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31 December 1887: Kimberley (GW) win the 4th Champion Bat cricket tourney.
31 December 1899: Pvt Kelly of the Kimberley Regiment found dead in the Big Hole.
31 December 1938: St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral destroyed by fire.
31 December 1953: Malay Camp to be cleared of any residential buildings.
31 December 1984: Harry Oppenheimer retires as Chairman of De Beers Board.


The Champion Bat Tournament was a cricket tournament played in the late 1800s in present-day South Africa. Rather than a cup, the winner of the tournament was presented with the “Champion Bat” – a cricket bat emblazoned with a silver crest.

Contested approximately every three to four years, it was first held in 1876 in Port Elizabeth, between teams representing the major settlements of the Cape Colony. Although the exact composition varied, the town-based format continued until the tournament’s final edition during the 1890–91 season, which was played between Eastern Province, Griqualand West, and Western Province (teams which still compete in South African domestic cricket). The tournament was played five times before being superseded by the Currie Cup as the premier South African cricket tournament. Only the last edition of the Champion Bat was accorded first-class status.

The inaugural tournament was played in Port Elizabeth from 6–12 January 1876, with the tournament’s prize, the Champion Bat, donated by the town’s mayor, Henry William Pearson (later an MP), on behalf of the Port Elizabeth Town Council. Four teams competed in the 1876 tournament, representing Cape Town, Grahamstown, King William’s Town, and Port Elizabeth, with all matches played at St George’s Park. Matches were played over two innings, invariably lasting only one day each owing to their low-scoring nature. Each team was to play each other once (a “round-robin”), for a total of six matches.

The second tournament was held in King William’s Town from 14–22 January 1880, and included a team from Queenstown for the first time. A final was played, with King William’s Town easily defeating Port Elizabeth to win the tournament for the first time.

The third tournament was held in Port Elizabeth for a second time, from 22–31 December 1884. The tournament was reduced to four teams, with the teams from Grahamstown and Queenstown replaced by a team from the far inland town of Kimberley, in Griqualand West. Port Elizabeth won the tournament for the first time.

The fourth tournament was held at Grahamstown’s Albany Sports Club from 26 December 1887 to 3 January 1888. Cape Town was replaced by Grahamstown, the host. Kimberley won the tournament for the first time. Although the tournament continued until 3 January 1888, Kimberley had played their last game on 31 December 1887 and already won the Champion Bat.

The tournament belonged to Kimberley off spin bowler Irvine Grimmer who was devastating on the matting wicket, introducing over-arm off spin for the first time in South Africa. Against Grahamstown he took seven wickets in the match, and against Port Elizabeth eight wickets in the match.

Against Kingwilliamstown Grimmer took six wickets for 18 runs in the first innings and four wickets for nine runs in the second innings.

A hard hitter in the mould of the future South African all-rounders Adrian Kuiper and Lance Klusener, Grimmer’s top score was 37 against Grahamstown.

The fifth and final tournament was held at Cape Town’s Newlands ground from 26 December 1890 to 3 January 1891. Eastern Province, Griqualand West, and Western Province fielded sides, and the three matches played were accorded first-class status.

(Mostly from Wikipedia and MW Luckin’s The History of South African Cricket).

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt


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