Test Cricket Tours - England to South Africa 1888-89
Tour of South Africa 1888-89Captain : Charles (Aubrey) Smith
England’s ninth Test tour.
(November 1888-April 1889)
First Test-playing tour of South Africa by an English team
Major Gardner Warton, a retired army officer who had served on the general staff in South Africa from 1883 to 1888, was in negotiation with Billy Simkins and William Milton in Cape Town to bring the first team of English cricketers to South Africa for the 1888/89 season. Milton made the tour arrangements, including financial, while Warton got up a team of six professionals and seven amateurs, some with very little cricketing ability: “Mr Skinner was not much of a cricketer. He came actually as a funny man and entertainer!” (Ivor Difford, Our Cricket Springboks, 1938)
With the support of sponsor Sir Donald Currie, founder of the Castle Shipping Line, Warton brought a team that was about as strong as a weak county but it proved more than tough enough to match the standard of play encountered among its opponents. At the time the two eleven-a-side matches played against South Africa were not regarded as first-class cricket, never mind Test matches. Only the 'Tests' were not played against odds. Despite this, the tourists suffered four defeats in their first six matches, probably while they were working out how to adapt to the fast, bare pitches.
Six of the touring party did not appear in English first-class cricket in 1888, and Grieve, McMaster and Skinner never did. McMaster, who played only school cricket for Eton, made slight contribution to the tour with a batting average of 7, including seven ducks, although on one occasion he did score 34 not out; nevertheless in the records he has a Test cap.
"The railways had not even reached Johannesburg and most of the travelling was done by ox-waggon, with the natural result that more time was spent in getting from place to place than in actually playing cricket" (Cricket in Many Climes).
The star players of the tour were Johnny Briggs who returned fantastic bowling figures such as 16 for 94, or 12 for 19 in the matches against teams of 22; and Bobby Abel who scored more than 1000 runs.
A proposed English tour returning to South Africa in 1889-90 did not come about, but a tour of India under Mr G F Vernon was arranged.
•'Monty' Bowden, aged 23, became England's youngest Test captain when fever prevented Smith from appearing in the Cape Town match.
•On three ocacasions Bobby Abel scored a hundred, including 120 in the Test match at Cape Town.
•In all of the eighteen matches he played on the tour Abel topped 1000 runs
•Along with Abel, Johnny Briggs was the stand-out player. He took an incredible 294 wickets on tour!
•The one-sidedness of the Tests may be illustrated by Briggs taking 7 for 17 and 8 for 11 at Cape Town.
Other first-class matches
� Minor matches
Return to England
The tour concluded with the extra match (put on after the Test match had finished early) left incomplete. The team departed from Cape Town at 6 pmon the same afternoon, 27 March 1889.
Sailing on the ‘Garth Castle’, via Madeira and Lisbon, they docked at Plymouth at 9.30 pm on the evening of Monday 15 April 1889.The ship sailed on to London without the cricketers, who travelled the remaining distance by rail.
Frank Hearne remained behind in South Africa to coach, while the captain and vice-captain, Smith and Bowden, went on to found a stock-broking business in Johannesburg and to play for local cricket clubs.
Time away from England
(21 November -15 April)
The professionals were hired for £100 plus expenses
Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanackwrote that “…the cricket tour did not pay its expenses”but that“….in every other sense than the financial one it was eminently successful.”
Accounts of the tour
“The Cricketing Record of Major Warton’s Tour”(with new introduction by David Rayvern Allan,published J W McKenzie, 1987)
The visit of Major Warton’s team in 1888-89 was vital for the development of South African cricket. It was a turning point, spurring authorities across South Africa to make their grounds ready for the visit and attract spectators;as an example, the pavilion at The Wanderers in Johannesburg was completed in January 1889 just in time for the English cricketers’ arrival.
Sir Donald Currie, founder of the Castle Shipping Line and the tour’s sponsor, offered a cup as a trophy. It was an idea that occurred to him “….to offer something to the South African cricketers which would mark and commemorate the visit of the first English team. I propose to give a challenge cup to the team which excels the most against the visitors.”Kimberley received it, and in future years it was offered to be a trophy for inter-provincial competition, the Currie Cup.