History of South African Sport: VI. Cricket

Tim OatesCorrespondent INovember 10, 2008

Cricket came to South Africa during the Napoleonic Wars and with the British forces occupying South Africa. The first match recorded was in 1808 in Cape Town between two service teams, for a prize of one thousand rix-dollars.

The oldest cricket club in South Africa is the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, founded in 1843. Few clubs in the world can boast such a long existence. The first championship was held in Port Elizabeth in 1876 for the "champion bat." Competing teams were Cape Town, Grahamstown, King Williams Town, and Port Elizabeth. It was won by King Williams Town and the year after that too.

In 1888, Sir Donald Currie sponsored the first visiting team, England. Two test matches were played, England won both but South Africa became a recognized contestant in international cricket along with England and Australia. Sir Donald Currie also created the Currie Cup in 1888 that was a competition among the different states in South Africa, the first competition was won by Transvaal

In 1894 the first tour took place in England. South Africa gained their first test victory on the 4th January 1906 at the old Wanderers in Johannesburg against

England. The first overseas win or test series came against England in 1935.

The ‘timeless’ test took place in Durban against England from 3 to 14 March 1938. The game had to be abandoned, with England 654 for five wickets in the last innings, in order for the touring team to catch the mail-boat back to England.

In the 1963/64 tour in Australia, South Africa’s most talented cricketers emerged. The Pollock brothers, Peter and Graeme, Eddie Barlow and Colin Bland.

South African cricket was isolated from the rest of the world for 21 years because of the apartheid policies of the former government. Isolation came at a time when the country could fairly claim to be the top test-playing nation in the world after the Springboks had pummelled the powerful Australians 4-0 with ease.

Because of the policies of its government, however, South Africa had only ever played against Australia, England and New Zealand. When the country was readmitted to world cricket in 1991 it was able to face all opponents, and India was the first to welcome the ‘new’ South Africa into the international game.

Previously known as the Springboks, the Proteas, after an initial settling-in period, adapted surprisingly quickly to the demands of the international game in 1991. The South African side quickly established a reputation as a superb fielding team, a reputation soon backed up its the bowling attack and, after a period of maturing, its batting line-up. In very little time the Proteas became one of the elite teams of world cricket.

South Africa Cricket Pictures, Images and Photos

South Africa made their debut at the World Cup in 1992 and went all the way to the semi-final before falling victim to a controversial ruling on matches delayed by rain. In 1999 Australia and South Africa played in one of the greatest matches of all time as they tied their World Cup semi-final, with Allan Donald run out in the final over with the Proteas needing one run for victory.

The Australians went through to the final, having defeated South Africa by five wickets with only two balls to spare earlier in the tournament.

On the 11th of October 2000, Hansie Cronje, Proteas captain was banned from  playing or coaching cricket for life after being found guilty for match-fixing. Hansie Cronje was tragically killed in a plane crash on the 1st of June 2002. He remains

a national sporting hero amongst South African cricket fans.

Hansie Cronje Pictures, Images and Photos

South Africa hosted the World Cup in 2003, and entered the tournament with high hopes of becoming the first nation to win cricket's biggest event on home soil. Unfortunately for the home fans, the Proteas disappointed, failing to reach the Super Sixes stage after yet another defeat that was hard to believe.

The Proteas hold the record of the largest successful run chase and the second highest team total in One-Day Internationals (438-9 in 49.5 overs), in an iconic match against Australia on 12 March 2006. This game is considered by many to be the greatest One-Day International ever played.

South Africa became the world's No. 1 ranked side early in 2007 but then failed to deliver once again in the 2007 Cricket World Cup. South Africa are regarded by many as the best team never to have won the Cricket World Cup.

South Africa’s domestic competitions are the Supersport Series, inter-provincial four-day cricket competition, MTN Limited Overs Cup, the inter-provincial limited-overs competition, played mostly under lights andthe Standard Bank Pro20 Series. As in many places in the world, Twenty20 cricket has brought many fans back to the game of cricket. Zimbabwe and the six South African provincial teams compete in the Pro20 series.

The conclusion of the series can be read at: