Plum Warner and Jack Crawford walk out to start the innings in the second Test at Old Wanderers. Photo courtesy: T Brittain, Johannesburg

March 8, 1906. Having won their first Test after 16 years of perseverance, South Africa immediately made it a double. The googly bowlers were on a spree for the second time running as the Englishmen were once again trounced at Old Wanderers, Johannesburg. And then there was the big all-rounder Jimmy Sinclair. Arunabha Sengupta recalls the day Plum Warner and his men surrendered to the fascinating variety of South Africa.

The Great Hiatus

Those were the days for the touring sides.

After the first Test had been decided in those spectacular moments of suspense, the MCC cricketers travelled for two months, playing relatively easy side matches while enjoying the excursions, sights and lavish hospitality around the southern subcontinent.

They went up from Johannesburg to Pretoria, eastwards to Durban, then down to Pietermaritzburg, further East London on the south east coast, to King William’s Town, moving on to Queenstown, down to Craddock via Stromberg and Rosmead, an all-night journey to Grahamstown, and then another all-nighter to Port Elizabeth. There followed a long and tiring journey to Oudtshoorn, a match with the local XXII, and a drive out to explore the caves and ostrich farms. Finally, the cricketers boarded a train on Tuesday morning and reached Johannesburg three days later to prepare for the second Test.

It was only Natal who had played well enough to challenge them. In fact, so well did they play at Durban that after the four-wicket loss to the tourists they were asked to contest a return match at Pietermaritzburg. The odds encounter originally planned at the latter venue was cancelled and another hard fought game ended in yet another four-wicket win for MCC.

The Test began on Tuesday, and hence the cricketers spent some time at the splendid premises of the new Carlton Hotel, with the grand suites and army of cooks and waiters obtained from Europe. Plum Warner was the guest of Julius Jeppe, another of the great Randlords, who entertained the captain in his beautiful house, with its magnificent South African library and museum full of animal heads.

The first capitulation

The weather and wicket were not so hospitable. Thunderstorms greeted the tourists on the morning of the Test, and at one time play seemed quite out of question. However, at 11.30 the rain stopped and the sandy ground of Old Wanderers dried quickly enough to enable a start at two in the afternoon.

Since the matting was not laid down until the match was about to start, it remained dry. However, the sandy soil underneath had been rendered wet and slow. The ball came off slower than usual on that kind of surface. The outfield, especially at the edge of the ring on the side of the pavilion, was also sluggish. Warner won the toss and decided to bat.

The amiable captain did create a stir when he requested the chosen South African umpire Walter Richards to be replaced. Reuters reported that this excited ‘a good deal of adverse comment’. However, Abe Bailey was at hand, that great financier of South African cricket. The organisers declared that they ‘did not wish that Mr Warner should go back to England and state that the reason he lost the second Test was through the umpire’. Hence, Frank Smith was asked to don the white coat alongside the itinerant Australian ‘Dimboola Jim’ Phillips.

Young Jack Crawford was having a whale of a time on his first tour. Having just turned 20, he had enjoyed himself thoroughly during the 2500 miles worth of train journeys across the subcontinent. At Queenstown, an odds match notwithstanding, his batting had been brilliant as he had compiled 212. “A noteworthy performance by a grown man, but in the case of a boy just 19, it was extraordinary,” his captain had observed. Warner had got everything right about that but for the age. Crawford had moved into his 20s just a couple of months before the mammoth knock.

At Oudtshoorn, he had bowled 14.4 overs at the South-Western District XXII and captured 13 wickets for 33 in the first innings. He was on a roll.

Hence Warner, who had not been feeling too well before the Test, decided to capitalise on this great tide in the affairs of the young man. He asked him to open the innings with him. The youngster rose to the occasion, batting patiently for nearly 100 minutes. But the experienced top order batsmen did not quite support him.

The conditions induced captain Percy Sherwell to open with pace rather than turning directly to his battalion of googly bowlers. Warner was made to hurry by a short, quick bumping delivery from the medium paced Stan Snooke and was well caught by Gordon White at slip. Dave Denton, in excellent form, misjudged the pace of the wicket and checked his drive to be caught and bowled by the big all-rounder Jimmy Sinclair.

