Toss: South Africa. Test debuts: England - W.Watson; South Africa - G.W.A.Chubb, D.J.McGlew, C.B.van Ryneveld, J.H.B.Waite.
A most remarkable match ended with South Africa gaining their first Test victory for sixteen years and their second in England. Between those two successes they had failed to lower the colours of England and Australia in a total of 28 Tests. Undoubtedly the hero was Nourse, the South African captain. He carried his side with a lion-hearted not out 208. Mere figures cannot convey the magnitude of Nourse's performance. His innings occupied nine and a quarter hours, and during the whole of that time he batted under a great handicap. The left thumb which he had broken at Bristol three weeks previously gave him severe pain, particularly when he tried to impart any power into his strokes, and the longer he stayed the more it swelled. Nourse declined to have an injection to relieve the pain because he feared that it might numb his hand and affect his grip.
When his long innings was over, he followed medical advice and took no further part in the match, so that South Africa were reduced to ten men in the second innings. The captaincy devolved on Eric Rowan, who enjoyed the honour of leading the team to victory in the field. Nourse's 208 was the highest individual score for South Africa in the 75 matches between the two countries -- seven weeks later Eric Rowan beat it with 236 in the Leeds Test.
Other splendid features of this match were centuries by Compton and Simpson -- the first by a Nottinghamshire player at Trent Bridge -- some grand bowling by Mann, Athol Rowan and Bedser, and magnificent close-in fielding by both sides throughout the five days.
After Nourse won the toss, South Africa occupied the crease for almost the whole of the first two days. They adopted the modern Test technique of refusing to take the slightest risk. The pitch was of the placid kind which gives not the slightest encouragement to the bowler and only three wickets fell during the first day while 239 runs were scored at an average of 40 an hour. Their batting had been so uncertain in the preliminary matches that Nourse's negative policy was reasonable. With Eric Rowan going early, South Africa were compelled to rely almost entirely on Nourse, but before he arrived two youngsters, Waite and McGlew, withstood the England bowling for one and three-quarter hours, adding 76.
Another long period elapsed before Tattersall, at square leg, picked up a hit by Nourse and ran out Waite, who batted four and three-quarters hours. Then Cheetham, by staying two hours, gave his captain valuable support. He fell on the second morning when, for the first time, Bedser acquired some lift and Cheetham gave an easy catch to forward short leg.
England waited three more hours for their next success, and in that time Nourse and Fullerton added 121 in South Africa's best stand. Nourse never relaxed his concentration, but after Bedser and Bailey took the fourth new ball at 400, the other batsmen were less cautious and following tea, taken at 410 for five wickets, the resistance was broken. Nourse was ninth to leave when Brown threw down the wicket at the bowler's end. Crisp square cuts and perfect drives past cover brought Nourse most of his twenty-five 4's.
Almost as soon as he reached the pavilion Nourse declared, leaving England to bat for five minutes on Friday evening, and in that brief spell South Africa dealt England a heavy blow by getting Ikin smartly caught at short fine leg, where McCarthy dived for the ball. So Chubb took a wicket with his second ball in Test cricket.
The cricket on Saturday went in three phases. Before lunch came a dazzling display by Simpson, who, with Hutton, put on 124, including seventeen 4's. There followed some grand off-break bowling by Athol Rowan, who began with a spell of ninety minutes before lunch and reached his peak afterwards when the scoring dropped to 37 in an hour. Simpson experienced a perilous time against Athol Rowan and also Chubb, but he stayed four and a half hours, hitting twenty-one 4's.
The third phase on Saturday belonged mainly to South Africa and succeeded a break of eighty minutes at tea-time for rain. To the surprise of many people Eric Rowan did not call immediately on his pace bowlers, McCarthy and Chubb. Half an hour elapsed, but as soon as McCarthy appeared he ended Simpson's innings. Half an hour remained for play that day, and Watson, in his first Test match, showed he possessed the right temperament by remaining with Compton, who when 45 and the total 250 was missed at the wicket off Chubb.
Throughout the match Brown adopted an enterprising policy, and particularly was this noticeable on Monday after the ground had been drenched by a thunderstorm the previous day. The heavy roller glistened with moisture, but Compton and Watson overcame the conditions and batted through the two hours before lunch, adding 93. Subsequently England risked losing wickets in going for runs. The big stand, which produced 141 in three hours, finished soon after Compton completed his hundred, Watson being beaten by sheer pace. Compton earned the distinction of hitting a century on each of his four Test appearances at Trent Bridge: 1938, 102 v. Australia; 1947, 163 v. South Africa; 1948, 184 v. Australia; 1951, 112 v. South Africa.
McCarthy paid little heed to length or direction, and, in trying to sweep a bumper off his eyebrows, Compton was caught by the wicket-keeper on the leg-side. Compton occupied five hours twenty minutes over his 112 and hit eleven 4's.
As the pitch was difficult, Brown declared with England 64 behind. Eight men were stationed close to the batsman when Bedser began the assault. It was at this stage that South Africa needed Nourse's steadying influence, for in two hours England transformed the match by dismissing five men for 99.
So the last day began with South Africa, on the face of it, possessing not the slightest chance of victory, and when, thanks to Bedser, those four remaining Springbok wickets went down in forty minutes for only 26, it looked a simple matter for England. Bedser bowled superbly in taking six wickets for 37.
England, wanting 186 in the comfortable time of five hours ten minutes, were soon made to realise that the South Africans had not given up hope of success. From the start Eric Rowan set an attacking field and Hutton and Ikin faced a salvo of bumpers from McCarthy. One of these may have accounted for Hutton's early dismissal, for soon after the Yorkshireman received a blow above the heart he gave an easy return to Athol Rowan.
England really lost the match in those sixty-five minutes before lunch, for during that period the only notable strokes were two off-drives for three by Ikin. No more than 25 runs were scored and the initiative had been snatched by South Africa. After lunch the rain-affected pitch was fully exploited by Mann and Athol Rowan, both of whom turned the ball appreciably. Compton could not rise to the occasion as he would have done in his youth and, except when Wardle indulged in some desperate hitting, the England innings was little better than a procession. The match ended at eight minutes past four when McLean, youngest member of the South African team and acting substitute, held a skier in the deep from Wardle. He threw the ball as high again in the air while his jubilant colleagues danced and leapt for joy. On the balcony Nourse paid a special tribute to Eric Rowan for his part in the victory.
The popularity of the five-day Test was reflected in the attendance. Over 100,000 people were present, of whom 92,921 paid. Receipts were £11,361.