Most of the embarrassingly low first-class team totals were recorded in the early age of cricket. However, the Currie Cup of 1959-60 saw one of the most bizarre first-class matches ever played. Two of the three lowest first-class team totals after the second World War were recorded in this match between Border and Natal.
Border, the perennial underdogs of erstwhile South African domestic cricket, played host to heavyweights Natal, who were led by Derrick ‘Jackie’ McGlew, at the Jan Smuts Ground in East London in the thirteenth match of the season.
This three-day match, played between 19th and 21st December, 1959, was part of the top division (known as Section A), which also included defending champions Transvaal, Western Province and Rhodesia.
Coming into the game, Border had been beaten thrice in three games thus far, whereas Natal had won twice in as many games. There was no doubt that the visitors were clear favourites, but the manner in which the Border batsmen capitulated was bewildering.
South African Test all-rounder Trevor Goddard took 6/3, including a hat trick, in Border’s first innings (source – in.com)
Border captain Kevin Commins won the toss and elected to field on a pitch which was usually known to be more bowler-friendly than most of the other pitches used in the competition. The decision looked justified as the Natal batsmen failed to negotiate the pace of the hosts’ opening pair of Sidney Knott and Athol Hagemann.
Hopes of an upset win must have surely been harboured as Natal crashed to 21/5 and then 50/8, with only Geoffrey Griffin (22) crossing eleven. Wicketkeeper Malcolm Smith, batting at number nine, attempted to stem the rot with a 40-run stand for the ninth wicket with Peter Dodds.
This helped prop up the eventual total to 90 all out in 26.3 overs, Smith top-scoring with 33. Knott and Hagemann bowled unchanged, sharing the spoils with 5/40 and 5/49 respectively.
Border’s batsmen were in very ordinary form, as the team had suffered innings defeats in their previous two encounters. But on this occasion, they managed to plummet to new depths. The left-right combination of Trevor Goddard – one of South Africa’s best all-rounders – and John Cole wrought havoc in ruthless fashion.
The two bowlers bowled unchanged from the second over onwards and consigned the hosts to an ignominious 16 all out in 23 overs – the lowest ever total in South African domestic cricket.
Goddard began the damage by trapping Peter Muzzell leg before for a duck with the score on two. From thereon, the procession unfolded. The score went from 2/0 to 2/3 and then to 11/5 before the last three wickets fell at 16.
Goddard recorded excellent career-best figures of 11-9-3-6, including a hat-trick, while Cole supported him ably with 4/13. Six batsmen, including captain Commins, were dismissed without scoring. The top score was nine by number five Daniel During, who was the ninth batsman to fall and was Goddard’s hat-trick victim.
With his team trailing by 74 runs, off-break bowler Edwin Schreiber provided some vital strikes at the end of the day to leave Natal at 39/3. On a dramatic opening day, just 145 runs were scored for the loss of 23 wickets.
On the second day, which followed a rest day, Natal’s number three Michael Elgie showed how to bat on such a wicket with a wonderful display of stroke-making. He ensured that the match was put well out of reach for Border and ended with an unbeaten career-best 162 out of a team total of 294/8 declared.
He put on 122 runs for the seventh wicket with Lynton Morby-Smith (43) to rescue Natal from 145/6. Schreiber bowled whole-heartedly, taking 6/126. Border needed 369 runs to win the match, and the only question was how long would their second innings last.
This time around it was the fast bowling of Griffin that spearheaded the attack. He had bowled only one over in the first innings but was at his fiery best in the second. The innings followed a painfully similar pattern to the first, as not even one batsman showed the skill or appetite to survive.
Border lamentably crashed to 5/4 and then to 12/8. The final total was equally woeful – 18 all out in 26 overs. Natal had won by a thumping margin of 350 runs within two days. Griffin grabbed a career-best 7/11 in 13 overs while Cole chipped in yet again with 3/4. Smith was excellent behind the wicket, holding seven catches. There were five ducks and the top score was seven by Warwick Tainton.
This was the first – and remains the only – instance of a team getting bundled out for less than 20 in both innings of a first-class match. Border went on to lose their remaining two games of the season as well, thus ending with a hundred percent loss record. Natal became champions by virtue of topping Section A and went on to win the title in five of the next six years as well.
Needless to say, Border’s total of 34 is the lowest ever aggregate figure in first-class cricket. In all likelihood, this is one first-class record that will remain unchallenged. Before these two innings, the lowest total in South African domestic cricket was 23, also by Border against Natal at the same ground in 1920-21.
Thus, Border hold the dubious record of the three lowest first-class totals recorded on South African soil. The fourth-lowest first-class total in South Africa was recorded in as recently as 2013, when KwaZulu-Natal Inland were bowled out for 26 against North West at Potchefstroom.
Since 1959-60, there has been only one lower first-class total – 14 by Surrey against Essex at Chelmsford in 1983.
Match Scorecard – http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Scorecards/23/23864.html