Oborne & Heller on Cricket

Before D’Oliveira – the glories and the shame of England’s Tests against South Africa

November 22, 2022 Peter Oborne, Richard Heller, Richard Parry Season 1 Episode 106
Oborne & Heller on Cricket
Before D’Oliveira – the glories and the shame of England’s Tests against South Africa
Show Notes

In his book Swallows And Hawke, co-written with past podcast guest André Odendaal, the historian Richard Parry gives a uniquely penetrating account of England’s first eighty years of cricket relations with South Africa, ended by the D’Oliveira affair. It is full of pulsating cricket matches in exciting locations – but all deeply entwined with racism and imperialism. He is the guest in the latest edition of the cricket-themed podcast by Peter Oborne and Richard Heller. In Peter’s unavoidable absence, Roger Alton takes up the attack.

Richard explains that racial segregation in South Africa was firmly established long before formal apartheid and in the earliest days of its representative cricket. One of South Africa’s first captains, William Milton, was secretary to Cecil Rhodes, and responsible for the first major racist legislation in British South Africa. Cricket helped to cement the economic relationships of South Africa with British capital and to normalize for the Empire and the outside world the white-dominated society on which they depended. 2-7 minutes He traces the business interests of the controllers of both countries’ cricket, Lord Harris and Sir Abe Bailey, which turned England – South Africa cricket relations for eighty years into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Consolidated Goldfields. 8-9 minutes

On the field, the cricket was memorable. He identifies three phases. The first, before 1900, was started with a pioneering tour led by Aubrey Smith, later a knighted actor and founder of the celebrated Hollywood Cricket Club. The early tours had long, hard and dangerous travel conditions before the arrival of major railways (25-27 minutes) and played largely exhibition matches, often against odds. The second phase after the Boer war saw victories by South Africa’s quartet of bowlers who had mastered the new mystery ball, the googly. These were avenged by 49 wickets in just four Tests by Sydney Barnes.  He sets out the playing conditions which the brilliant Barnes demanded for himself – and why he refused to take even more wickets by walking out of the fifth Test. (33-34 minutes) Then for nearly fifty years after the Great War England’s visits produced series which were not settled until the last day of the final Test, in contrast to the many dead Ashes rubbers of the same period. 10-12 minutes 

Richard tells stories of the great cricket played in these matches, including the epic duel between Barnes and South Africa’s legend, Herbie Taylor, (34-37 minutes) and the so-called timeless Test in 1939, when England’s pursuit of a target of 696 was ended by their need to catch the boat  home – or risk being stranded by the impending war. (38-42 minutes) England’s captain in that series, Walter Hammond, had many relationships over a long period with South Africa: one ended in his second marriage. Like other players of his era, he benefited from media silence about his off-field activities. 42-47 minutes 

England Tests in South Africa attracted huge crowds – almost exclusively white, despite the efforts of campaigners including Gandhi. The few black and coloured spectators at major grounds were herded into special pens, where they showed their feelings by cheering for England. 12-14 minutes

And more...

Read the full description here: https://chiswickcalendar.co.uk/episode-106-before-doliveira-the-glories-and-the-shame-of-englands-tests-against-south-africa/

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