The third country to become a test nation, South Africa are widely regarded as one of the best cricketing nations in the world. Nicknamed, ‘the Proteas,’ the South African team is currently ranked fifth out of the ten test nations and second in the one day international rankings.
Established by British colonisers in the late nineteenth century, South Africa has a rich cricketing history and has been playing international cricket since 1889 when they played their first test match against a touring side from England. In 1890, a domestic competition was established in South Africa, with a match between
the provinces of Kimberley and Transvaal, who competed for a trophy donated by Sir Donald Currie. After the inaugural match, which saw Transvaal take the trophy, the Currie Cup became South Africa’s official domestic league, attracting a huge number of spectators, particularly during the seventies and eighties when South Africa was banned from international cricket.
In the pre-war years Australia and England made a number of tours to play test cricket against the South African team. In its inaugural years as a test nation South Africa was clearly the weaker side, but in a series between England and South Africa in 1905-06 South Africa demonstrated a new found strength when they won four of the five tests in the series, although they had to wait another sixty years to win a series against Australia. During the Second World War only two cricket matches took place in South Africa, one in 1942 between the Air Force XI and the rest of South Africa and one in March between the First South African Division and the rest of South Africa. Following those matches it was not deemed appropriate that South Africa, as an official Ally, should play any more cricket until the war was over.
In the initial post-War years South Africa resumed international cricket, playing regular test matches against England, Australia and New Zealand (who became a test nation in 1929) After the war, however, the international body began to speak out against the racial inequality of South African apartheid policies. In 1968 England were scheduled to make a tour of South Africa but South African officials refused to allow the tour to go ahead, on the grounds that Basil D’Oliveira, (a black South African cricketer who was banned from first-class cricket under apartheid regulations) was due to play for the English team. In protest against the injustice of South African sporting policies, England refused to play cricket against South Africa until apartheid was ended. The following year Australia made their last tour of South Africa until after the end of apartheid and in 1971 South Africa was refused membership into the ICC and became isolated from international cricket.
In the first few years of South Africa’s ban from test cricket, Derek Robins, millionaire and chairman of Coventry Football Club, organised a series of private cricket tours to South Africa, made up of first-class international cricketers including a number of English test players. Following uprisings in Johannesburg against the education policy set out by the white government, it was deemed too dangerous for private tours to continue and no further international matches took place until the rebel tours of the 1980s.
In 1982 the South African government sponsored the first English tour of South Africa for six years, in an attempt to break the international boycott of South Africa and maintain the standard of South African cricket. Despite opposition from the ICC, an English rebel team was formed, made up of several former and older test players including Graham Gooch, Geoff Boycott and Mike Hendrick. South Africa beat the English team 1-0, and the English players returned home to find themselves banned from test cricket for three years. Following the English tour, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Australia all made rebel tours of South Africa during the 1980’s before the final tour in 1990 by an English team lead by Mike Gatting. South Africa won the tour 3-1 to the background of protesters opposing the match, as the government began to retract their apartheid policies.
Following the dismantling of apartheid in 1990, South Africa were allowed back into the ICC and began playing sanctioned international cricket the following year with a tour of India. In 1992 the South African team participated in the Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, ending their post-apartheid world cup debut in third place. Following their reinstatement into international cricket, South Africa also changed the structure of the domestic league. In 1990 the Currie Cup was renamed the Castle Cup and in 1996 it changed again to become the SuperSport Series.
Since 1990 the South African team has seen black and white cricketers playing together for the first time and in 2006, Ashwell Prince, aged just 29, was momentously named the first black captain of the South African team.
One Day Cricket
South Africa’s one day tournament began in 1981-82 during the apartheid years when they were no longer a member of the International Cricket Council. Initially sponsored by Benson and Hedges, the one day league gave the nation more opportunity to see top-class cricket and over the following decade the league quickly expanded from being a five team to an eleven team contest. In 1991, as part of South Africa’s tour to India, they played their first ICC-approved one day match against a team from Calcutta. Since then they have had mixed success in one day cricket, reaching the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup on a number of occasions but failing to progress to the finals in any world cup to date. They are currently placed second in the world one day international rankings and are regarded by many as the best team never to have won the world cup.
At the turn of the new millennium, South Africa became the second nation to pioneer Twenty20 Cricket and, as in England, it immediately became a popular spectator sport. Following its initial success the Pro20 Series was formed in 2003 and won by the Gestetner Eagles in its inaugural year. In 2007, South Africa were host to the first ICC World Twenty20 event contested between the ten test playing nations along with qualifying teams from Scotland and Kenya. After a closely fought tournament, India met Pakistan at a final in Johannesburg, beating the Pakistani team to the trophy by just five runs.
- Graeme Smith: opening batsman
- Hashim Amla: middle-order batsman
- Mark Boucher: wicketkeeper
- Herschelle Gibbs: opening/middle-order batsman
- Paul Harris: left-arm orthodox spin bowler
- Jacques Kallis: batting all rounder
- Morne Morkel: fast bowler
- Andre Nel: fast-medium bowler
- Makhaya Ntini: opening bowler
- Shaun Pollock: opening bowler
- Ashwell Prince: middle-order batsman
- Dale Steyn: fast bowler