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It has been stated on the best authority that the cricket tour in South Africa during the winter of 1888-89 - arranged by Major Wharton, and carried out under his direction - did not pay its expenses, but in every other sense than the financial one it was eminently successful. The cricketers were enthusiastically welcomed, and, though some of their early engagements ended unexpectedly in defeat, they repaid the welcome by playing remarkably well. In all, they took part in nineteen matches, winning thirteen, losing four, and leaving two unfinished. All the beatings were sustained in the early part of the trip, and it is no libel to say that for a time generous hospitality had a bad effect upon the cricket.
The fact has indeed been acknowledged in print by a member of the team. However, as soon as the men settled down to the serious business of their tour they did even better than might have been expected from the composition of the side, and went on from victory to victory. It was never intended, or considered necessary, to take out a representative English team for a first trip to the Cape, and certain laments which were indulged in at home when the news of the early defeats came to hand were found to be quite uncalled for. The heroes of the trip were undoubtedly Abel and Briggs, the former with the bat and Briggs with the ball literally doing marvels. Three times Abel exceeded the hundred, and his play all through was some of the best ever shown for a travelling side. Mr. J. H. Roberts, who went out with the team, was recalled to England by a domestic bereavement, and George Ulyett journeyed to the Cape to take his place. Mr. C. A. Smith, the captain of the side, and Mr. M. P. Bowden remained behind in South Africa when the tour ended.
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