St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Women's Cricket St George's Park - Audrey Jackson
Audrey Jackson
Ivor Markman

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Audrey Jackson, age 16
The petite 16 year-old girl flung her arms around her mom and burst into tears of joy when she heard that she had been selected to represent South Africa in the first ever woman’s international cricket Test at St George’s Park against England.For Port Elizabeth’s Audrey Jackson, it was the proudest moment of her life.

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Audrey Wood
Recently Audrey, now the married Mrs Wood, spoke about her youthful cricket career.

The year was 1960, and the selectors, Pat Goulding, Harry Winrow, and a Mrs Yell, from Transvaal, under convenor Eric Rowan, the famous Springbok cricketer, had just made the announcement after eight days of cricket trials at the Jan Smuts Ground in East London.

“Never did I expect such a wonderful thing to happen to me,” said Audrey.The first men’s international cricket Test was also played against England at St George’s Park - 71 years earlier.

After the inter-provincial cricket tournament, another match was held between the “Probables” and the “Possibles”. Audrey was selected to play for the Probables.The young all-rounder, who the Press nicknamed Little Audrey, had represented Eastern Province since the tender age of 12, and was almost certainly the youngest senior provincial cricket player ever.

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Audrey Jackson, Port Elizabeth's only representative in the Springbok women's cricket team, delivers a fast ball during practice for the first Test against England in Port Elizabeth
Audrey, who now lives in Colleen Glen, grew up in Sydenham, the only girl in the street. When she wanted to play, it was with the boys, and the boys, who loved playing cricket, enjoyed having her with them.

“I used to knock round with the boys when they played cricket - and what’s more, I was always the one who had to fetch the balls when they were hit onto other people’s roofs,” she said.Surprisingly though, her brother Andy, who was quite a few years her senior, never played the game.

“I never even knew that woman’s cricket existed until I spotted a game in progress one afternoon in 1956.”Very soon after, that same year in fact, she was playing herself.

Although women were playing cricket in the Western Province, Transvaal and Natal in the 1930s, it was only in 1951 that Eric Rowan took the initiative in forming the South African and Rhodesian Woman’s Cricket Association. Each year the South African women compete for the Simon Trophy.When Audrey was still a standard five pupil at Sydenham Primary School, a family friend, Steve de Lange, the cricket coach at General Motors sports club, watched her bowling.

“He invited me to come and play with the club’s women’s cricket team. I felt a little intimidated, but the other players were very polite and I was made to feel at home.”

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Audrey Jackson sweeps a ball to leg during her innings against England in the fourth and final women's cricket Test at Newlands. The England wicketkeeper is Ruth Westbrooke
Audrey was no push-over when it came to bowling. In fact, when she bowled, some of her team members told her it was not necessary to bowl quite so fast.

“Shame, I still remembers how I split one of the girl’s fingers open with one of my deliveries,” she said.Audrey’s selection was not surprising considering she had a reputation for being the fastest woman bowler in the country.She was the only Eastern Province player to make the Springbok team and caused a bit of an upset at the East London trials when she dismissed the record-breaking Natal openers, Joy Irwin and Eleanor Lambert, for only 20 runs. On the last day of the trials, she skittled out three of the previous day’s high scoring women for a mere 23 runs.

Woman cricketers were apparently much friendlier than their male counterparts, and when the English women arrived, both teams checked into the same hotel.The Springbok team were there to welcome the English girls. Before and during the match, the two teams slept and ate under the same roof - unlike the men’s teams. A few days before the match, the Mayor, Mr Monty van der Vyver, hosted both teams to a mayoral reception in the City Hall.

“I was overwhelmed and very excited to be at the reception. I was so proud to be in the company of the Springbok and English girls. After all, I was the baby.”

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Schoolgirl cricketer
to be ladylike soon?
The follow-on?
Audrey captured the attention of the Press, and, apart from the Little Audrey nickname, she had the honour of once being the subject of Oom Danie’s wit.

“We laughed - we really did when we saw the cartoon. My parents were really proud of me. We had a good chuckle.”It was perhaps a more subdued tone than men’s cricket, but all the trimmings associated with “big” cricket, were in evidence - net practice, autograph seekers, photographers, and butterflies in the stomach.

During the first match against England at St George’s Park on December 2, 3, and 5, Audrey became the first woman ever in South Africa to take a wicket in a woman’s cricket Test when she trapped the English opener, Kath Smith, leg before wicket for one run.

The match, which was a draw, was not without controversy. The South African captain, Shelagh Nefdt, was criticized after the match for not declaring earlier enough. She left only three hours to get the entire English team out.

“We would have loved to have beaten the English girls, but it was the captains decision. We weren’t consulted and had to abide by her ruling.”Sadly for Audrey, she could not play in the second and third tests because of the expense involved.

“We had to pay all our own travelling expenses and all our kit. I remember paying £18 for my Springbok blazer. The hotels were paid for fortunately.

“The only reason I was able to play the fourth Test was because Eastern Province played the English just before. The next match was the Test at Newlands. Fortunately they allowed me to travel to Cape Town with them.”
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Eastern Province Ladies Cricket XI 1956
Top Row: Joan Howard, Elaine Beck, Steve de Lange, Mavis Potgieter
Middle Row: Maureen Hartnell, Hilary Pyott, Dulcie Maitland, Kay Rodoconachi (Captain), Molly Main, Ellen Rizzo
Bottom Row: Audrey Jackson, Noeleen Dickie (Vice-Captain), Lorraine Daniels

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