmen have modelled themselves on the negative technique of Bruce Mitchell, but in Nourse and Eric Rowan the 1951 side possessed two enterprising hitters of vast experience. Unfortunately all preconceived plans were shattered when Nourse, in the fifth match at Bristol, broke his left thumb. By sheer determination and tremendous courage he returned to the side after only a short rest and his 208 at Nottingham opened the way for South Africa's solitary Test win. Even in that innings Nourse could not play his natural game and subsequently he accomplished little with the bat. So the whole responsibility for ensuring a respectable total fell upon Eric Rowan. Consequently, he was compelled to change his methods and make defence his sheet-anchor. That meant that most of the batting was devoid of colour. A glance at the averages will show what Eric Rowan meant to the team, but for half the tour he did little in the vital matches. His first five Test innings yielded only 62 runs against 453 in the last five. Rowan broke all South African individual Test records when he made 236 at Leeds, where the total of 538 was also their highest in Test cricket. With Nourse resting from several matches, Rowan, as vice-captain, went through an arduous time until he was given a well-deserved holiday after the Leeds Test. A full account of his career will be found earlier in the book, where he appears among the Five Cricketers of the Year.

The mishap to Nourse also led to a change in bowling tactics. With the run-getting power of the team so limited, their moderate scores did not allow them any margin for risk and they could not afford to give away runs. Hence the sparing use of the leg-break and googly pair, van Ryneveld and Mansell. The South Africans, before adopting this course, might well in the early weeks have given a more thorough trial to van Ryneveld.

While at Oxford University the three previous years, he proved himself to be among the highest class of this type of bowler and he possessed full experience of conditions in this country.

Anyhow, van Ryneveld never produced his Oxford form with the ball and Mansell changed to seam bowling. On top of this the pace attack of McCarthy and Melle did not produce the results expected. Early in June, Melle underwent an operation which kept him idle for six weeks and he did not gain place in the Test team until the last match at The Oval, where in England's first innings he took four wickets for nine runs.

As for McCarthy, he was too erratic, and his persistence in bowling the short-pitched bumper probably cost South Africa the Test at Old Trafford, where if only he had tried to hit the stumps England could scarcely have survived on such treacherous turf. As it was, Ikin and Hutton took a number of body blows unflinchingly and set England towards victory. In August McCarthy accomplished the best feat of the tour with the ball when he took eight Sussex wickets for 32, including the hat-trick.

In a season notable for the success of off-spin exponents and leg-traps, Athol Rowan was a constant menace wherever he went, and that in spite of a damaged knee--a war legacy. Often he bowled under the handicap of considerable pain and difficulty while delivering the ball. In the circumstances, it was surprising that his accuracy rarely deserted him.

Amid all the injuries and illnesses which affected them, one bowler went through the tour always willing to keep an end going as long as the captain desired. He was the bespectacled Chubb, who, despite his 40 years, bowled medium pace with the enthusiasm of a man half his age. He sent down more overs than anyone else and met with most success in the Tests and other first-class matches. His was an exceptional debut in the world of Test cricket.

Early in the tour it was realised that Athol Rowan might break down under the strain of too much work and Tayfield came by plane to reinforce the party, but according to those who knew his ability Tayfield did not produce his home form and he was the only player for whom a place could not be found in any of the Tests.

After Athol Rowan and Chubb, the most important member of the attack was Mann, the left-arm slow bowler, who played a valuable part in the Test win at Trent Bridge. South Africa missed him severely when he was pronounced unfit for The Oval Test and was compelled to break a sequence of 19 consecutive Test appearances since his debut at Trent Bridge in 1947.

Failure to take toll of loose bowling was the main criticism of the batting, which lacked imagination and sparkle. The tour began in bitterly cold weather and the team never really recovered from the shocks received in the first two matches at Worcester and Bradford, where half the side were out for 25 and 27 runs respectively. Those experiences shook what confidence they possessed. Looking to the future, the most promising innings was 67 by McLean in the Leeds Test. McLean drove cleanly and with much power, but, like Fullerton, he too often lost his wicket through faulty judgment--a flaw that experience should rectify.

When the team became acclimatised, the fielding was a joy to watch and generally superior to England's. Close to the wicket Eric Rowan, van Ryneveld and Mansell made many splendid catches and the two youngsters, McLean and McGlew, were extremely agile in the deep. Athol Rowan and Cheetham also shone. One felt sorry for Cheetham in the sense that failure to catch F. R. Brown when he opened his score during the crisis of The Oval Test may have cost the tourists the match and the rubber. Starting a trifle slowly, Cheetham dashed in from mid wicket, hurled himself forward and fell with the ball in his hands, but it touched the ground.

