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New Zealand cricket team in South Africa in 1953–54

The New Zealand national cricket team toured South Africa from October 1953 to February 1954 and played a five match Test series against the South Africa national cricket team. South Africa won the Test series 4–0. The tour was the first by a representative New Zealand side to South Africa and the tourists embarked on their visit without having won a Test match since they had been granted full member status of the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1930.[a][2][3]

South Africa were captained by Jack Cheetham and New Zealand by Geoff Rabone.[2]

Tour party

The New Zealand team was captained by Geoff Rabone with Bert Sutcliffe as vice-captain. Rabone had been reluctant to tour but was chosen as captain ahead of Merv Wallace, who had captained New Zealand when South Africa had toured in 1952–53. Despite having retired from Test cricket in 1951,[4] the experienced Walter Hadlee was asked to captain the side but declined and Rabone agreed to lead the tour.[5] Wallace chose not to join the tour after Rabone was appointed. Sutcliffe, who was New Zealand's outstanding post-war batsman,[6] captained the New Zealanders during the fourth and fifth Test matches after Rabone broke a bone in his foot.[2][5]

The average age of the team was 25. With the aim of establishing a high standard of fielding, some older or slower players were overlooked, including the spinners Tom Burtt and Alex Moir, and the opening batsman Gordon Leggat.[7] Leggat later joined the team for the Australian leg of the tour, replacing the injured Rabone.[2]

The manager was the former Test batsman Jack Kerr. The four players who had not yet played Test cricket – Beck, Bell, Ian Leggat and Overton – all played their first Tests on the tour.[7]

Tour itinerary

The tour took place between October 1953 and March 1954, with the New Zealanders in South Africa until mid-February. Three first-class matches were played in Australia during March on the return leg of the tour, and the touring team played a match against a New Zealand XI on their return to their home country.[2][8] The team left New Zealand on the Arawa on 1 October, arriving in Cape Town on 28 October after visiting Port Melbourne and Fremantle in Australia.[5]

A total of 17 matches were played in South Africa during the tour, 16 of which were first-class.[2] Seven matches were played before the first Test match, including one in Rhodesia.[b] A single match took place between the first and second Tests and three further first-class matches were played between the third and fourth Tests; Rabone was injured during the final first-class match against Border, immediately before the fourth Test was played.[5][10]

Test series

All of the Test matches during the tour were four-day matches[c] and used 8-ball overs.[d] South Africa won four of the matches, although the New Zealanders were in strong positions in two of these matches. The third Test was a draw.[2]

First Test

The first Test match of the series was played at Kingsmead Cricket Ground in Durban, beginning on 11 December 1953. South Africa's Neil Adcock and New Zealand's Guy Overton made their Test match debuts during the match.

South Africa gained a "great advantage" by winning the toss and chose to bat on a wicket which Wisden said "became more difficult as the match progressed".[13] They scored 437 runs before declaring their innings complete after 115 overs. An opening century-partnership between Jackie McGlew and John Waite provided a foundation for the innings, with Roy McLean and Ken Funston also adding 135 for the fourth wicket, McLean top-scoring with an innings of 101.[13] In reply, New Zealand finished the second day's play on 70 for the loss of 2 wickets (70/2) with captain Geoff Rabone unbeaten on 40 runs.[14]

After a rest day on 13 December,[e] Rabone completed his first century in Test cricket, scoring 107 in an innings which lasted over six hours, but New Zealand were all out for 230, and were asked to follow on.[f] Off spin bowler Hugh Tayfield took six wickets for the cost of 62 runs (6/62) from his 36 overs, and Wisden reported that both he and leg spinner Clive van Ryneveld, who took three wickets, turned the ball "sharply" and "bowled with sustained accurately".[13] After losing two quick wickets at the end of the third day's play, they were all out for 149, losing the match by an innings and 58 runs. Rabone, who "again resisted strongly", top-scored with 60 in New Zealand's second innings and batted for 9¾ hours of the 11¼ that New Zealand batted for.[13]

