ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1953

Third Test Match

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1953

N.P.

At Manchester, July 9, 10, 11, 13, 14. Drawn. For the ninth successive time England and Australia could not reach a definite conclusion at Old Trafford. In fact, nearly fifty years have passed since a decision was reached there--in 1905 when England beat Australia by an innings and 80 runs. Again the weather was mostly to blame. Instead of a possible thirty hours, rain restricted the cricket to thirteen hours fifty minutes. Nevertheless, the struggle proved absorbing with a thrilling final hour when Australia lost eight wickets in their second innings for 35 runs. They were in danger of being dismissed for their lowest total against England--36 at Edgbaston in 1902.

For this match the selectors brought back Edrich as opening partner to Hutton, omitting Kenyon, and Simpson returned in place of F. R. Brown. An injury to Statham caused the reappearance of Trueman among the nominated twelve, but as England preferred to rely again on three specialist bowlers, Bedser, Wardle and Laker, Trueman was left out. Owing to doubts about the fitness of Hutton, Washbrook attended, but at 10 a.m. on the morning of the match Hutton announced he would play. Compared with Lord's, Australia relied on Hill, Archer and De Courcy instead of Johnston (injured) and the leg-break bowlers, Ring and Benaud. This was De Courcy's debut as a Test cricketer and Archer's first Test against England.

England suffered two early disappointments. First Hutton lost the toss again and play had been in progress only ten minutes when Laker, at square leg, in trying to prevent Morris's solitary scoring stroke, slipped on the rain-sodden turf and injured a muscle in his left leg. So immediately the attack was seriously reduced. Yet England began well enough. Bedser bowled the first ball at 2.50 p.m. and within an hour three wickets were down for 48. Morris had the misfortune to divert the ball gently against his stumps, just removing a bail; Hassett, playing across, was bowled off-stump, and Miller went the same way as Morris. Meanwhile, Trueman was in the field until Laker returned walking very stiffly.

Any luck England enjoyed over the removal of Morris and Miller was offset when Harvey, having square cut Bailey gloriously to the boundary, touched an easy catch off Bailey to Evans standing back. The ball travelled outside the off-stump direct into Evans' gloves, but in his excitement at such a gift Evans put it on the ground. This was a tragedy for England, and as events turned out it may well have deprived them of victory, for not until 12.30 p.m. on Saturday did they see the back of Harvey. Instead of leaving at 52 he saw the total reach 256, scoring 122 himself. This was his second century against England and his third in successive innings during the tour.

Hole gave Harvey valuable help in restoring Australia's fortunes. It was no easy task, for often the ball bounced higher than usual, but if there were false strokes both batsmen played some very good ones. At the tea interval the total was 81, and at the close of the first day after two more interruptions of fifteen minutes it reached 151, the result of just over three hours' cricket, the unfinished stand having added 103.

Despite a heavy downfall of rain in the early hours of the morning, play was possible at 11.55 a.m. on the second day, but the weather was so bad that cricket was limited to ninety minutes in four separate attempts. There were two spells of forty minutes before lunch and one of ten minutes afterwards.

Having received hospital treatment, including an injection to deaden the pain, Laker was able to bowl for the first time at 161 after 58 overs. Harvey played extremely well, and with Hole continuing his support the total was raised to 221 for three wickets, with Harvey 105 and Hole 66. The England players slithered about the treacherous turf, yet their ground fielding was alert, with Simpson, Bailey, Watson, Graveney and Hutton particularly prominent. There was no encouragement whatever for the bowlers on this soft turf, but by five p.m. the ground was flooded.

The fortitude of the crowd was amazing. Armed with weather-proof coats and cushions, they waited hours outside the ground for admission and endured patiently the long idle hours after paying five shillings each at the turnstiles.

The third day, Saturday, brought sunshine and more surprises. The flood had subsided and the turf was almost ready for play, but reporters and broadcasters were in a quandary. The deluge had dislocated the main Post Office cables, but improvisations enabled the story of the Test to reach the world without serious delay until l p.m. when the trouble was remedied.

Play began at noon, and at once England claimed success. A maiden over by Laker to Harvey was followed by Bedser dismissing Hole first ball. Instead of waiting to discover the pace of the wet pitch, Hole essayed a cut, only to edge the ball to Evans. In his highest Test innings Hole hit six 4's, and the stand, the best of all the five Tests, produced 173. Now came De Courcy, brim full of confidence, and if some of his strokes, like those of Harvey, flew perilously over the fielders, he pushed the score along at a rate his captain desired. But Harvey added only 17 to his Friday total when Evans, atoning for his earlier error, caught him splendidly on the leg side. The Australian left-hander defied England for four and a quarter hours and hit eleven 4's.

