St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

The Matches St George's Park - 1888/9 - Natal Tour
1888/9 - Natal Tour

Nowadays, touring teams are virtually an everyday occurrence, so much so, that we hardly bat an eyelid. Sometime teams come and go without us even being aware of the fact that they were even here.

But it wasn't so in the old, pre-radio and pre-TV days. If a team managed a tour, it was not by modern, sleek, jetliner - it was by boat or train and a tremendous fuss was made of the players and managers from the time of their arrival till the time of their departure. Players paid their own ways, there was no such thing as corporate sponsors.

An early tour to Port Elizabeth, probably one of the first inter-Colony tours, was Natal's 1889/90 six-match tour.

On the voyage to Port Elizabeth, F R Statham wrote the following stanzas:

"We plunged o'er the bar where the white breakers are,
    We rolled down the coast in high glee,
With the land on our beam, and a flutter of steam
    Blowing briskly away on our lee;
We leaned o'er the side, gazing down on the tide
    All our cares to the elements flinging,
While the engines went round with a musical sound,
    And this was the song they were singing:
"We're not used to boast, but we'll matches win most,
    If fortune's but straight and not wavy;
For with Spurway and Hime they'll be knocked out of time
    And for that we're all taking our Davey."

On their arrival at Algoa Bay early on Friday morning, December 27, 1889, they were welcomed by F E Geogeghan and P Heugh, and conducted to their quarters. General regret was expressed that the Natal team had not been able to arrive, as they should have done, the day before, as a large number of people had stayed in town then to see the match.

The Port Elizabeth XI consisted of 0 R Dunell (captain), H H Castens, A Melville, P Heugh, C Britton, A Britton, W Catton, G Carpenter, W J Meyer, Parkin and Harker.

There was, considering the previous day's disappointment, a good attendance of the public, and a band discoursed in the afternoon.

No time was wasted, and the Natal vs Port Elizabeth match commenced shortly before noon on December 28, in fine weather, in the St. George's Park enclosure on the hill. The ground was under the care of H H Webster, the professional who had been brought out from England by Dr Owen R Dunell eight years before for the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club. The pitch was in excellent condition, though the grass outfield was a bit rough in parts.

0 R Dunell won the toss and Port Elizabeth had the first tenure of the crease.

H H Castens - afterwards captain of the first South African team that toured England - opened the batting with Melville, against the bowling of Kempis and Madden. Stuart and Brunton stood out from our side.

After making 20, Castens was run out; Melville scored 17 and Dunell 13, but the rest did nothing, and all were out for the unexpectedly meagre total of 78.

Kempis obtained 7 wickets for 35 runs - a fine performance; Madden 2 for 33.

Natal replied with 146, towards which Spurway was the chief contributor with an excellent 56. The only successful Bay bowler was Harker, who had formerly played for Yorkshire GeNatalemen. His analysis was nearly as good as Kempis's - 7 wickets for 47 runs. A very tall man, with a high delivery, Harker sent down bumping balls on the off, and he got nearly all his wickets by catches.

On the following day the Bay men made 102 in their second venture. The feature of the innings was the 50 runs stand of Dunell (24) and A Britton (32) for the sixth wicket. Kempis took 4 wickets for 29 runs, and Madden 5 for 48.

Natal, with only 35 runs to win, had a roseate prospect of a sweeping success when their second innings commenced. But here came in most unexpectedly the proverbial uncertainty of the game, and a dramatic procession and recession of batsmen ended in Natal floundering home with a narrow 2 wickets' victory.

The excellent bowling of Parkin and Harker was backed up by keen fielding, and as the wickets quickly fell, the more nimbly and keenly did the home team field, until, as the Eastern Province Herald put it, they were like so many cats about the wicket.

Eight Natal wickets went down for only 25 runs. No wonder the local press said that Spurway was the only bat in the team! However, H Taylor and Crawford made the necessary runs, but not before Crawford had given a chance in the long field, which Carpenter made a grand try to secure, but misjudged, owing to the sun being in his eyes.

The Stonewaller was not wont to hit, but he said he had carefully placed it - placed it safely in the rays of the shimmering sun.

C T Stuart, an excellent judge of the game, as well as player of it, umpired in this match, and gave two or three Bay batsmen out Ibw to Madden bowling round the wicket, and they didn't like it.

In a subsequent amicable discussion of the point Stuart endeavoured to convert the dissentients, and to convince them that Madden, bowling round the wicket, with his pronounced off-break, was perfectly able to get batsmen out Ibw from a ball pitched straight in front of the off-wicket.

It often happened with Madden that a ball would pitch on the off-stump, break back and hit the leg peg.

Result: Port Elizabeth were 78 and 102; Natal scored 146 and 35 for 8 wickets. Natal won by 2 wickets.)

Natal vs Port Elizabeth

The next match was played the following day, December 29.

Port Elizabeth scored 79; Natal 27 for 2 wickets and the game was drawn. In this match McKeating and Eaton replaced Heugh and Meyer.

Port Elizabeth once more failed badly in batting. The captain, 0 R Dunell, made a plucky 36, which was half of the runs scored off the bat. Kempis again left his mark with 4 wickets for 13 runs; Cheetham 4 for 31.

When Natal had made 27 for 2 wickets, time was up and the return match was drawn. The players had only two days cricket only instead of three, owing to the steamer's late arrival in the Bay.

Natal bade good-bye to the Port Elizabeth cricketers with the pleasantest recollections of their kindness and hospitality, which included a dinner at the Club.

Another F R Statham's verses went:

"Having liv'd quite gay on the shores of the "Bay ",
    We went for the Kimberley train;
We slept in the cars without family jars,
    And dreamed of the laurels we'd gain.
We crossed the Karoo, saw an ostrich or two,
    And crawled up the grades like a snail,
Then spanned the big stream with a roar and a scream,
    While the wheels told a flattering tale:
" We're not used to boast, but we'll matches win most,
    If fortune's but straight and not wavy;
For with Kempis and Madden they'll be floored like a bad-un
    And for that we're all taking our Davey."

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