The South African team was captained by Jack Cheetham, with Jackie McGlew as vice-captain. Ken Viljoen, the former Test cricketer, was the manager. The combination of Cheetham and Viljoen had led South Africa to its most successful tour of Australia ever, the 1952-53 tour, when the team drew the series with Australia. Arguably the side's performance in England was even better, since the hosts were recognised at the time as the strongest team in Test cricket, having beaten Australia both home and away and drawn with West Indies away during the previous two years. Jack Cheetham's team were one of the outstanding fielding sides in the history of cricket and remained the benchmark for fieldsmen for decades. In the first One Day International in 1970-71 Richard Whitington wrote "out-fieldsmen were hurling themselves about along the fence in a manner I had not seen for years in desperate endeavour to save fours and reduce runs. They were beginning to resemble Jack Cheetham's unforgettable 1952-53 Springboks". Frank Tyson added in the 1974-75 Ashes series "Never have I seen a better fielding display in a Test match since Jack Cheetham's 1955 Springboks. Almost everything that left the ground was caught..."
The full team was:Jack Cheetham, captain
Jackie McGlew, vice-captain
Chris Duckworth, wicketkeeper
John Waite, wicketkeeper
Cheetham, McGlew, Endean, Mansell, McLean, Tayfield and Waite had toured England with the 1951 team. Smith had toured England with the 1947 team, but had not been selected in 1951; he was the only remaining player who had been to England on that tour. McGlew, Adcock, Duckworth, Goddard, McLean, Tayfield and Waite would return to England with the 1960 team. Before this tour in 1955, only Duckworth, Goddard and Heine had not played Test cricket, and Goddard and Heine made their Test debuts during the 1955 series. Duckworth, who subsequently played two Tests in 1957, and Murray, who had played 10 Tests before this tour, were the only players not selected for a Test on this tour.
England (334) beat South Africa (181 and 148) by an innings and five runs. With Leonard Hutton unable to play because of lumbago, Peter May captained England for the first time. A new opening pair of Don Kenyon and Tom Graveney started with 91 and Kenyon went on to make 87. May made 83, but Ken Barrington on his Test debut, lasted only three balls. England's innings took nine hours, but South Africa's batting was even slower. After five wickets had fallen for 55 runs, McGlew, whose 68 took 305 minutes, and Cheetham (54) put on 94 in three hours. But Johnny Wardle finished the innings with four wickets for 24 runs in 32 overs. May enforced the follow-on, but McGlew (51) and Goddard (32) survived to the end of the third day and beyond a delayed start on the Monday. Then with fast bowlers unable to bowl from one end because of dampness, Frank Tyson and Trevor Bailey took eight out the 10 wickets from the other, Tyson finishing with figures of six for 28.
England (133 and 353) beat South Africa (304 and 111) by 71 runs. A fast pitch produced a match that was exciting throughout. England won the toss and batted, but Heine, on his Test debut, made the ball lift awkwardly and took five wickets for 60 runs. Goddard supported well with 4/59. McGlew and Goddard both went for ducks, but after tea on the first day the pitch lost its spitefulness. Endean started the recovery with 48, and then McLean hit 142 out of 196 in just over three-and-a-half hours. Keith, batting more sedately, added 109 for the sixth wicket with McLean and went on to 57 himself. Facing a deficit of 171, England lost Kenyon quickly, Graveney (60) added 132 with May, who then added a further 96 with Denis Compton (69). May made 112 before he trod on his wicket. Tayfield was South Africa's most successful bowler with five for 80. Brian Statham removed both openers before the end of the third day, and a ball bowled by Fred Trueman hit Cheetham on the elbow and chipped a bone, so he retired hurt. On the Monday, aided by a two-hour break for bad light, Statham bowled throughout the innings, taking the first seven wickets to fall and finishing with seven for 39.
England (284 and 381) lost to South Africa (521 for eight wickets declared and 145 for seven wickets) by three wickets. With Cheetham injured McGlew assumed the captaincy and effected England's first defeat at Old Trafford since 1902, this achieved with three minutes to spare. Another lively pitch brought a decent scoring rate and several injuries: Godfrey Evans broke a finger and Graveney kept wicket in South Africa's second innings. England's first innings owed almost everything to Compton, who having forgotten his kitbag, sauntered into the Museum and borrowed an antique bat off the display, made 158 and shared a fifth wicket stand of 144 with Trevor Bailey, who made 44. McGlew and Goddard (62) shared an opening partnership of 147, but after Goddard was out, McGlew became another finger injury casualty and four further wickets fell cheaply. Waite and Winslow then came together and shared a sixth wicket partnership of 171. Both made centuries: Waite 113 and Winslow 108. When McGlew resumed his innings at the fall of the seventh wicket, he became the third century-maker with an unbeaten 104. England lost openers Kenyon and Graveney for just a run apiece. Then May, with 117, shared century stands with Compton (71) and Colin Cowdrey (50). The injured Evans made 36 of a last-wicket partnership of 48 with Bailey, but South Africa needed 145 to win in 135 minutes. McGlew and McLean hit 72 in 50 minutes, and though wickets fell regularly after that, the target was achieved in what would have been the penultimate over.
South Africa (171 and 500) beat England (191 and 256) by 224 runs. South Africa lost half their first innings wickets for 38 and were then 98 for seven. Innings of 41 apiece by McLean and Endean gave the total some respectability; Peter Loader took four wickets for 52 runs. England's new opening pair of Trevor Bailey and Frank Lowson failed, and only May with 47 and Compton (61) made runs against an attack depleted by injury to Adcock. Just 20 behind on the first innings, South Africa's openers, McGlew and Goddard, opened with a careful stand of 176, the highest first-wicket partnership against England to this point. Goddard went for 74, but McGlew completed a century, falling eventually for 133. Keith made 73, and after a mid-innings collapse Endean, with 116, shepherded the lower order batsmen to a total of 500. Graveney opened with Lowson as England sought 481 in eight hours and 20 minutes, but Lowson was out without scoring. Graveney made 36 and then May (97) and Doug Insole (47) put on 101 for the third wicket. The rest of the batting was worn down by Goddard and Tayfield, both of whom finished with five wickets in the innings. Goddard bowled 62 overs in all, bowling continuously on the last day from 11.30 in the morning until victory at 4.12 in the afternoon.
England (151 and 204) beat South Africa (112 and 151) by 92 runs. Prior to the start of the game there was a lengthy South African Selection Committee debate as to who should captain the team, Cheetham opting for McGlew following his victories in the Third and Fourth encounters, McGlew disagreeing and so it was that Cheetham led the side out onto the Oval that Saturday in humid conditions, conditions which initially assisted the South African seam bowlers Heine and Fuller, however they bowled too long, the Englishmen masterful in reaping the error. Rain set in from early afternoon and the pitch when play resumed on the Monday was soft. Goddard's left-arm bowling brought him five wickets for 31, but when South Africa batted, it was the spin bowlers Tony Lock and Jim Laker who caused most damage, and only McGlew (30) and Waite (28) resisted for long. England's second innings was built around a defiant unbeaten 89 by May who shared useful partnerships with Compton and Graveney. Tayfield bowled 52 consecutive overs and took five for 60. South Africa needed 244 to win, and the match was effectively lost in the course of three overs from Lock and Laker in which the opening partnership between McGlew and Goddard was broken, and then the next three batsmen, Keith, Endean and McLean, failed to score. Waite made 60 as the other batsmen disappointed. Lock finished with four for 62, with Laker taking five for 56, and the match was over on the fourth day.Playfair Cricket Annual 1956
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1956