St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

The Matches St George's Park - 1888/89 - The First Test
1888/89 - The First Test

When Major Warton's English team planned their 1888-89 tour of South Africa, Port Elizabeth applied for a representative game.

Click image to enlarge
The South African Team who lost the first Test match in 1889.
Back: A R Innes, A B Tancred, C E Finlason, C H Vintcent, F W Smith.
Middle: C Deare (Umpire) P Hutchinson, O R Dunell, W H Milton
Front: A E Ochse, R B Stewart, G A Kempis

Although other tests were played before the Port Elizabeth match, they had more than eleven players per side. The test played in Port Elizabeth is generally considered to be the first in South Africa, because for the first time, both sides had eleven players.

Major Warton
As one of the two acknowledged cricket centres in the country, Port Elizabeth was granted a Test Match.

Feverish preparations were made for the match to take place in March, 1889. Even as late as January of that year, F E Geoghegan, the Hon. Secretary of the club, was advising the Town Council that the ground was "inadequate for cricket purposes and recent experience has also shown the necessity for space for additional seating accommodation when important matches are being played".

As usual the Town Council co-operated and everything was ship-shape as the great day dawned.

The Tourists were captained by C Aubrey Smith, later to become a famous actor, who was knighted for his services to the Theatre. Cricket was his passionate interest, but at this stage he was merely "Mr C A Smith, Cambridge University and Sussex". He was a tail-ender as a batsman and was known as "Round-the-corner" Smith because of his peculiar run-up when he bowled.

He could have had no inkling then of the lovely cricket ground he was to preside over in Los Angeles half a century later when he was to keep the flame of cricket alive in California.

His team, of course, had carried all before them in a triumphant tour. Most of the matches were played against 15, 18 or even 22 opponents in conditions which would seem unbelievable today. But the last two games were now to be contested on even terms against the full strength of South Africa.

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Newspaper advert for first Test Match between England and South Africa.
It was just thirteen years to the very week since the first Test between England and Australia had been played in Melbourne. One member of the English team, George Ulyett (Happy Jack), had the distinction of playing in both contests.

It was a memorable moment when Smith and his team walked out to field in the match on that sunny day in St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, on March 12, 1889, marking the start of the historic first cricket Test in South Africa. Appropriately, it was played on the ground of the oldest cricket club in the country.

The honour of bowling the first ball of the first International Test on South African soil fell on Johnny Briggs, a spin bowler.

C Aubrey Smith
The newspaper report of the two-day game was almost a ball-by-ball account, laced with many unusual and amusing expressions.

It said "the weather was most favourable for cricket" and referred to England as "the invading team". After recording that "great things were expected of our South African cracks", it mentioned that "with the exception of Hutchinson (Natal) and Ochse (Free State), all the members of the team were well known to the cricketing public".

The South African captain, Dunell (a Port Elizabeth player) won the toss "and elected to go in", the opening batsmen and England team "meeting with a warm ovation on leaving the pavilion”. It was fitting that the great game began with A R Innes, of the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, facing an over (a maiden over) from the redoubtable Johnny Briggs, of Lancashire, who on this tour had the fantastic figures of 294 wickets in all matches at 5.15 apiece!

Fothergill, who "had charge of the leather from the other end", bowled a maiden to Tancred. The second ball of Briggs's second over "proved too hot for lnnes who was cleaned bowled" for a duck.

Hutchinson "fell a victim to the next ball from the Lancastrian", and two wickets were down for no runs. Vintcent played "the tail ball of the over" to avert a hat-trick, but was soon bowled for nought. The excitement was "intense".

Click image to enlarge
The first English team to travel to South Africa in 1888/89.
Back: J H Roberts, M Read, F Hearne, J Briggs
Middle: A J Fothergill, H Wood, Major Warton, CA Smith (captain), Hon C J Coventry, B A F Grieve.
Front: E McMaster, MP Bowden, A C Skinner, R Abel

When Tancred, of Kimberley, "drove Fothergill along the turf for a couple, the spectators were glad to avail themselves of an opportunity to let loose some of the pent up excitement".

When the total reached ten, the spectators "acknowledged the successful efforts of the batsmen", and "a storm of applause, was accorded the young Free Stater (Ochse) as he got Fothergill prettily away to leg for a triplet."

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An advertisement that appeared in the Eastern Province Herald on March 18, 1889.

With the score 17 for the loss of five wickets, "some slow play ensued, broken only by the antics of little Johnnie" (Briggs).

Then Tancred "squared his shoulders and cut the bowler beautifully to the ropes". The lunch break came with the total 53, the not out batsmen being Tancred (24) and Dunell (14).

After lunch, "the Kimberley crack" (Tancred) who had opened the innings, was bowled when he had top score of 29. He "was met with a warm reception at the pavilion" when the total was 58 for six wickets.

