ALTHOUGH the Australians toured South Africa three times in the early part of the last century, it was only on their fourth visit in 1949-50 that they played a test in Port Elizabeth.
In all, the Aussies have played only five tests at Axxess St George’s and enjoy a slight advantage, with only the powerful SA teams of the 1960s able to register victories.
- 1949-50: Australia won by an innings and 259 runs
South Africa were outplayed in three days of this scheduled four-day encounter as Australians Arthur Morris, Neil Harvey and Lindsay Hassett all made centuries. Hassett’s 167 is still the highest individual test score at the ground by a visitor, while their total of 549/7 declared is also a test record at the ground for a visiting team.
Dudley Nourse (37 and 55) stood out as South Africa were quickly swept aside for a 4-0 series win.
Scores: Australia 549/7 dec; South Africa 158 and 132
- 1957-58: Australia won by eight wickets
South Africa came to St George’s Park for the fifth test 2-0 down, with the series lost, and perhaps that is why opening bowlers Neil Adcock and Peter Heine produced some of the most ferocious bowling seen at the ground.
While they let it fly in the first innings, Adcock and Heine were even more dangerous in the second innings as, with the Aussies needing just 68 to win, they sent down a stream of bouncers which eventually caused SA skipper Clive van Ryneveld to tell them to tone it down and ultimately to withdraw them from the attack.
The match was further proof of the Aussie domination of the series, with three key members, Richie Benaud, Ken Mackay and Alan Davidson playing the lead roles.
Benaud hit 43 and took eight wickets in the match, Davidson took nine wickets (like Benaud, five in the second innings) and Mackay produced a knock of 77 not out to take his average for the series to a Bradmanesque 125.
Scores: SA 214 and 144; Australia 291 and 68/2.
- 1966-67: SA won by seven wickets
Australia went into the fifth and final test still in a position to avoid being the first team to lose a test series to South Africa. A win would have left the series tied at 2-2, but after being sent in to bat by Peter van der Merwe, they were bundled out for 173 on the opening day.
Despite the magnificent efforts of Aussie paceman Graham McKenzie (5/65 and 2/38), the Springboks dominated the rest of the match, Graeme Pollock smashing 105 out of 276 runs to give them a first-innings lead of 103 and then Tiger Lance hit his six for glory as the home side won with more than a day to spare for a 3-1 series triumph.
Scores: Australia 173 and 278; South Africa 276 and 179/3.
- 1969-70: South Africa won by 323 runs
The fourth and final test at St George’s was merely the coup de grace as South Africa completed the humiliation of Bill Lawry’s side by a massive margin for a 4-0 series whitewash.
Two of South Africa’s greatest players, Barry Richards (81 and 126) and Mike Procter (3/30 and 6/73, plus knocks of 23 and 26), displayed their talents as the tourists were set a massive 570 to win. Sadly for the crowd, hometown hero Graeme Pollock, for once, failed in a home test with scores of one and four. It made no difference at all.
Scores: South Africa 311 and 470/8 dec; Australia 212 and 246
- 1996-97: Australia won by two wickets
On a pitch which gave the seam bowlers plenty of assistance, Australia sealed the series with a win by the narrowest of margins between the two teams in terms of wickets. In a thrilling finish, wicketkeeper Ian Healy clipped Hansie Cronje over backward square leg to take the Aussies to the victory target of 271.
After low-scoring first innings (SA 209, Australia 108), South Africa failed to capitalise on an opening stand of 87 between Gary Kirsten and Adam Bacher, and lost their next 10 wickets for 85 runs.
There were moments of extreme frustration in the field for the home side, but Mark Waugh played one of the best hundreds of his career to guide the Aussies to their target. He went before the end and the tension mounted at a rate of knots before Healy dealt SA the killer blow.
Scores: South Africa 209 and 168; Australia 108 and 271/8.