Prodigious batsman Herbie Taylor was named captained of the South African team to face off against the visiting English team in 1913–14, in what would prove South Africa's last international cricketing involvement before the First World War. Overall, the series was extremely poor for a South African side in transition, who failed to replicate the achievements of the South African sides 1905–06 and 1909–10, losing the 5-match Test series 4–0 against an extremely strong English side playing under the banner of the MCC. However, the series became memorable for Herbie Taylor's exceptional batting, who heralded his arrival as a new colossus in the world game, scoring a phenomenal 508 runs at an average of 50.80 against a terrific Sydney Barnes at his prime, who had claimed a record 49 wickets during the series at just 10.93. The cricket historian H.S. Altham wrote: "The English cricketers were unanimous that finer batting than his against Barnes at his best they never hoped to see." Neville Cardus noted it was "perhaps the most skilful of all Test performances by a batsman." It also led Cardus to count Taylor as "one of the six greatest batsmen of the post-Grace period".
Another reason for their poor performances were the demands of County Cricket teams on their players, meaning that England could rarely field a full-strength team on their tours. This eventually led to the ECB taking over from the MCC as the governing body of England and the implementation of central contracts. 1992 also saw Scotland sever ties with the England and Wales team, and begin to compete as the Scotland national team.
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Gower took over as skipper in 1984 and led the team to a 2–1 victory over India. They went on to win the 1985 Ashes 3–1, although after this came a poor run of form. Defeat to the West Indies dented the team's confidence, and they went on to lose to India 2–0. In 1986, Micky Stewart was appointed the first full-time England coach. England beat New Zealand, but there was little hope of them retaining the Ashes in 1986–87. However, despite being described as a team that 'can't bat, can't bowl and can't field', they went on to win the series 2–1.
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