11–15 December 1953
Wisden report
437/9 declared (115 overs)
RA McLean 101
AR MacGibbon 3/73 (27 overs)
230 (105.6 overs)
GO Rabone 107
HJ Tayfield 6/62 (36 overs)
149 (following on) (89.1 overs)
GO Rabone 68
HJ Tayfield 3/35 (26.1 overs)
South Africa won by an innings and 58 runs
Kingsmead, Durban
Umpires: AN McCabe and BV Malan
  • South Africa won the toss and chose to bat
  • 13 December was a rest day
  • NAT Adcock (South Africa) and GWF Overton (New Zealand) made their Test debuts.

Second Test

The second test was famous for New Zealand player Bob Blair receiving news that his fiancée, Nerissa Love, had been killed in the Tangiwai railway disaster on Christmas Eve. Blair was not expected to bat when his turn came on Boxing Day, as an announcement had been made that he would take no further part in the game. In the event, however, he appeared at the crease at the fall of the ninth wicket to join Bert Sutcliffe, who had already started to walk off the field. The packed crowd stood in silence.[16] The two men added 33 for the last wicket and avoided a follow on, with Sutcliffe striking three sixes and Blair one from a single eight-ball over, but in the next over Blair was stumped off Hugh Tayfield. South Africa won the match by 132 runs.[17]

24–29 December 1953
Wisden report
271 (80 overs)
WR Endean 93
AR MacGibbon 3/61 (22 overs)
187 (53.2 overs)
B Sutcliffe 80
DEJ Ironside 5/51 (19 overs)
148 (53.1 overs)
RA McLean 36
JR Reid 4/34 (16 overs)
100 (47.5 overs)
GO Rabone 22
ME Chapple 22

NAT Adcock 5/43 (19 overs)
South Africa won by 132 runs
Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Umpires: CD Coote and DT Drew
  • South Africa won the toss and chose to bat
  • 25 and 27 December were rest days
  • DEJ Ironside (South Africa) and JEF Beck (New Zealand) made their Test debuts.

Third Test

1–5 January 1954
Wisden report
505 (165.3 overs)
JR Reid 135
DEJ Ironside 4/117 (46.3 overs)
326 (127.7 overs)
JE Cheetham 89
GO Rabone 6/68 (38.7 overs)
159/3 (following on) (54 overs)
RJ Westcott 62
GO Rabone 1/16 (10 overs)
  • New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat
  • 3 January was a rest day
  • RJ Westcott (South Africa), W Bell and IB Leggat (both New Zealand) made their Test debuts.

Fourth Test

29 January–2 February 1954
Wisden report
243 (98 overs)
DJ McGlew 61
RW Blair 3/42 (19 overs)
79 (46.3 overs)
FLH Mooney 23
HJ Tayfield 6/13 (14 overs)
25/1 (6.2 overs)
JE Cheetham 16*
AR MacGibbon 1/16 (3 overs)
188 (following on) (92.2 overs)
EW Dempster 47
NAT Adcock 5/45 (26 overs)
South Africa won by 9 wickets
Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Umpires: DT Drew and BV Malan
  • New Zealand won the toss and chose to field
  • 31 January was a rest day

Fifth Test

5–9 February 1954
Wisden report
226 (92.3 overs)
JEF Beck 48
JC Watkins 4/34 (16 overs)
237 (98.1 overs)
JE Cheetham 42
JR Reid 4/51 (32 overs)
222 (87.6 overs)
JR Reid 73
CB van Ryneveld 4/67 (20.6 overs)
215/5 (47.3 overs)
WR Endean 87
AR MacGibbon 2/44 (10 overs)
South Africa won by 5 wickets
St George's Park, Port Elizabeth
Umpires: DV Collins and FRW Payne
  • New Zealand won the toss chose to bat
  • 7 February was a rest day


