St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

The Matches St George's Park - The Derrick Robins Team
The Derrick Robins Team
Andre Erasmus

The private Derrick Robins Tour to South Africa was the first time a South African Invitation XI class team had been assembled for three years. The team, selected by Jack Cheetham, included Barry Richards, Eddie Barlow, Ali Bacher, Graeme Pollock, Lee Irvine, Mike Procter, Dassie Biggs, Andre Bruyns, Hylton Ackerman, Vintcent van der Byl, Pat Trimborn and Don Mackay-Coghill.

Derrick Robins had one simple ambition, and that was for his cricket side "to do so well that you will invite us back again".

The 15-man English team began its five-week tour of South Africa against Eastern Province at St George's Park in October, 1972.

Asked what his answer was to people who felt that his side should not have come to South Africa, Robins said: "I do not want to answer political questions, but I'll say this: we are a team of English cricketers on a private tour, here to play anyone our hosts want us to play against."

He added that an attempt to rouse opposition against the tour in England had soon fizzled out. The fresh-faced Robins players, after sweltering in the heat at Jan Smuts Airport, were relieved to find Port Elizabeth cool and cloudy.

David Brown, the captain, expects the first two games in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town to be very hard. "Forty-eight hours is no time to acclimatise," he said.

"The heat and sharp light are going to give us problems at the start, and we shall probably miss a few catches, but I'm sure we'll improve everyday. I think our fielding will surprise you. We could be the best English fielding side seen here."

Brown quickly dispelled any fears that the Robins players may be inclined to have a holiday tour.

"I know how the England selectors are working," he said. The Test side has been unstable for some years, and they are looking for good, young players. For that reason they will be taking almost as much interest in the Robin's tour as they are of the MCC tour of India. Our lads would be naive not to realise that.

"The selectors could have changed a dozen places in the current MCC side without weakening it, and several of our players were very unlucky not to go to India. Now they have the chance to impress in overseas conditions against good opposition, and they will be trying their damndest to do well."

Brown felt the side would play attractive cricket. "We have a lot of batsmen who like to hit the ball, and I can't see them getting bogged down."

He said the fast bowlers, Bob Willis and John Lever, would be lively enough to do well on South African wickets, "unless they have changed since I was here in 1964".

Jack Bannister, the manager, said his players were eager to get into the field after their long winter preparation. "They have had their individual training programmes, and have practised indoors, but our main problem will be getting into form straight away. We'll have to work at it."

Like Robins, the manager stressed that the team was made up of the best young English players, with a blend of experience so necessary in a touring side.

The fact that the touring Derrick Robins cricket team from England asked for certain changes in South Africa, was significant.

The tour started in Port Elizabeth on January 1, 1973 and proceeded till early February. It was the change of the SA Invitation XI date at the Wanderers to the last match of the tour and from three days to four that is important.

Obviously, the tourists are not thinking in terms of a holiday jamit. And they are regarding the final game from February as the next best thing to a Test.

It was the first assembly of a Springbok-class team in three years. Many things might have happened in the domestic cricket world before then, but on their current form and potential, the SA Invitation XI was not expected to be difficult to select, unless the sole selector, Jack Cheetham, had his own ideas.

Barry Richards was expected to be at the top of the batting with Eddie Barlow. Alt Bacher would come at first drop, and Graeme Pollock in his favorite batting position.

After that, there should be little hesitation in fitting in Lee Irvine and Mike Procter. Top-order batsmen who might be dropped in the order to challenge for a middle-order position included Dassie Biggs, Andre Bruyns and Hylton Ackerman.

The attack was expected almost certainly to be headed by Vintcent van der Byl and Procter, possibly assisted by Pat Trimborn and Don Mackay-Coghill.

No spinner stuck out as a natural, but, after four months of Currie Cup cricket, things were expected to look a lot different. The impression was gained that the penultimate match of the tour, against Invitation B in Pretoria, would bring B section players into the argument, and not a Springbok Second XI.

Denis Lindsay, Andre Nel (N Transvaal) Miles Harvey, P Taylor, lan McClenaghan (Border), Neil Rosendorff and ex-Springbok Colin Bland (Free State) should have come into the running.

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