This New Year’s Test match, played from January 1 to January 4, 1923, was the second of the five-match series between hosts South Africa and England. South Africa were leading 1-0 after a 168-run win at Johannesburg.
The home captain Herbie Taylor won the toss and decided to bat. But it soon turned out to be a rueful decision, as opener George Hearne was dismissed by George Macaulay with the score on nought. That was the just the beginning, as wickets continued to fall with hardly any significant partnership to rescue the hosts.
Percy Fender, who bowled both medium pace as well as leg breaks, took it upon himself to damage the middle order as he removed Bob Catterall, Taylor, Arthur ‘Dave’ Nourse and William Ling to collect figures of 4/29. South Africa never recovered from 67/6, and folded for just 113 with Cyril Francois top-scoring with 28.
English openers Jack Russell and Andy Sandham (who would become the first Test triple centurion seven years later) added 59 to prove that the pitch had no demons in it – until medium pacer Jimmy Blanckenberg removed Sandham. Alf Hall, another seamer, then accounted for Russell and Frank Wooley – the latter for a duck – and England were suddenly 60/3.
But Phil Mead (the fourth-highest first-class run scorer of all time) and Arthur Carr steered the visitors to safety with a vital 68-run stand for the fourth wicket, before Hall removed Carr for 42 (the highest score of the innings) off the last ball of the first day, the score reading 128/4.
The second day began with England suffering a collapse as they went from 134/4 to 155/9, before eventually reaching 183 – a lead of 70 runs. Blanckenberg picked up 5/61, while Hall took 4/49. South Africa then lost Hearne for a duck yet again, this time bowled by Alex Kennedy.
This paved the way for a splendid 155-run partnership for the second wicket between Catterall and Taylor. The second day ended with the hosts at 134/1, leading by 64. The second-wicket stand ended on day three when Macaulay bowled Catterall for 76, before he also removed Taylor for 68 to make the score 158/3.
England captain Frank Mann scored an invaluable 45 to help his side to a crucial victory (source – ebay.co.uk)
The South Africans then went on to lose wickets hastily, eventually managing 242, which should have been much more as they were 157/1 at one point. The seam duo of Kennedy and Macaulay took 4/58 and 5/64 respectively. England needed 173 to level the series, but Hall decided to make life tough for the visitors.
After Blanckenberg got Russell out, Hall devoured the middle order all by himself, prising out five batsmen to have England reeling at 86/6 at the end of the day, with only Mead showing resistance in making 31. Captain Frank Mann, in at number seven, and Vallance Jupp then proceeded to turn the tables again.
The duo added a priceless 68 runs for the seventh wicket on the fourth day before Hall removed Jupp for 38. Alex Kennedy came in next, and the score motored along before Hall took one more scalp, sending Mann back for 45. The visiting captain was caught splendidly by Blanckenberg in the slip cordon and the score now read 167/8.
The excitement further mounted when George Brown was run out for nought by a throw from deep point. England were 168/9, still five runs away from victory. It all boiled down to the last pair. Kennedy struck a boundary on the leg side to level the scores before Macaulay opened his account with the winning single, thus ensuring a thrilling one-wicket victory for his side.
Hall returned a career-best 7/63 in the second innings (11/112 in the match, also a career-best), but his lion-hearted effort went in vain. The result could have been different, as both Mann and Jupp were dropped during their match winning alliance.
But then that is life as is cricket, and after two draws, England went on to win the series with a 109-run win in the fifth Test at Durban.