When South Africa toured England in 1965 there were already signs of their impending expulsion from international sporting competition.
The broadcaster John Arlott, a passionate opponent of South Africa’s apartheid laws, refused to commentate on their games, while protesters camped out in front of the team hotel during the Lord’s Test. Opposition to sporting contact with South Africa continued to grow through the decade, intensified by the cancellation of the MCC tour of the country in 1968 over the selection of Basil D’Oliveira. The abandonment of South Africa’s next tour of England in 1970 would be the final straw.
By that time, South Africa were arguably the finest Test side in the world. In early 1970 they had beaten Australia 4-0 in a four Test series and the closest margin had been 170 runs. A generation of hugely gifted young players had just taken the cricket world by storm and their careers were suddenly cut short before they had a chance to flower. Graeme and Peter Pollock, Barry Richards, Eddie Barlow and Mike Procter would never play Test cricket again. The next generation - Clive Rice, Ken McEwan and Vintcent van der Bijl among them - would never get the chance at all. Some, like Allan Lamb, Robin Smith and Kepler Wessels, took the option of playing Test cricket for other countries. Others, like Jimmy Cook and Peter Kirsten, hung on, finally getting their chance at the end of their careers with their best years behind them.
South Africa’s return to international competition, under a new United Cricket Board and a new national flag, was greeted with jubilation and came just in time for them to participate in the 1992 ICC World Cup. By the time their returned to England in 1994 they had already squeezed in Test tours of West Indies, Sri Lanka and Australia and hosted an Indian tour at home for the first time in their history. Wessels had returned to his homeland to captain the team at the age of 36, and he was joined by the 39 year-old Kirsten.
It was Wessels who held his team’s innings together on day one of the first Test at Lord’s, making 105 before falling shortly before stumps. Solid work from the lower middle order raised South Africa’s score to 357. In reply, England struggled against the pace of Allan Donald and the swing of Fanie de Villiers, Graeme Hick top scoring with 38 as they were bowled out for just 180. Donald claimed 5 for 74. Sitting on a lead of 177, South Africa then reached 278 for 8 before declaring, leaving England with an unlikely target of 456.
That they never got close was largely down to disciplined seam bowling by Craig Matthews and Brian McMillan. McMillan claimed 3 for 16, Matthews 3 for 25. Only Alec Stewart and Graham Gooch passed 20 and England were bundled out for 99 in just 45.5 overs. South Africa had won by a huge margin of 356 runs. They had returned to the Home of Cricket in triumphant style.