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
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,
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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’
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.