The two nations first met in Nottingham in 1935 and the visitors were thankful to the weather to escape with a draw. England batted first and the openers made hay with Herbert Sutcliffe making 61 and the captain Bob Wyatt 149. Lower down the order, Maurice Leyland chipped in with a useful 69 and England were able to declare on 384/7. Following a rest day, the England attack, spearheaded by Stan Nichols who took 6 wickets, bowled out South Africa for 220 runs with only Jack Siedle (59) and Jock Cameron (52) offering any real resistance. Nichols took another wicket as South Africa followed on, ending the second day on 17/1 but the pitch was unplayable on day three and a draw was declared.
When they returned in 1947, it was England who were fortunate to escape with a draw. The visitors won the toss and elected to bat, piling on a mammoth 533, featuring hundreds from captain Alan Melville (189) and Dudley Nouse (149) The pick of the England bowlers was Eric Hollies, most famous for bowling Don Bradman for a duck in his final innings, who took 5/123. England struggled in reply as Lindsay Tucker took 5/68 as the hosts could only make 208. Bill Eldrich and Dennis Compton both made fifties but it wasn't enough and England were made to follow on. They performed much better second time round with the bat, scoring 551 underpinned by Dennis Compton's 163 and featuring contributions from Cyril Washbrook (59), Bill Eldrich (50), Godfrey Evans (74) and Norman Yardley (99) That left South Africa needing 227 to win the match and they reached 166/1 at the end of the fourth day following an unbeaten century from Alan Melville. Unfortunately for South Africa, test matches only lasted four days back in 1947 and so what would have been an easy win today was called as a draw.
Four years later and there was finally a decisive result. South Africa batted first again and Dudley Nouse, by now the skipper of the visitors was again the thorn in England's side, scoring 208 before being run out. He would go on to take no further part in the match as he was still suffering from a broken thumb, which he'd injured some three weeks previously. John Waite weighed in with a useful 76 and George Fullerton hit 54 and they declared on 483/9. Len Hutton kicked off England's reply with 63 before Reg Simpson scored 137 and Dennis Compton hit 112. Willie Watson also hit a fifty as England declared 64 runs in arrears as they tried to force a result. It was then time for Alec Bedser to shine as he took 6 wickets for just 37 runs as South Africa were all out for 121 leaving England needing 186 runs to win. Five wickets for Athol Rowan and four for Tufty Mann left England 72 runs short of their victory target and gave South Africa just their second test victory in England.
In 1955, it was England who chose to bat first and 87 from opener Don Kenyon and 83 from captain Peter May took England to a middling 334. In reply, South Africa collapsed to 55/5 before being bowled out for 181 despite fifties from Jackie McGlew (68) and Jack Cheetham (54) The pick of the England bowlers was Johnny Wardle with 4/24 but he would be overshadowed as the visitors were asked to follow on. McGlew scored a second fifty as the openers put on 73 for the first wicket. Then Frank Tyson hit his stride and took 6/28 as South Africa were blown away for 148 and England didn't even need to bat a second time, winning by an innings and five runs.
South Africa returned to Nottingham in 1960 and England again chose to bat first. Despite 67 from skipper Colin Cowdrey and 80 from Ken Barrington, the visitors would have been pretty happy, having dismissed the hosts for 288 with Trevor Goddard taking 5/80. That happiness would soon fade once Fred Truman got the ball in his hand and his 5/27 meant that South Africa could only post a total of 88 all out. They made a better fist of it following on, Sid O'Linn scoring 98 and John Waite 60 but 4 more wickets for Truman restricted them to 247, meaning that England needed just 49 to win the game. Not even England could make a mess of that run chase and they quickly wrapped up an 8-wicket victory.
Five years later it was the Pollock show as brothers Graeme and Peter made their mark. Batting first, Graeme made 125 out of a total of 269 while Tom Cartwright took 6/94. In reply Peter took 5/53, which gave the visitors a slight edge after the first innings despite a century from Colin Cowdrey. Graeme made 59, which alongside 67 from Ali Bacher and 76 for Eddie Barlow meant that England had a target of 319 runs to win the match despite five wickets for David Larter. Then it was Peter's turn again taking 5/34 including the wicket of top scorer Peter Parfitt for 86 as South Africa won the test by 94 runs.
It would be 23 years before South Africa returned after their ban from international sport due to ban because of the apartheid regime. Despite the intervening years, there was still a Pollock in the South African side - Shaun, the son of Peter and he followed in his father's and uncle's footsteps making 50 in the first innings. Added to 126 from captain Hansie Cronje, it meant that South Africa finished on 374 while Angus Fraser took 5/60. Mark Butcher (75) and Mike Atherton (58) put on 145 for the first wicket and England would have been disappointed to only post 336 as Mark Ramperkash was the only other batsmen to pass fifty as too many wilted in the face of Allan Donald's assault (5/109) Opening bowler Angus Fraser continued where he left off in the first innings, taking 5/62, supported by Dominic Cork's 4/60 as the visitor scored 208, with only Daryll Cullinan (56) and Hansie Cronje (67) making many runs. Then it was time for Allan Donald vs Mike Atherton - Donald is still angry today that Atherton didn't walk when he gloved one behind on 27. He would go on the make 98 not out as England chased down a tricky looking total of 247 for the loss of just two wickets.
The last time that South Africa visited Trent bridge was back in 2003, a match that was only Michael Vaughan's second as captain of the England team. Batting first, it was the England middle-order that piled on the runs with Mark Butcher scoring 106 at three, former captain Nasser Hussain scoring 116 at four, Ed Smith 64 at five and Alec Stewart 72 at six. In reply Neil McKenzie hit 90 and Shaun Pollock scored 62 but Jimmy Anderson took 5/102 and South Africa were all out for 362, giving England a healthy lead of 83. Of course, England have never liked to make things easy and with Shaun Pollock in inspiring form with the ball (6/39) England collapsed to just 118. With South Africa requiring 202 to win the test, England needed a hero and found one in the unlikely form of James Kirtley taking 6/34 on his test debut helping England to somehow escape with a 70 run victory.
So, out of 8 games between England and South Africa at Trent Bridge, the hosts have a pretty decent record of four wins, two draws and two defeats. Can England keep that run going? Who from the current teams can write their names in the history books next to the likes of Colin Cowdrey, Dennis Compton, Eric Hollies or the three Pollocks?