How Cricket Came to South Africa: A History

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Derrinalphil, of the excellent cricketpodcast.com, tells tales of cricket’s colonization of South Africa, accounts for players such as Hashim Amla in its narrative, and also gives his thoughts on Australia’s upcoming 2 match test series in South Africa.

We are about to play South Africa at Cape Town and I thought it would be interesting to talk about the city, area and the venue. Cape Town is at the bottom of Africa which is the reason for the existence of the city. The Dutch sailing ships of the sixteen hundreds and seventeen hundreds needed resupply capabilities so the Dutch landed at Cape Town and started a small settlement. By the end of the 1700’s the colony only numbered 15,000 and during the War between Napoleon and England the British seized the colony, bringing in thousands of settlers and more importantly, the game of cricket.

South Africa is a country of just under fifty million and the largest city is Cape Town with a population of about three million. While most Australians would know about the struggle that the black South Africans had against apartheid, few Australian would have heard about the large scale migration of Indians to South Africa between the years of 1860 and 1911. These Indians were indentured farm labourers who were imported to serve as field hands and mill operatives in the sugar mills and other agricultural plantations of Natal. Although they were given the opportunity to return home on the completion of their contracts, most preferred to stay on, either as farmers or as small businessmen. This last fact flies in the face of much that has been written about the indenture system. Today there are about 1.15 million descendants living in South Africa.

Hashim Amla, that elegant, stroke-filled player, blessed with the temperament to make the most of his talent, is the first South African of Indian descent to reach the national team. His grandparents migrated from Gujarat and were a part of a second wave of Indians who came into South Africa after 1880. They were called passenger Indians as they paid for their fares. We Aussies have our own subcontinent player Khawaja and it will be interesting to see them play against each other

The first mention of cricket in South Africa is in 1808. The seeds of cricket were being sown across the British Empire as settlers, civil servants and the military took the game with them. Here in Australia we have a term “barrack.”  You barrack for, or support a team. This term originated in very early Sydney as the soldiers housed at the military barracks were put to work, leveling, and building, a cricket ground next to their barracks. This became the Sydney Cricket Ground. In 1862, an annual South African fixture of the Mother Country verses Colonial Born started. We Australians had a phrase of our own for colonial born: “currency lads”

There is a great name in early Cape Town cricket, Captain Gardner Warton, who was an army officer based at the Cape. He was a keen cricketer. When he returned to England he gathered up a side and they set sail

Aubrey Smith

for South Africa. He had a cup, donated by Sir Donald Currie, to be given to the side that “excels the most against the visitors.” This is the Currie Cup that is the South African equivalent of the Sheffield Shield in Australia. The captain of Warton’s side was the movie star Aubrey Smith but he missed the Test in Cape Town with enteric fever.

Early on, the Poms lost several games. These were played against the odds i.e. the locals would play twenty two players rather than eleven but the real reason for the poor early form was the amount of lavish hospitality on offer. Before the match against Kimberly none of the English players actual managed to get to bed at all as the banquet went ALL night. No wonder that the Kimberly side won the first Currie Cup for having the best performance against the British side. All the matches were on matting which was a completely foreign surface to the Poms.

England won the first test match played at Cape Town easily with Johnny Briggs bowling fourteen batsmen on his way to taking fifteen for twenty eight.

“England won the first test match played at Cape Town easily with Johnny Briggs bowling fourteen batsmen on his way to taking fifteen for twenty eight.”

Australia’s Trip to South Africa

Can Mitchell Johnson replicate South Africa 2009?

image of Mitchell Johnson roughing up Smith and Kallis (c) of smh.com.au

Unfortunately I do not have great hopes for the visitors this time. The Australian team looks by far the weakest that has ever gone to South Africa and may lose all the Tests. This happened once before to a team that contained Chappell, Lawry, McKenzie, Walters, Redpath, Stackpole and Mallett to name a few. Ponting looks to have stayed on a bit too long, Clarke needed that hundred in the last Sri Lankan otherwise questions about his place in the team would have risen to the surface and only Ryan Harris bowled with constant menace.

We may surprise. Johnson has bowled rubbish since Perth so he is due for one of his match winning performances. Phil Hughes might slay the South African quicks as he did on the last tour but I won’t hold my breath. I have spent some time on Google Earth having a look at the ground and its surroundings. My good friend Neville Turner always says that the only cricket ground as pretty as the Adelaide Cricket Ground is Newlands. I look forward to judging it myself one day. It holds twenty five thousand which I regard as the ideal ground for a Test Match; big enough for some gladiatorial atmosphere but small enough to feel intimate.

My prediction for the series: two nil to South Africa.

The Australia Test Squad Was Announced Today:

Michael Clarke (c), Shane Watson (vc), Michael Beer, Trent Copeland, Patrick Cummins, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Phil Hughes, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle.

The big news is that Patrick Cummins replaces James Pattinson from the squad that took on the Sri Lankans.

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