Remember May 22

As we move through the month of May, we’re coming closer to an important date in sporting history. May 22 marks forty-seven years since the 1970 South African cricket tour of England was cancelled. A series that may have decided who was the best team in international cricket never happened.


A fourteen man touring squad was named for the visitors. Captained by Ali Bacher it contained Eddie Barlow, Grahame Chevalier, Lee Irvine, “Tiger” Lance, Denis Lindsay, Graeme & Lee Pollock, Mike Proctor, Barry Richards, Arthur Short, John Traicos, Pat Trimborn and Gary Watson. They had just beaten Australia 4-0: with a 3-1 victory over Australia in their previous series. The last time they toured England in 1965 they had won 1-0, their first series victory in England. England were also in good form, having won both home series in 1969. They’d triumphed over both New Zealand & West Indies. Yet the forthcoming series was not to happen.


Around the world South Africa was becoming an international pariah, as a result of its apartheid regime. One of the few areas of contact was in the sporting realm with a dwindling number of British Commonwealth nations, namely England, Australia and New Zealand. However this contact was further threatened, with the English tour of South Africa cancelled in 1968-69 because of their selection of Basil D’Oliveira, player who was deemed in the parlance of the time a “coloured”. Thus D’Oliveira was not allowed to tour, with the result being the cancellation of the tour.


As 1970 arrived things did not augur well for the proposed tour. The Springboks rugby tour of England in 1969-70 saw mass demonstrations. At the same time a charity team of multi racial cricketers, the International Cavaliers, were refused entry to South Africa, as the team  contained “non white” players. The Kenyan government then banned a Marleybone Cricket Club (MCC) touring team saying they could not play against a team that in any way could be seen as supportive of the apartheid regime. The forthcoming Commonwealth games in Edinburgh were jeopardised with eight African countries, India, Guyana and Jamaica saying they would boycott if the cricket tour went ahead.


Around England protests took place against the tour. Some grounds including Worcester and Gloucester were vandalised. Protests took place around the nation. One of the scions of the English cricket media, John Arlott refused to cover matches. None the less the governing bodies of English cricket, the MCC and the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB) were determined to press ahead with the tour. In this they were supported by the International Cricket Council (ICC). As a compromise they proposed reducing the number of tour matches  from 28 to 11, also taking other drastic measures to allow the tour to proceed.


None the less the pressure remained, both within England and throughout much of the Commonwealth. Finally after pressure was applied by the Labour Government of Harold Wilson, the tour was cancelled on May 22. A Rest of the World team, containing a number of South African players, toured playing five “tests”. South Africa would not play cricket in England again until 1994.


Just over a year after Australia found itself in a similar situation as the Springboks rugby team toured, with a cricketing tour proposed to follow. But that’s another story for another day.






  1. Thanks for the reminder, Glen!
    In many ways, it is so hard to believe that all this happened.

  2. Rulebook says

    Ditto Smokie above geez that was a strong South African side, we cricket lovers were deprived of some absolute champions of the game. Only at Shield and County level did we see these guns, stories re Barry Richards are still told regularly now. My favourite is Neville Thiele,Port Adelaide footballer and cricketer who had a huge dose of white line fever. All week the Port guys had got stuck in to Thiele saying Richards was the same as you and me, two arms two legs. Prospect are batting, Thiele marches out on to the ground, snatches the ball, comes in off the long run and bounces Richards. He goes back, has time for a beer and a cigar and hooks him 1st ball over the grandstand. David Curtin said it took about 10 minutes to get the ball back giving the Port players just time to stop pissing themselves laughing thanks Glen.

  3. Yes Rulebook there were some damn good players we didn’t see much of here in Australia.

    I can recall Barry Richards, Mike Proctor and Graeme Pollock during the WSC days, with Richards being the most impressive. He scored a 207 against a strong Australian bowling line up in a match in Perth. Proctor and Pollock were past their prime, though neither could be under estimated such was their great natural talent.

    Sadly sports people are easy to use in political conflicts; trade continues on. Though our sporting teams couldn’t play in this period, trade with the apartheid regime continued. Hmmmm, trade, it might get me on my soapbox re the “great trade war’, no ,leave that for another day.


  4. There was an interesting article in the Guardian last week. It was about the fifth test of the South Africa V England series in 1998. The series was then one all, as South Africa went on to lose a spiteful decider. The South African led one-nil going into the fourth test, after England had scraped a draw in the third test, ostensibly on the back of a great knock by Mike Atherton who withstood all the South Africans threw at him.

    The stories about the fifth test are intriguing. The racism of some South African players towards English opener Mark Butcher, the bluster of Dominck Cork, the acrimony between the two sides, compounded by some dubious umpiring saw the South Africans lose a close match, thus the series. Their propensity to ‘choke’ was being talked about then.

    Hmm,maybe i should send a copy of the article to The Age’s Greg Baum, just informing him , that despite how regular tirades, the Australian aren’t the only international cricket team that may behave badly.


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