The googly bowlers, who had wreaked so much havoc in the first Test, were not even pressed into action and England were already two down.

Frederick Fane started well, looking confident, and skipper Sherwell signalled from behind the stump. Young Aubrey Faulkner was the first of the wrist spinners to come on. Fane drove at one, it travelled fast and low, and Faulkner got his right hand down in time to hold on to a fantastic return catch.

28 for 3. After the loss in the first Test this was not exactly the start England were looking for. Leo Moon, the debutant, was looking extremely uncomfortable. Only young Crawford was batting with a certain degree of poise, taking the fight to the South Africans.

The score had progressed uncertainly to 62 when Crawford finally ran out of patience. Reggie Schwarz, as was his style, was bowling only googlies. Crawford launched at one and was caught on the long on boundary.

At the other end Bert Vogler showed that googly bowlers could turn it the normal way as well. Capt. Teddy Wynyard found a ball pitching outside the leg-stump and hitting off. Think Mike Gatting and Shane Warne.

All-rounder Albert Relf and Moon, beaten profusely and often, slowly added a few runs. But the South Africans had plenty of variety to fall back on. As the score inched beyond 100, the astute Sherwell brought Sinclair back. Moon fell to one that nipped back at him. On his debut, he had top-scored with 30.

Soon, Relf snicked a big leg-break from Faulkner and again White held a smart catch. In the next over Sinclair charged in to peg back wicketkeeper Jack Broad’s stumps.

Schofield Haigh stepped down the wicket to Faulkner and was caught brilliantly at long on by Christopher Hathorn. In his second Test Faulkner was not bowling as well as in the first, handicapped by the slowness of the surface. But he did do a decent job of bowling at the spot, and his quickness through the air prevented the batsmen from getting after him.

It was now111 for 9. The Englishmen were really embarrassing themselves.

They were saved from total humiliation by the last pair. Walter Lees threw his bat about and somehow kept connecting, hitting five boundaries in half an hour’s determined resistance. Colin Blythe, the great Kent left-arm spinner, also managed to survive for 25 minutes before falling to a massive googly from Schwarz. The 37 runs added by the last pair took England to a slightly more respectable 148. South Africa had knocked off four of the runs by stumps.

Sinclair’s knock

To make the conditions nearly equivalent, there was another heavy thunderstorm that night. When play began the following morning at 11, the outfield was as slow and the wicket in almost the same condition.

Warner opened with Lees and Blythe, the former bowling his heart out while the latter a bit off his usual accuracy. Both Louis Tancred and Walter Shalders were missed in the slips off difficult chances. Tancred was not quite at his best, but managed to carry on. Shalders, in excellent form, was batting really well. The score kept mounting and after trying Haigh for a few overs, Warner finally turned to Crawford with the South Africans on 70 for no loss.

And in his first over Crawford came in off a longer run, broke the ball in, bowled Shalders off his pad and hit the stumps of Tancred with a vicious break back.

In the Crawford family album there is a newspaper cutting that describes his feat. “Crawford coming on at 70 for the first time bowled both these batsmen out.” Next to this sentence are a pair of blue exclamation marks, scrawled on the margin. It was the handiwork of a grumpy Crawford senior, sitting 6000 miles away. According to Crawford’s biographer Michael Burns, “(he displayed) with pen and Waterman’s ink his frustration that his son was not brought on earlier.”

Nevertheless, the lad was not really given a long run with the ball. In the defence of Warner it must be said that he was proving expensive after those two early wickets. Dave Nourse and Gordon White, the batting heroes of the first Test, were at the crease and in great form. The score had reached 100 when Nourse slashed at Haigh to be caught at slip by Denton. Lunch was taken at 119 for 3.

With the match slipping away fast, it was a more determined attack after the break. Relf and Lees combined to send down some thoughtful, tight overs. White, batting with some luck till then, was bowled by Relf for 21. Hathorn was run out after a misunderstanding with Faulkner. Half the side was out for 133, the batsmen had all got starts and not gone on to make the big score. England seemed to be clawing their way back into the game.

However, now the big Sinclair walked out to turn the match with a fast and furious innings.

