With South Africa arriving on Aotearoa’s shores for a two Test series against the BLACKCAPS, the museum has delved into its collection to find objects of significance and interest from our shared cricketing history.

The museum holds a collection of around 20 blazers. From Harry Cave and Ina Lamason’s 1950s blazers to the fashionable black and silver pinstripe of the 1992 World Cup side that was the envy of all teams.

And among all the black and the silver ferns, a pinstripe green and gold blazer. The head of a springbok is woven into the chest pocket and embossed onto each of the seven golden buttons lining the jacket front and sleeves. This blazer from 1951 is unmistakably and distinctively South African.

How this 70 year old woollen blazer (still in excellent condition) came into the museum’s collection is unclear. However the inside maker label identifies the owner as W.R. Endean. William Russell Endean played in 28 Tests for South Africa between 1951 and 1958. He was one of South Africa’s best batsmen of the era and considered one of the great fielders of the game. Endean’s leaping one-handed effort on the MCG boundary in 1952 was as part of a South African team whose collective brilliance propelled the art of fielding forward long before the diving exploits of Jonty Rhodes. Like Rhodes, Endean also played hockey for South Africa.

Endean played seven Tests against New Zealand between 1953 and 1954. He toured New Zealand in 1953, which marked the first meeting of these two sides since their 1931/32 tour of New Zealand (New Zealand’s only non-English test opposition until 1946). Off the back of a fine tour of Australia, Endean feasted against the Kiwis with 204 runs in the two Tests at an average of 102. South Africa won the series 1-0 and the subsequent 1954 five Test series in South Africa 4-0. In a career which averaged 33.95 with the bat, Endean’s record against the Kiwis stands at an impressive 55.22. 

Bizarrely, Endean was involved in two odd cricketing firsts – the first happening of not one, but two of the more unusual methods of dismissal in test cricket. 

In 1956, Endean was the first man to be dismissed “handled the ball”. Endean played with his pads, and the ball “spun upwards, some feet above the stumps, and subconsciously, … put out his hand and allowed the ball to fall into his palm.” This ignominy has only been suffered by seven batsmen since with the last such instance in 2001. 

Five years prior in his debut series against England in 1951, Endean was also involved in the first and only instance of a batter given out for “obstructing the field”. England captain Len Hutton’s attempted sweep shot was looping towards the wicketkeeper Endean’s gloves but Hutton, attempting to protect his wickets, flicked it away with his bat. Amid scenes of confusion, he was given out “obstructing the field”. 

This blazer was worn by the South African national team in 1951, likely from their tour of England, which involved this odd but historic cricketing moment.

Image: cricketthrills.com