The upcoming South African tour match at the MCG had me reminiscing about my childhood and my earliest memories of South African cricket. This was going with my father to see the second day of the second Test match at the MCG on Boxing Day 1952.The South Africans played at the MCG four times that season, with the second and fifth Test matches held at the ground, as well as first-class matches against Victoria before each Test.
For only the second time in the 20th century Melbourne’s opening Test was not held during the traditional New Year period, but started on Christmas Eve. My sister had travelled to Adelaide to watch the Davis Cup and my father took me along to watch the cricket on Boxing Day.
It was the most memorable day due to the magnificence of the South African fielding. We are used to seeing good fielding today - some truly outstandingly athletic - but that wasn't the norm back in the 1950s. South Africa set new standards then.
There were four wonderful catches that special day, the most amazing being Endean's catch to dismiss Keith Miller. From the moment the ball left the bat it seemed to be a six over long on. Miller was batting at the member’s end so the ball travelled towards the outer near Bay13.
I had a good view from my seat in the front row of the old grandstand looking straight across the MCG. Russell Endean was fielding on the boundary at long on. As the ball sailed towards him he jumped in the air and put up his right hand to complete a ‘miraculous’ catch.
Everyone was amazed at his feat, including Miller. The applause said it all. Richie Benaud would later write that the crowd cheered, Endean for a full minute. I had never heard anything to match it for an outfield catch.
Tayfield, who was the bowler, also completed a great caught and bowled from a shot by Morris. The ball ricocheted from the captain Chetham, who was fielding close to the wicket and Tayfield showed remarkably quick reflexes to grab the ball.
That day Tayfield bowled from the Members Pavilion end unchanged from straight after lunch until he took the last wicket late in the final session. He finished with the figures of 6 for 84. He then took 7 for 81 in the Australia’s second innings to bowl the South Africans to a memorable victory by 82 runs, their first at the MCG.
As a teenage cricket fan, I came away very impressed and appreciative of the South Africans’ efforts and style of play. I followed them with great interest and even watched a Test at the Wanderers during the Australian tour of South Africa in January 1970. In later years my father and I often had much pleasure remembering our special Boxing Day at the MCG years before our Test became known as the Boxing Day Test.
View the day’s play and catches, as covered by The Argus.
View the match scorecard.
Ann Rusden has been an MCC member since 1984. She has volunteered in the MCC Library and as an MCG tour guide for more than 20 years.