Pollocks versus England

The brilliant South African brothers, left-hand batsman Graeme and fast bowler Peter, annihilated England in the Trent Bridge Test of 1965, writes Gulu Ezekiel.

Graeme Pollock's glittering career was cut short after just 23 Tests when South Africa were banned from international cricket from 1970 to 1991 due to their pernicious apartheid policy. Pollock's average of 60.97 remains the second highest after Sir Donald Bradman amongst those who have played 20 Tests or more. There is a serious case for regarding the younger Pollock as the greatest left-hand batsman of all time along with Sir Garry Sobers.

Graeme's brother, Peter, for many years, was the South African record holder for fast bowlers with 116 wickets in 28 Tests. Peter's son Shaun has long since gone past him. Though the second Test at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, in 1965 could not be considered a classic, the sublime batting of Graeme and the fiery fast bowling of Peter made this match a unique occasion. It remains the only Test in which one brother hit a century and the other claimed 10 wickets in the match. Another family connection was that the first day of the Test (August 5), which Graeme totally dominated, happened to be their mother's birthday.

Graeme scored 125 and 59, held a fine catch at slip and claimed the wicket of England captain M. J. K. Smith with his occasional leg-breaks. Peter had marvellous bowling analysis of 5 for 53 and 5 for 34. It was a family achievement to remember as South Africa won by 94 runs. It was also the last time the pair would be seen in action in an official Test match in England.

England were fortunate to survive with a draw in the first Test at Lord's and the South Africans, captained by Peter van der Merwe, came to Trent Bridge brimming with confidence. But that was shattered on the opening morning when their first five wickets tumbled with just 80 runs on the board. It was first change Tom Cartwright, the swing bowler, who sent them crashing with the wickets of Roy `Tiger' Lance, Dennis Lindsay and Eddie Barlow. He would finish with 6 for 94, but could not bowl in the second innings due to a broken thumb.

Off spinner Fred Titmus accounted for Colin Bland and at a disastrous 43 for 4 it was up to Aaron `Ali' Bacher (in his second Test) and Pollock to take them to 76 without further loss at the lunch interval. Pollock, who had walked in at 16 for 2, was batting on 34. The young master, just 21, raised some eyebrows among his more experienced colleagues during the break when he mentioned that he did not find either the state of the pitch or the bowling to be menacing.

Lesser mortals might have been apprehensive, but Pollock was apparently untroubled. Bacher was bowled by John Snow shortly after lunch and now half the side was back in the pavilion. It was a dire situation and in the presence of his skipper, Van der Merwe, Pollock decided to take the attack to the enemy camp. The result was a series of sublime strokes that had England's bowlers and fielders at their wits' end.

John Woodcock wrote thus in his match report for a magazine: "Not since Bradman's day could anyone recall having seen an England attack treated in such cavalier style. I think it was the ease [Woodcock's emphasis] with which Pollock batted which was more astounding than anything." On a pitch that offered him assistance, the normally spot-on Cartwright was taken out of the attack after being struck for two consecutive fours.

Titmus too found himself at the receiving end of Pollock's broad and heavy blade. Pollock's 50 came in 95 minutes with seven boundaries. Then he stepped up the tempo to the extent that the next 75 came at lightning speed, 43 minutes to be precise! 56 of those 75 runs flowed from boundaries.

All this time the experienced Van der Merwe could only look on in admiration from the other end. His steady 38 helped the innings come back on track until the stand worth 98 was abruptly terminated. Pollock was given out, caught by Colin Cowdrey at first slip off Cartwright for a sublime 125.

The captain's contribution to the stand was just seven runs! Pollock was furious at the decision, convinced his bat had hit the ground and not the ball. Photos appear to bear him out. Pollock is looking down at the ground rather than behind him as Cowdrey goes up for the ball. It was his fourth Test ton and though he would score another three (including 274 against Australia in his final series in 1970), Pollock himself always maintained this was his best.

It was the crashing power of his off-side strokes and his uncanny ability to find the gaps in the field that left all those watching in total awe. Try as he might, Smith simply could not stop the rampage. Who knows what further mayhem he might have wrought if the umpire had turned down the appeal and allowed him to bat on?

As it was, the visitors reached a handy 269. Then by close on the opening day, Peter Pollock blasted out Geoff Boycott for a duck and Ken Barrington (1) to leave England tottering at 16 for 2.

Cowdrey's 105 dominated England's reply of 240 with Peter Pollock returning figures of 5 for 53.

The lead was not substantial but the South Africans batted better in their second innings. Pollock chipped in with 59 this time, though it was Bacher (67) and Barlow (76) who topped his score and helped them reach 289 all out.

Till that year only three times had a side crossed 300 runs to win a Test match and England's target of 319 always appeared well beyond their reach. By the time Peter had sent back Barrington once again for 1, the innings was tottering at 13 for 4. This soon became 59 for six with Boycott and Cowdrey also falling cheaply. Though Peter Parfitt hung on for a gutsy 86, the fight had gone out of England and they crumbled to 224 all out. The brothers accounted for the last four wickets to fall with Graeme trapping Smith lbw for 24. Once again Peter's pace and hostility proved too hot for the batsmen to handle.

With the third and final Test at The Oval finishing in a draw, South Africa won the series 1-0. That special Pollock magic would be on display intermittently till the '80s. But those privileged to witness his Trent Bridge display will never forget a very special innings by a very special batsman.


England v South Africa, 1965, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, Nottingham, August 5-9.

Result: South Africa won by 94 runs

South Africa 269 (R. G. Pollock 125, P. L. Van der Merwe 38, R.Dumbrill 30, T. W. Cartwright 6-94) and 289 (E. J. Barlow 76, A.Bacher 67, R. G. Pollock 59, J. D. F. Larter 5-68, J. A. Snow 3-83) beat

England 240 (M. C. Cowdrey 105, R. W. Barber 41, M. J. K. Smith 32, P. M. Pollock 5-53) and 224 (P. H. Parfitt 86, J. M. Parks not out 44, P. M. Pollock 5-34, A. H. McKinnon 3-50).