Yet Evans immediately committed another blunder by dropping an easy chance offered by Davidson from Laker before scoring, and it took England forty-five valuable minutes to remove Davidson, who stood up manfully to Bedser. Three times rising balls from Bedser struck Davidson on the left hand. Once the batsman threw off his glove in agony and went to the pavilion for a finger to be strapped.

At lunch, Australia were 290 for six, and the remaining four wickets were got down in half an hour for another 28 runs. The last seven Australian wickets actually fell on Saturday for 97, and of these 41 went to De Courcy. For over after over Bedser bowled magnificently from the railway end into the strong south-west wind, and his county colleague, Laker, if not always accurate because of his severe handicap, gave the Australians batsmen little respite. Both made the ball lift spitefully, and in addition the batsmen had to contend with Bedser's leg-cutter and Laker's vicious off-spin. Mention must also be made of two fine slip catches by Edrich.

It was 3 p.m. when England began their innings and Edrich was seeing some of the Australians in action for the first time. Soon he was surprised by Hill turning a leg-break and Hole accepted an easy slip catch. Miller bowled off-spin round the wicket and tempted Graveney to make a poor stroke at a half volley which resulted in another simple catch, this time to mid-off.

There followed a superb partnership by Hutton and Compton. Both produced magnificent drives, specially through the covers, and Hutton also indulged in some glorious late cuts. Compton hooked Davidson for 6. The pitch became less difficult and, although it was never easy, the batsmen were so confident that Hassett, handicapped in not possessing a high-class spinner, was forced to concentrate on saving runs.

When it seemed that the two batsmen would survive over the week-end their rich partnership of 94 ended at 6.15 p.m. when Compton, playing for safety, eschewed a flowing off-drive and played a forward defensive stroke which gave a catch to the wicket-keeper. Without addition England suffered an even worse setback when Lindwall, having returned to the attack, beat Hutton by sheer pace. Hutton batted three hours and hit ten 4's.

So England finished the third day at 126 for four, knowing that after one more over Australia could claim the new ball and 43 runs were still needed to avert the fol1ow-on in conditions probably made for bowlers. As it happened, not a ball could be bowled on Monday. Hassett alone of the Australians went to the ground, and as early as 10.45 a.m. he and Hutton agreed there could be no play. Meanwhile the selectors announced that Hutton would continue as the England captain in the remaining two Tests at Leeds and The Oval.

More rain cut down the cricket on the fifth day. The game could not be resumed until 2.10 p.m., and with no more than four hours left the only matter of interest seemed to be whether England could stay long enough to make Australia bat again. No one could forecast with any degree of certainty how the ball would behave. Hassett gave Lindwall and Miller one over each and then they took the new ball for the vital attack on the two Yorkshire left-handers, Watson and Wardle, but in eighty-five minutes England obtained those 43 runs. Hill caused the batsmen most trouble. He acquired unexpected life, but Simpson and Bailey put on 60 for the seventh wicket and Bailey, who was eighth out, batted ninety-five minutes. Then came some breezy hitting by Evans and Bedser--one 6 each--before Morris finished the innings by bowling his great rival. So the Australians gave Morris the honour of leading them off the field.

Whereas the Australian bowlers, Miller, Davidson, Archer and Hill, erred in pitching their spinners short, Laker and Wardle soon showed the proper way to utilise the treacherous pitch. They kept the ball right up to the batsmen. Hutton showed wise leadership. Even if a definite result was out of the question, he appreciated the value of shaking his opponents' confidence and hurried his team on to the field.

He opened with the Surrey pair, Bedser and Laker, and when Hassett took two leg boundaries in Bedser's opening over a placid finish was indicated. But Laker quickly revealed the true character of the pitch by spinning the ball viciously from the off and getting it to stand up sharply. Morris was caught off his gloves at slip, and after Bailey in the gully dived to hold a brilliant catch from Hassett, Miller, jumping yards out of his crease, was stumped by Evans with lots of time and space to spare. Without addition Bedser removed Hole and so claimed his 100th wicket of the season.

Hutton was the first to congratulate Bedser, but he took him off at the end of the over and introduced Wardle, who in the remaining half hour obtained the other four wickets in five overs for only seven runs. Several Australians preferred attack to defence, but none of them gave their wickets away. They simply could not master the turning ball, and so England after all emerged for the third time with an honourable draw. Attendance 59,735; receipts £27,904.

© John Wisden & Co