Martin Chandler | 7:26am BST 12 May 2019
When peace returned after the end of World War Two the South Africans were next in England in 1947, a glorious summer in which legend has it the sun never stopped shining, and Denis Compton and Bill Edrich never stopped scoring runs. England won the Test series 3-0 before huge and enthusiastic crowds. Paper was still in short supply, but John Arlott published Gone to the Cricket, and twenty years later reprised the series in a new book, Vintage Summer.
In 1948/49 Arlott accompanied the first post war England tourists to South Africa. Apartheid was deeply offensive to Arlott’s liberal values and he never returned to the Cape, but he did write Gone With the Cricketers, the only account of a series in which George Mann emulated his father by leading England to a series victory.
The normal pattern of tours was then interrupted as the next two series both took place in England, in 1951 and 1955. South African cricket was at a low ebb in 1951 and they duly lost that series 2-1, but not before a heroic performance from Dudley Nourse took the first Test. The only account of the series in book form came from South African journalist Cyril Medworth. Noursemen in England is an interesting and well written account.
By 1955 the wartime paper restrictions were gone and tour books were in vogue. In an exciting series England went 2-0 up, were pegged back and then won the final Test to take the series 3-2. Peter May led England for the first time and his opposite number was Jack Cheetham. There were as many as three books on the series. Cheetham’s own I Declare is probably the best, but Norman Cutler’s Behind the South African Tests and Bruce Harris’s England Versus South Africa 1955 were also published.
The next English visit to South Africa came in 1956/57, and another exciting series saw England go 2-0 in front before being pegged back. There were four books this time. Two were by South Africans, player Roy McLean and writer Charles Fortune. On the English side EW ‘Jim” Swanton went into print, but by a distance the best account came from Alan Ross, Cape Summer and the Australians in England a book which,as its title suggests, deals with the 1956 Ashes summer as well.
By 1960 Tour books were on the wane, but there were still three on the subject of South Africa’s disappointing 3-0 defeat that summer. The contribution from a South African player was from John Waite, and his countryman Charles Fortune also wrote an account of the series. The best account was from Arlott, whose Cricket Journal 3 is a wide ranging and interesting account.
By the end of the 1960s, by which time the South Africans were all but lost to Test cricket, the Springboks were an immensely powerful side. They were well on the way to becoming that when England visited in 1964/65 and, to the surprise of some, secured a 1-0 victory. No English writer went into print with a tour book, but Fortune did, as did former star batsman Jackie McGlew.
In 1965 the South Africans came to England for the second part of the first ever twin tour English summer and, thanks to a famous innings from Graeme Pollock, had their revenge for the defeat a few months earlier. There was no book on the tour and, sadly, that proved to be that. England were due to tour South Africa in 1968/69, but the D’Oliveira Affair put a stop to that and, although it took a long time for the MCC to accept it, the 1970 South African tour of England was never going to happen. They aren’t tour books of course, but on that topic two contemporary books, Peter Hain’s Don’t Play With Apartheid and Derek Humphry’s The Cricket Conspiracy are both well worth a read.
And that was that until, in 1994, the new rainbow nation visited these shores for their first Tests against England for 29 years. With a thumping victory for the visitors in the first of the three matches, and Devon Malcolm’s astonishing spell that tied the series at the Oval a tour book might have created some interest and indeed there was one, published in South Africa and written by pace bowler Fanie De Villiers – the problem with it is it is written in Afrikaans.
And that, realistically, is it. A Year On – Hansie and the Boys by Rod Hartman deals in part with the South Africans visit to England in 1998, and Graeme Smith’s A Captain’s Diary 2007-2009 contains an account of South Africa’s visit a decade on. A particularly tenuous one, of that ilk, is Alec Stewart’s diary of the 1998/99 Ashes tour which, when it was released in paperback a year later, had added to it a chapter dealing with England’s 1999/2000 trip to South Africa. Those apart anyone interested in recent series will have too look at Wisden, The Cricketer and other periodicals or the autobiographies of those concerned.
Finally I will make mention of one slightly different book, The Springboks at Cricket, by Samuel Canynge Caple, published in 1960. In a bulky book Canynge Caple takes an extended look at every Test played between the two countries to the end of the 1956/57 series, including therefore those tours looked at in Part 1 of this article which otherwise do not have a record in print.
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