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5th Test, Durban, March 03 - 14, 1939, England tour of South Africa
530 & 481
(T:696) 316 & 654/5

Match drawn


Stalemate in the Timeless Test

Cricinfo reports on the tenth and final day's play in the Timeless Test between South Africa and England at Durban in March 1939

Cricinfo staff
England 316 and 654 for 5 (Edrich 219, Hammond 140, Gibb 120, Paynter 75, Hutton 55) drew with South Africa 530 and 481

Preparing the pitch at the start of the tenth and final day © Cricinfo
After ten days and some 46 hours of cricket, the Timeless Test ended in the one result that few would have thought possible - a draw. The sad thing was that when rain came as the players headed off for tea, the match was at its most tantalising with England, who finished within 42 runs of victory with five wickets in hand, firmly in the driving seat.
It was clear from the start this would have to be the final day if the tour party were to be bale to undertake the 1000-mile train journey to Cape Town in time to catch their boat home on March 17. There was the added worry that rain was forecast, making the 200 runs still needed by England a difficult proposition.
South Africa, whose fielding throughout has been excellent, kept England in check in the first hour when only 39 runs were scored. Norman Gordon, who had bowled without luck, was particularly effective at limiting runs with a leg-stump line, and it was only in the second half of the session that Wally Hammond and Eddie Paynter were able to up the tempo. They took every run on offer without taking risks, and Hammond farmed the strike to good effect. The South Africans visibly wilted and heads dropped.
Alan Melville persevered with his pace attack for much of the day, as much to eat into the time available as anything.
England's target had fallen under 100 when Paynter was well caught low down by the wicketkeeper off Gordon - his first wicket of the match - but by now the weather was closing in. Hammond kept attacking in between two brief interruptions for rain, until, chasing quick runs, he danced down the pitch to try to loft Eric Dalton back over his head and was stumped. His innings has lasted almost six hours and yet contained only seven fours. His attitude appeared to be that if he stayed, England would win. The runs would come as a consequence, and he was outstanding at placing the ball for the single.

The scoreboard at the end of the Timeless Test © Cricinfo
Les Ames was equally cavalier as the clouds darkened, Bryan Valentine should have been stumped off his first ball when he too was beaten by Dalton, and as the players headed off for tea, the heavens opened. The rain eased off after the interval but as the players trooped back down the pavilion steps, it started pouring again. This time there was little chance of a resumption.
The captains consulted and, for a time, it seemed as if the MCC management and South African board were considering extending the game to the Wednesday lunchtime, what would have been the 11th day. There was even talk that the squad could go on and leave the two not-out batsmen and the four yet to bat behind to play on, or even that a plane could be chartered to replace the train.
But England had to be on the train leaving Durban at 8.05pm in order to catch the Athlone Castle and so the game had to be abandoned as a draw.
Stats and Trivia
  • At ten days, this was the longest first-class match in history
  • A record 5,463 deliveries were bowled in the match
  • Wally Hammond hit his 21st Test hundred, equalling the record of Don Bradman
  • No previous Test had ever produced as many as 16 fifties by both teams
  • Each side in the Test scored over 900 runs - South Africa 1,011, England 970
  • This was the biggest aggregate of runs in any first-class match, 1,981
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