English cricket team in South Africa in 1888–89

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The South African cricket team for the First Test.

The 1888-89 South African cricket season saw the first two first-class cricket matches played in South Africa. However, this designation was given many years later. The season saw the first tour by an England team that was accorded first-class status. The tour was managed by Major R. G. Warton, under whose name the team played, and captained by C. Aubrey Smith. The two games against representative South African sides were later designated as Test matches, thereby making them the first two Tests South Africa played. England won both of them easily.

The team[edit]

The English cricket team at the start of the tour.

The team consisted of seven county-standard players and five of good club standard. Harry Altham compared them to a weak English county side.

Three other players also took part in a few matches. James Roberts played in the first match then returned home owing to the death of his father. Ulyett replaced him. A. C. Skinner played only four matches, being in the team more for his value as an entertainer than as a player.[1] Major Warton played only in the final match.

The South African team was extremely weak, and these games were not recognised as Tests by England at the time. Indeed, Wisden's Cricketers Almanack noted that "it was never intended, or considered necessary, to take out a representative English team for a first trip to the Cape". The England team did, however, include some stars such as Briggs, Abel and Ulyett.

Tour overview[edit]

Although the tour is said not to have paid its expenses, it was otherwise successful. The cricketers were warmly welcomed. England were led by Aubrey Smith, who later became the most widely known of England's cricket captains as a result of becoming a Hollywood star. They played all their matches against odds, except the two that later came to be regarded as Test matches, and lost some of them too. Of the 19 games they played, they won 13, including the two Tests, losing 4 and drawing 2.

The Test matches[edit]

First Test - South Africa v England (12–13 March 1889)[edit]

Cape Colony flag.png South Africa 84 & 129 England won by 8 wickets

AB Tancred 29
CA Smith 5/19

AB Tancred 29
AJ Fothergill 4/19

St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Umpires: CR Deare and RG Warton

Flag of England.svg England 148 & 67/2

R Abel 46
A Rose-Innes 5/43

R Abel 23*
C Vintcent 1/21

Advertisement for the First Test.

In the first Test, which was played on a green matting wicket in Port Elizabeth, South African captain Owen Dunell won the toss against Aubrey Smith and chose to bat. The game did not last long: The matting wicket did not induce high scores, with England's 148 in their first innings being the highest score. Around 3,000 spectators attended the first day. The game ended at 3.30pm on the second day with a crushing win for England. Scorecard

Second Test - South Africa v England (25–26 March 1889)[edit]

Flag of England.svg England 292 England won by an innings and 202 runs

R Abel 120
WH Ashley 7/95

Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa
Umpires: JAE Hickson and RG Warton

Cape Colony flag.png South Africa 47 & 43

AB Tancred 26*
J Briggs 7/17

FW Smith 11
J Briggs 8/11

Monty Bowden became England's youngest ever Test captain aged 23 years 144 days in the Second Test at Newlands, Cape Town, replacing an injured Smith in Bowden's second and final Test. Bowden won the toss and chose to bat. 120 from opener Bobby Abel helped England to 292 all out on the first day. The South Africans then lost a quick wicket to finish day one on 2 for 1. South Africa were then totally humiliated on the second day. Johnny Briggs took 7 for 17 (six bowled) as South Africa fell to 47, although Bernard Tancred became the first batsman to carry his bat in a Test in reaching 26 not out, the only score in the innings in double figures. They then followed-on, with Briggs then taking 8 for 11 in the second innings as the hosts were all out for 43. Briggs's second innings wickets were all bowled, setting a Test record that still has not been bettered. He also set Test records for the number wickets in an innings (8) and a match (15), both later surpassed. The other two wickets were one bowled (Arnold Fothergill) and one run out, making this the only instance of 9 batsmen being bowled in a Test innings. Scorecard

Monty Bowden[edit]

Bowden died 3 years later after being trampled by his own oxen after falling from his cart (he had stayed in South Africa), possibly as a result of an epileptic fit, and he therefore may not have known he ever played Test cricket. It is said that his body, which was taken to Umtali hospital, had to be protected from marauding lions before being interred in a coffin made from old whiskey cases.

See also[edit]

External sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • H S Altham, A History of Cricket, Volume 1 (to 1914), George Allen & Unwin, 1926
  • Rowland Bowen, Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970
  • David Frith, The Golden Age of Cricket 1890-1914, Lutterworth, 1978
  • R. G. Warton, The Cricketing Record of Major Warton's Tour 1888-9, J. W. McKenzie, 1987 (facsimile edition)


  1. ^ "Tour of South Africa 1888-89". Test Cricket Tours. Retrieved 21 March 2016.