Cricket is one of the most played and well-known sports in South Africa and different parts of the world. The sport is loved throughout different parts of the world and is currently ranked as one of the top two most popular sports.
South Africa has had a unique history with cricket and its origin. Ever since the discrimination and apartheid in the country came to an end, many players have joined in from different backgrounds. Hence, the sport has become highly popular among everyone in the nation, especially among people of different backgrounds and African populations, moving towards a peaceful co-existence.
South Africa first entered first-class and international cricket when they hosted an international cricket team in the 1888-89 season. Initially, the team was no match for Australia or England, but over time and with a lot of practice and experience, they had managed to build an outstanding and competitive team in the first decade of the twentieth century.
The South African team had since played regularly against Australia, England, and New Zealand till the 1960s when a widespread protest occurred against the country’s apartheid regime.
Following are some interesting facts related to South African cricket history:
1. Cricket was Introduced In South Africa By a Scottish Man
Interestingly, the one who started this trend in the country was not originally from South Africa. It was a Scottish man named Sir Donald Currie who established the first world-class tournament in South Africa. He was a sea merchant who used to run shipping lines in South Africa and was the main contributor of the origin and establishing interest in cricket in the country.
He also founded and funded the country’s first-class cricket tournament in 1888, known as the Currie Cup, for a long time. Currie also supported the journey of the England team to South Africa in the same year, which helped establish the country as the third competitive nation in international cricket. Hence the entire existence of cricket in South Africa is mainly attributed to Sir Donald Currie.
2. South Africa Dominated Australia at One Point
After South Africa got interested in cricket, the South African team had already proven to be one of the best and most competitive test teams in the cricket world in the last quarter-century. They had beaten everyone since their re-entry into the cricket world.
However, South Africa has not been able to defeat the Australian cricket team even once. They weren’t even able to beat them in the test series and have coincidently always been overwhelmingly dominated by them at their home ground.
In 1993-94, two teams tied three-Test series 1-1 in South Africa, and Australia won five of the next six series. Australia is still constantly looking to get victory over South Africa even though they have beaten them twice in their home. It is one of the exciting records in international cricket.
On the other hand, when the South African team went to Australia to compete, they completely dominated the Australian team at their home ground. Hence it was sweet revenge for the South African team. All that took place immediately before they were banned due to the worsening situation in the country.
3. South Africa was the First Team to Have a Spin Quartet
Whenever someone thinks about the South African bowling attack, the first thing that comes to mind is the speed, bounce, and ferocity. However, that was not the case with the South African cricket team back then.
In the starting years of the country’s existence as a cricketing nation, the team was known for its quartet of spin bowlers, or four spin bowlers that achieved incredible success. Reggie Schwarz was the leader of the pack, teaching all-rounder Aubrey, Faulkner, batsman Gordon White, and Bert Vogler how to ball the googly, as a result making a name for themselves.
4. The Oldest Cricket Ground is Often Mistaken For Another
The Old Wanderers Stadium and Imperial Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, in Cape Town, are two of the most popular cricket grounds in South Africa. People believe that one of those two is the country’s oldest test ground, but this is not the case.
Identifying South Africa’s oldest test match ground is pretty surprising as it rarely hosts big matches. The oldest cricket ground is in Port Elizabeth, called St. George’s Park Stadium, which holds the record of hosting the country’s first test match in 1889. It was a three-day game, and England won by eight wickets in two days.
5. South Africa’s Early Record is One of the Worst in Test History
It is a well-known fact that when the cricket teams first go through their test series, they suffer for some time before finding their stride. The amount of struggle that they put in is much needed and fruitful. But if the team continues to lose and cannot put up any battle, it takes on a different color.
As a result, a team like South Africa has a terrible early record that would put many other teams to shame. Even teams like India and Pakistan that struggled considerably in the early years could tie different matches, but South Africa was not one of them at that time.
In the first eleven test matches, South Africa lost ten out of eleven games. It pulled only one win, giving them one of the worst early records among the big cricket nations, which goes unnoticed due to its eventual success.
6. Cricket was Disrupted Due to Conflict And War
Cricket was discontinued and suspended because of the South African War and World War I. After the truce of battle in 1918, South Africa had another chance to start and promote cricket, at which teams of England and Australia constantly toured the country.
After having a short, disappointing period in the 1920s, South Africa overcame its shortcomings and focused on developing a consistent, high-quality, and competitive team in the final pre-war decade. As a result, cricket in South Africa began to spread outside the British settlements around this period, particularly among the African and Indian communities living there.
Due to the country’s history of racism and apartheid, cricket remained exclusively, if not legally, separated from various national bodies governing cricket for different racial groups.
The first and the domestic class cricket was available only for the country’s white people, and test nations would only play with other white test nations. As a result of that, a huge division and unnecessary segregation took place in the sport.
7. ICC Reinstated South Africa as a Test Nation In July 1991
The International Cricket Council, better known as ICC, reinstated South Africa as a Test nation and allowed for international matches in July 1991. South Africa started to pursue a political path to majority rule.
Since 1970, South Africa played its first “One Day International” or ODI and its first sanctioned match against India in Calcutta by October-November, after playing its first test match against the West Indies in April 1992.
Throughout the rest of its career and into the early 21st century, the national team has gained a reputation of being “chokers” and underachievers after reaching the World Cup semi-finals 4 times and losing.
Hence, it failed to advance, despite having highly talented players like Hansie Cronje and a good percentage of wins.
South African Cricket History – A Long History of Struggle and Improvement
When we look at the history of South Africa, especially in terms of sports, we can tell that it is fascinating and challenging. They’ve faced many obstacles and difficulties along the way. Racism and conflict held them back for several years, causing many problems in the country. However, they eventually overcame their problems and made their cricket team one of the best teams in the world of cricket after facing many drawbacks.