Originally Waite was the reserve wicket-keeper, but after saving the team in that second match at Bradford, where he stayed ninety-five minutes on a bowler's paradise, he became first choice, holding his place until an injury against Warwickshire at Birmingham kept him out of the final Test. Then Endean replaced him successfully.

By accompanying the team as manager, Mr. S. J. Pegler was associated with the two least successful South African sides to visit this country. The 1924 team, of which he was a member, won only eight of 38 matches, and last year's side could point to eight wins in 34 engagements. But there was a brighter aspect this time, for it was estimated that 900,000 people attended the matches which produced a record profit of £17,500--£6,000 more than taken home by the 1947 team.

SOUTH AFRICAN RESULTS

Test Matches.-- Played 5, Won l, Lost 3, Drawn 1.

First-Class Matches.--Played 30, Won 5, Lost 5, Drawn 20.

All Matches.--Played 34, Won 8, Lost 5, Drawn 21.

Wins.-- England, Glamorgan, Ireland (2), Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Somerset, Minor Counties.

Draws.-- England, Worcestershire, Yorkshire (2), Cambridge University, Gloucestershire, M. C. C., Oxford University, Nottinghamshire, Essex, Surrey, Northamptonshire, Lancashire, Combined Services, Scotland, Warwickshire, Sussex, Hampshire, Middlesex, Kent, An England XI.

Losses.-- England (3), Glamorgan, T. N. Pearce's XI.


Match reports for

Tour Match: Worcestershire v South Africans at Worcester, May 2-4, 1951
Scorecard

Tour Match: Yorkshire v South Africans at Bradford, May 5-8, 1951
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Tour Match: Cambridge University v South Africans at Cambridge, May 9-11, 1951
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Tour Match: Glamorgan v South Africans at Cardiff, May 12-15, 1951
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Tour Match: Gloucestershire v South Africans at Bristol, May 16-18, 1951
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Tour Match: Marylebone Cricket Club v South Africans at Lord's, May 19-22, 1951
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Tour Match: Oxford University v South Africans at Oxford, May 23-25, 1951
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Tour Match: Nottinghamshire v South Africans at Nottingham, May 26-29, 1951
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Tour Match: Essex v South Africans at Ilford, May 30-Jun 1, 1951
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Tour Match: Surrey v South Africans at The Oval, Jun 2-5, 1951
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1st Test: England v South Africa at Nottingham, Jun 7-12, 1951
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Northamptonshire v South Africans at Northampton, Jun 13-15, 1951
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Tour Match: Lancashire v South Africans at Manchester, Jun 16-19, 1951
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2nd Test: England v South Africa at Lord's, Jun 21-23, 1951
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Combined Services v South Africans at Portsmouth, Jun 27-29, 1951
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Tour Match: Yorkshire v South Africans at Sheffield, Jun 30-Jul 3, 1951
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3rd Test: England v South Africa at Manchester, Jul 5-10, 1951
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Ireland v South Africans at Belfast, Jul 13-14, 1951
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Tour Match: Ireland v South Africans at Dublin, Jul 16-17, 1951
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Tour Match: Derbyshire v South Africans at Derby, Jul 18-20, 1951
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Tour Match: Leicestershire v South Africans at Leicester, Jul 21-24, 1951
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4th Test: England v South Africa at Leeds, Jul 26-31, 1951
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Somerset v South Africans at Taunton, Aug 1-3, 1951
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Tour Match: Glamorgan v South Africans at Swansea, Aug 4-6, 1951
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Tour Match: Warwickshire v South Africans at Birmingham, Aug 8-10, 1951
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Tour Match: Sussex v South Africans at Hove, Aug 11-14, 1951
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5th Test: England v South Africa at The Oval, Aug 16-18, 1951
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Hampshire v South Africans at Southampton, Aug 22-24, 1951
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Tour Match: Middlesex v South Africans at Lord's, Aug 25-28, 1951
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Tour Match: Kent v South Africans at Canterbury, Aug 29-31, 1951
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Tour Match: England XI v South Africans at Hastings, Sep 1-4, 1951
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Tour Match: Minor Counties v South Africans at Lakenham, Sep 5-6, 1951
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Tour Match: TN Pearce's XI v South Africans at Scarborough, Sep 8-11, 1951
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© John Wisden & Co