According to Warner’s assessment, the all-rounder could hardly play every ball according to the merit it deserved. If he had hit a big one, he would continue in the same manner, whatever be the quality of bowling. Nevertheless, he had scored the only Test hundreds for South Africa till then, and there had been three of them, a lot of the runs in each of the innings being scored by big hits. And on this day he managed a couple of huge strikes, one right into the cycle track.

Faulkner was caught at slip off Lees for 17, but by then South Africa had taken a healthy lead. Snooke came in to play some delightful strokes, two leg glances off Crawford being especially delectable. In some ways, Snooke’s 24 was the most pleasing knock of the day, but at the other end Sinclair was going hammer and tongs.

After tea Haigh produced a steady spell of bowling, and castled Snooke for 24, but by then the lead stood at 84. Sinclair made a few more hits even as Haigh picked up regular wickets. Sherwell, who had played a winning hand from No 11 in the first Test, got some useful runs from No 10 this time.

Blythe finally got Sinclair, beating him in the air as he stepped out a tad too often. But the big all-rounder had scored 66 crucial runs. By the time Vogler was bowled by Haigh to end the innings, South Africa led by 129.  Haigh’s late success had got him figures of 4 for 64.

The day had ended with the fall of the last wicket. And hence the English opening batsmen walked out on a new day to make a match out of it.

The second capitulation

According to Warner they had all been determined to die hard. ‘But the goddess who presides over cricket loves to upset our calculations’.

It was not the googly bowlers, not the quick bowling of Sinclair, but the medium paced Snooke who took the fight out of them. The first ball from this Western Province all-rounder bowled Warner off his pads. No. 3 Denton was next, edging Snooke to Sherwell. Crawford tried to hit his way out of trouble and edged a fierce cut that also went to Sherwell.

Barely 20 minutes into the morning and England were three down for 19, all to Snooke.

It was Sinclair’s turn now. Moon dabbed at one, the edge flew low, and Sherwell flung himself to bring off a splendid catch. 25 for 4. After top-scoring in the first innings, the debutant was out for a duck in the second.

Fane and Wynyard put up a gallant fight. The former struck firmly on the off-side, the latter hit to the leg. The googly bowlers came on, and Wynyard chopped Faulkner to the boundary. Fane was dropped at slip and by Sherwell, both difficult chances. But he carried on, making runs with deft placements.

For an hour and a quarter they scored at nearly a run a ball. Schwarz was tried and then Nourse. The batsmen kept on scoring runs. And Sherwell, perhaps losing count of the limitless resources at his disposal, had kept Vogler away from attack.

Now he was brought on and Wynyard pushed his third ball back to the bowler. 97 for 5. Wynyard gone for 30.

After the lunch break, Fane and Relf staged another valiant resistance. The googly bowlers were neutralised for a while, the runs were coming. Once again Sherwell changed the tactics, summoned Sinclair. The fast bowler used the drag, the ball dropped suddenly and Fane played over it. He was bowled for 65.

And with the tail in, Schwarz made literal fools of batsmen. The last four wickets toppled soon, Schwarz, the pioneering googly bowler of South Africa, accounting for all of them. Sinclair, after his splendid all-round show, now stopped ball after ball at mid-off. England were all out for 160. South Africa needed just 32 to win.

The runs were knocked off for the loss of just one wicket. The hosts had won their second consecutive Test. England had been routed by the googly bowlers on matting, and had been vanquished by a lot with bristling all-round talent. They could bat till the last man, most of them could do something or the other with the ball. And they were an excellent lot in the field.

The Englishmen accepted the defeat as inevitable. The first Test had been a glorious contest with the tourists looking likely to win till the very last few minutes. Here they had been thoroughly outplayed.

Warner and his men just dusted themselves, got on the motorcars of Mr Greathead of Witwatersrand and drove down to the Chinese compound of the Simmer and Jack Mine.

 Brief Scores:

England 148 (Jimmy Sinclair 3 for 35, Aubrey Faulkner 3 for 38) and 160 (Frederick Fane 65; Sibley Snooke 3 for 40, Reggie Schwarz 4 for 30) lost to South Africa 277 (Jimmy Sinclair 66; Schofield Haigh 4 for 64) and 33 for 1 by 9 wickets.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history of cricket, with occasional statistical pieces and reflections on the modern game. He is also the author of four novels, the most recent being Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes. He tweets here.)