Eric Londesbrough Dalton
December 02, 1906, Durban, Natal
June 03, 1981, Westridge, Durban, Natal, (aged 74y 183d)
Right hand bat
Eric Dalton, who died in Durban on June 3, 1981, aged 74, was one of the finest allround sportsmen produced by South Africa between the wars. Considered fortunate to have been picked for the 1929 South African cricket tour to England, with only nine first-class matches behind him, in which he had limited success, Dalton, by late-summer, was giving every sign of developing into a very good, attacking, middle-order batsman. Against Kent at Canterbury, towards the end of August, he scored 157 and 116 not out, followed by 102 and 44 not out against Sussex at Hove and 59 against Sir Julien Cahn's XI at West Bridgford. On returning to South Africa, Dalton quickly established himself as an extremely fine cricketer. He was an automatic choice for the South African tour to Australasia in 1931-32, where he averaged 32.41 with the bat, his best score being 100 against Tasmania at Launceston. He played in two Tests in Australia and two in New Zealand, in the first of which, at Christchurch, he made 82. By the end of the 1934-35 season he had become one of South Africa's most reliable batsmen, having averaged 54.76 in first-class matches since returning from New Zealand. His bowling, too, came on tremendously during this period: in 1934-35 he captured 25 wickets at 19.08 each with his leg-breaks.
The value of having taken him to England in 1929, when only 22, was reflected in his performances on his return there in 1935. So well did he play that by the end of the tour he had scored 1,446 runs at an average of 37.07, including his First Test hundred at The Oval. With the wickets of Wyatt and Hammond in England's first innings he also contributed valuably to South Africa's famous victory at Lord's, their first over England in England. Despite a decline in form over the next couple of years, he was back to his best for the visit of W. R. Hammond's MCC side to South Africa in 1938-39, averaging 44 in the Test series, including 102 in the First Test at Johannesburg (the last Test hundred to be scored by a South African at the old Wanderers Ground), and, for good measure, hitting 110 for Natal against the Englishmen at Pietermaritzburg and three times taking the important wicket of Hammond, once in the First Test and twice ( stumped) in the timeless fifth. His ninth-wicket partnership of 137 with A. B. C. Langton, against England at The Oval in 1935, still stood as a record when South Africa last played Test cricket.
After two post-war seasons for Natal, Dalton concentrated on golf, a game which he also played with great distinction for many years, winning the South African Amateur Championship in 1950 and representing them in the first Commonwealth Tournament at St Andrew's in 1954. He had taken to golf in Australia in 1931-32 when, having had his jaw broken in the match after making his hundred against Tasmania, he was unable for some weeks to play cricket. His mentor at the time was Ivo Whitton, who, as an amateur, won a record number of Australian Open Championships. Dalton was also a fine bowls player, hard to beat at both tennis and table tennis, an accomplished pianist and the possessor of a fine baritone voice. He led many a sing-song on board the Kenilworth Castle, bound for England in 1929. A lovable character, he made the most of his many talents.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
ONE of those South Africans who have excelled at several sports, as if born to them, Eric Londesbrough Dalton, who died in Durban on June 3, at the age of 74, toured England twice before the war, as well as Australasia once, playing in 15 Test matches. His first was during the 1929 England tour, when he gave a glimpse of things to come right at the end, following his maiden first-class century with another in the second innings against Kent, and stringing a third to them in the next match at Hove. His first major contribution to a Test match came 21/2 years later, at Christchurch, when he scored 82 in South Africa's first-ever Test against New Zealand; but it was the final Test of the 1935 series in England which proclaimed him as truly a Test cricketer. Going in at No. 8, he hit 117 in 140 minutes, and added a record 137 in 70 minutes for the ninth wicket with 'Chud' Langton after early discomfort against Walter Robins' leg-spin. The stand helped shut England out, and South Africa sailed away with their first victory against England secure, having won at Lord's (when Dalton, a change bowler, dismissed Hammond and Wyatt).
He made 1446 runs at 37 on that 1935 tour, with 117 against Essex before the Oval Test as his other century, and he finished next to Bruce Mitchell in the Test averages. When England returned a visit three years later, Dalton made 102 in the opening Test, the last Springbok century at the old Wanderers ground, Johannesburg. He achieved nothing else of note until the final Test at Durban, his birthplace, when the 10-day 'timeless Test' produced 1981 runs, 57 of them from Dalton's bat in the first innings. Curiously, he had Hammond stumped in both innings, taking his dismissals of the great Englishman to four out of his total of 12 Test wickets.
Eric Dalton had a modest tour of Australia in 1931-32, having cause to remember in particular the Queensland match, when he bagged a pair, and the lovely island of Tasmania, where he scored his only century of the tour in the first match and then, going in on a hat-trick, had his jaw broken in two places by an ugly delivery from Laurie Nash. He did, though, have a long stand with Herby Taylor at Sydney, where he scored 87 against NSW. The injury compelled him to have his jaw wired up for a month, a pair of pliers handy at all times in case of emergency.
Dalton, who played for Natal, was also an accomplished soccer player, golfer (South African amateur champion 1950), lawn tennis and table tennis player, and bowls exponent. His first-class cricket career extended from 1924 to 1947, in which time he made 5333 runs at 33.12, with 13 centuries, the highest 157. His Test record was not far behind: 698 runs at 31.72, with those two admirable centuries off English bowling.
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