SWALLOWS AND HAWKE English Cricket Tours, the MCC and the Making of South Africa 1888-1968 by Richard Parry and Andre Odendaal

SWALLOWS AND HAWKE English Cricket Tours, the MCC and the Making of South Africa 1888-1968
by Richard Parry and Andre Odendaal

Published by:
Pitch Publishing
9 Donnington Park, 85 Birdham Road,
Chichester, West Sussex PO20 7AJ.

Contact: www.pitchpublishing.co.uk; info@pitchpublishing.co.uk

Pages: 448

MRP: £22.99

Copies may be purchased from Swallows and Hawke | Pitch Publishing


Dr. Richard Parry and Professor Andre Odendaal, two experts in the field of South African history, have combined to compile a fascinating history of English cricket tours from the outset in 1888 to 1968. Readers will likely be aware that the latter tour was cancelled due to Basil d'Oliveira being ultimately picked to play in the land of his birth.

This is a remarkable book combining great detail of the matches played on the tours interwoven with much history of the country being visited. Starting with the cricket, it is mind-boggling to read of the transport difficulties which the earliest tourists faced: the days a journey could take by, at times, horse and coach and the various pitfalls en route. Another added factor was that, in these earliest tours, the tourists would play against up to 22 opponents. It is easy to forget that batting must have been a precarious pursuit whilst trying to find gaps between twice the normal number of fielders. The British class system is analysed in detail which manifested itself in the ways amateurs and professionals not only travelled but in the type of accommodation they stayed.

The book has been researched in great detail as the sources are mentioned at the bottom of every - and many - applicable pages. Included are the authors' other works, many newspapers and a bibliography of almost seven pages.

What makes Swallows and Hawke even more interesting is the regular boxed excerpts of differing facts which include cricket, politics and South African and British history. It would make for wonderful viewing if there was film of some of the bowlers' actions mentioned but, alas, it was likely too early.

Apartheid is one of the book's main features and is related to alongside the political situation at the time. Some people were referred to as Malay, and one particularly fine player, William Henry "Krom" Hendricks, a fast bowler, is mentioned regularly as he was not given the opportunity to represent the national team.

The M.C.C. is another major aspect of the book. Tours within the time span of this book were chosen by M.C.C. and the authors were granted permission to see the minutes of meetings for the selection of the 1968 tour. Much can be learnt about the way in which the touring sides might have been selected.

I must say that Swallows and Hawke is an exceptional read. Anyone wanting to learn about the first eighty years of cricket tours to South Africa (the third Test-playing nation) have an awful lot of information at their finger tips, some of it quite breath-taking whilst also, I suspect, with a hint of humour at times. Others wanting to learn about South African history at the same time have it all in this book. For those interested in both, one needs look no further than Swallows and Hawke.