  1. ^ New Zealand had played in 26 Test matches before the tour began, failing to win any of them. They won their first Test in 1956, beating West Indies at Auckland in their 45th Test match.[1]
  2. ^ In 1953 Southern Rhodesia was a self-governing British Crown colony. The colony's government issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, establishing the unrecognised state of Rhodesia which existed until the formation of Zimbabwe in 1980. The Rhodesia cricket team first played in the Currie Cup, the South African first-class cricket competition, in 1904/05 and played regularly in the competition from 1946/47 until becoming Zimbabwe in 1980. Zimbabwean teams continued to play in South African domestic competitions occasionally in the mid-1990s and in 2007/08. Rhodesia did not play Test cricket and were not considered an full international side before the formation of Zimbabwe, but international sides touring South Africa, including England and Australian sides, occasionally played matches against the Rhodesian team.[9]
  3. ^ The duration of Test matches has varied throughout the history of Test cricket. Although most modern matches are scheduled to be played over five days, historically Test matches have been played over three, four or six days as well. Timeless Tests, matches played to their conclusion without a time limit, have also been played, mainly in Australia during the period before the Second World War.[11]
  4. ^ 8-ball overs were used in South Africa between 1937/38 and 1957/58 and in Australia between 1918/19 and 1978/79. All of the matches during the tour, with the exception of the match against the New Zealand XI played in March, used eight balls to an over.[12]
  5. ^ It was common for Test matches to include rest days, generally on Sundays, until the 1990s.[15]
  6. ^ In a four-day match the follow on target is 150 runs less than the team batting first made in total. If the team batting second fails to reach this target (287 runs in this case) they can be asked to bat again, thus following on. It is a matter of match tactics whether or not the follow on is enforced.


  1. ^ New Zealand's first test cricket victory, 13 March 1956, New Zealand History. Retrieved 2021-08-08.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g New Zealanders in South Africa, 1953–54, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1955, pp. 786–811. Retrieved 2021-08-08.
  3. ^ Williamson M (2008) Beyond the call of duty, CricInfo, 2008-12-06. Retrieved 2021-08-08.
  4. ^ Williamson M (2006) Walter Hadlee dies aged 91, CricInfo, 2006-09-29. Retrieved 2021-08-12.
  5. ^ a b c d New Zealand to South Africa 1953–54, Test Cricket Tours (archived June 2020). Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  6. ^ Bert Sutcliffe, Obituary, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 2002. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  7. ^ a b Neely D, Payne R (1986) Men in White: The History of New Zealand International Cricket, 1894–1985, p. 216. Auckland: Moa.
  8. ^ New Zealand Touring Team v New Zealand XI, Scorecard, CricketArchive. Retrieved 2021-08-12. (subscription required)
  9. ^ Ward J A brief history of Zimbabwe cricket, CricInfo. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  10. ^ New Zealand in Australia and South Africa 1953/54, CricketArchive. Retrieved 2021-08-12. (subscription required)
  11. ^ Narayanan A (2018) Duration of Test matches, Sportstar, 2018-01-15. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  12. ^ A History of Balls to an Over in First-Class Cricket, The Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians. Retrieved 2021-08-12.
  13. ^ a b c d First Test, South Africa v New Zealand 1953–54], Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1955. Retrieved 2021-08-12.
  14. ^ Scorecard, 1st Test, Durban, Dec 11 - 15 1953, New Zealand tour of South Africa, CricInfo. Retrieved 2021-08-12.
  15. ^ Coupar P (2008) The rest is history, CricInfo, 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  16. ^ Williamson, Martin. "Beyond the call of duty". Cricinfo. Retrieved 2009-01-19.
  17. ^ "South Africa v New Zealand in 1953". CricketArchive. Retrieved 2009-01-19.

Further reading

  • Dick Brittenden, Silver Fern on the Veld, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1954
  • Richard Boock, The Last Everyday Hero: The Bert Sutcliffe Story, Longacre, Auckland, 2010, pp. 18–26, 101–108
  • John Reid, Sword of Willow, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1962, pp. 69–89
  • Don Neely, Richard Payne, Men in White: The History of New Zealand International Cricket, 1894–1985, Moa, Auckland, 1986, pp. 216–234

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New Zealand cricket team in South Africa in 1953–54
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