Making his debut in the same Test as England's Ken Barrington, Trevor Goddard had the distinction of opening both the batting and the bowling for Jack Cheetham's team to England in 1955. As luck would have it, that Trent Bridge Test was not an auspicious one for the tourists - they lost by an innings and five runs - but as the series progressed, the willowy Natal allrounder found his range.

In the second Test, at Lord's, he took four for 59 and three for 96 (including the wickets of Tom Graveney and Denis Compton), and in Manchester he shared in an opening stand of 147 with Jackie McGlew, scoring a careful 62.

Bowling left-arm over at just a shade above medium pace to a strong leg-side field, Goddard's moment in the sun unfolded at Leeds, in the fourth Test. South Africa had won by three wickets in Manchester (McGlew, Johnny Waite and Paul Winslow scored centuries in their first innings), and although they sacrificed a first innings lead of 20 at Leeds, they prospered in their second, scoring 500.

Needing 481 to win batting last, England stumbled in the chase, although initially appearing to be well set at 160 for 3. Matters were complicated for the tourists in that Peter Heine, taking the first over of the final morning from the Kirkstall Lane end, found "the foothold too awkward and dangerous and consequently he did not bowl at all on the last day," as Norman Preston reported in the 1956 Wisden.

Bowling unchanged from 11:30 am to 4:12 pm, bar lunch, Goddard stepped into the breach, taking 5 for 69 in 62 overs, 37 of which were maidens. He accounted for Doug Insole and Compton, while, bowling from the other end, Hugh Tayfield took five of his own. South Africa won the Test by 224 runs to square the series, losing the fifth Test at the Oval to go down 3-2.

Goddard, who turned 24 when the South Africans played Glamorgan in early August that year, took 25 wickets in the series, one fewer than Tayfield in an almost identical number of overs. In its summary of the tour, alongside adverts for Nettlefolds Cricket Spikes and the famous "Plefix" cricket cap ("As worn by leading teams throughout the country") Wisden dubbed Goddard South Africa's "best all-rounder".

Tall, athletic, and a fine slip fielder, Goddard slotted easily into the sometimes dour South African template of the period. Then again, under Cheetham and McGlew, their fielding was frequently exceptional and the roundhead philosophy was often enlivened by the free-spirited antics of cavaliers like Roy McLean (who scored a century at Lord's) and Winslow.

The national selectors argued hollowly that the captaincy was affecting his batting and asked him to resign after the series loss, which he refused to do; in the stalemate, Peter van der Merwe was made captain and Goddard declared himself unavailable to tour England in 1965

Still, Goddard's innate caution was difficult to shake. After scoring a first-innings 90 - including the almost unheard-of achievement of a six - in the first Test against Ian Craig's Australians in 1957-58, he carried his bat for 56 at Newlands in the second. Behind by 240 runs on the first innings, South Africa were forced to follow-on. They got rolled for 99 by Richie Benaud and Lindsay Kline, with four ducks and only one score (besides Goddard's) of double figures, to lose by an innings and 141 runs.

It was an unhappy series for both South Africa and Goddard, as the hosts lost 3-0. He struggled against both Benaud and Ian Meckiff, and didn't find as much juice in the generally flatter South African pitches as he had on the personally successful '55 tour of England. With his wicket-taking ability declining, so shrank his confidence with the bat. After narrowly missing his first Test century in the first Test at the Wanderers, and the heroics of Newlands, his scores for the rest of the series were: 45, 9, 0, 17, 33.

His one and only Test century took a further seven years, and came against England in the home series of 1964-65. Chasing the series because they lost the opening Test by an innings in Durban, Goddard scored a second-innings century in the fourth Test, at the Wanderers. Though he scored 405 runs in the series at 40.50, the Kingsmead defeat was to cost Goddard dear. The national selectors argued hollowly that the captaincy was affecting his batting and asked him to resign after the series loss, which he refused to do; in the stalemate, Peter van der Merwe was made captain and Goddard declared himself unavailable to tour England in 1965, an otherwise sour note in a dignified career. In his autobiography many years later, Eddie Barlow, Goddard's opening partner at the time, found the decision to strip Goddard of the captaincy spineless and peculiar. "This was no way to treat a very decent man who had given all for his country and shown great skill in nurturing a young team," he wrote.

With or without Goddard, the South Africans were playing under a new sign. With Graeme and Peter Pollock, the ebullient Barlow and the fearless Denis Lindsay in their midst, the team had been buoyed by same swashbuckling cricket in Australia in 1963-64. Although they lost the home series to England the following season, the next five years were days of diamonds and gold for South African cricket.

By then Goddard was a fading force, but it was he, more than any other, who was the hinge between the old and the new. He served Cheetham and McGlew's teams with pride and courage, and he ushered in the age of revolution a decade later, a curiously selfless man often half-glimpsed through the deeds of others.

Luke Alfred is a journalist based in Johannesburg