The end of South Africa's first innings came at 3 o'clock with the total 84 and Dunell 26 not out. Only he, Tancred and extras (10) reached double figures, four of the batsmen being out for ducks. The report said the "fine resistance offered by Tancred and Dunell saved an inglorious defeat" in the first innings.

Three English bowlers shared the wickets, Smith taking five, Briggs four and Fothergill one. England's first innings did not start well, Ulyett "succumbing to a fearfully hot one from the Natal bowler" (Kempis) when the score was only 10.

Referring to fielding by the South Africans, the report said "a quick pick up and return by Innes called for loud applause", while "a clean piece of fielding by Charlie Vintcent was acknowledged with thanks".

Abel, who had opened the innings, "was joined by Briggs and saluted the popular pro by driving Kempis for a couple".

Both Briggs and Aubrey Smith went out cheaply to catches and when Abel was dismissed for 46, England's score had slumped to 87 for eight wickets only three runs ahead of South Africa's first innings.

A B Tancred
Abel, "the little Surrey professional, was loudly cheered on returning to the pavilion".

The tail-enders, including the Etonian, the Hon C J Coventry (12), batted well, "the century being received in the usual manner" when Grieve scored three from a cut.

Although Innes, who had a good spell of bowling, "sent dawn an over of hot ones", there was a last wicket stand. Grieve "let out at the bowler and drove him square to the ropes".

The No 11 batsman, Fothergill, scored 32, Grieve being 14 not out, and England's innings closed for 148 a few minutes before it was time to draw stumps.

The wickets were taken by Innes (5), Kempis (3) and Milton (1).

Click image to enlarge
The First Ball bowled at the first Test match ever played by South Africa.
The news report of the next day's play noted that "the South African team began its second innings with a dead weight of 64 - the difference in the first innings of the two XIs".

However, it said "the South African outlook was very bright at the beginning" as, Tancred and Innes, who opened the innings, "appeared to have collared the bowling". Innes "bashed the bowler to the ropes" and "21 runs were put together before a separation was effected", Innes being bowled for 11 by Smith.

Tancred "had a life at the wickets, the keeper seemingly being out of it". The champion acknowledged the favour by putting three on to his score. "He went on to make 29, the same score as in the first innings. The lunch break was taken with South Africa's total 67 for four wickets, Hutchinson being not out at 11.After lunch Smith, the English captain, "had charge of the leather at the south end" and bowled Hutchinson with his first ball. The report comments on the fielding of the English player Wood, "picking up and returning with wonderful rapidity".

South Africa's second innings ended with 129 runs on the scoreboard, Fothergill taking four wickets and Briggs, Smith and Ulyett two each.

England had to make 66 to win outright.

Vintcent "trundled a maiden to the Surrey professional" (Abel), who opened the tourists' second innings with Ulyett, and Kempis bowled "a scorcher", but Abel (25 not out) and Ulyett (22) gave their team a good start.

England scored 67 for the loss of two wickets, thus winning the historic Test match by eight wickets.

The team from England had a triumphant tour, being unbeaten even though it played against teams consisting of 15, 18 or even 22 opponents in most of the matches. Just prior to the first Test it played an Eastern Province XV and won easily by eight wickets.

The scores were Eastern Province 113 and 154, England XI 159 and 111 for two wickets. Here is the full score-card:

South Africa
A R Innes, b Briggs
A B Tancred
CH Vintcent, c Abel, b Briggs
P Hutchinson, b Briggs
E Ochse, c Abel, b Briggs ...
W H Milton, c Abel, b Fothergill
0 R Dunell, not out
R B Stewart, Ibw, b Smith ...
F W Smith, b Smith
C E Finlason, b Smith
G A Kempis, c Hearne, b Smith
-b Smith
-c and b Briggs
-c and b Ulyett
-b Smith
-Ibw, b Fothergill
-c Bowden, b Briggs
-c and b Ulyett
-c Ulyett, b Fothergill
-b Fothergill
-b Fothergill
-not out

Abel, c Milton, b Innes
Ulyett, b Kempis
Read, c Dunell, b Kempis
Hearne, c Stewart, b Innes
Wood, c Hutchinson, b Innes
M P Bowden, run out
Briggs, c Srziith, b Innes
C A Smith, c Stewart, b Kempis
B A F Grieve, not out
Hon. C J Coventry, c Smith, b Innes
Fothergill, c Tanered, b Milton
-not out
-b Vintcent
-b Kempis

-not out

Total for 2 Wickets



Briggs bowled 2 wides.

 Overs Mdns RunsWktsOversMdnsRunsWkts
Finlason3 070   
Finlason bowled 1 wide

After the first Test in Port Elizabeth, the tour ended with a Test at Newlands, Cape Town, during which England overwhelmed South Africa, winning by an innings and 202 runs. Bobby Abel, the Surrey professional, whose 46 was the highest score in the first Test, made 120 at Newlands, the first century in first-class cricket in South Africa.

The ball used in this match, a product of beautiful craftsmanship, has passed into the possession of the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club and is proudly displayed in the Club House.

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