ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1954-55

Third Test Match

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1954-55

At Melbourne, December 31, January 1, 3, 4, 5. England won by 128 runs at nineteen minutes past one on the fifth day with a day to spare. As in the previous Test, the combined speed of Tyson and Statham proved too much for Australia and again the two young amateur batsmen, Cowdrey (102) and May (91), carried the England batting on a sporting pitch which was said to have been doctored on the Sunday. Certainly large cracks were evident on Saturday yet on Monday these had closed and for a time the surface behaved more kindly to batsmen. The Victorian Cricket Association and the Melbourne Cricket Club held an inquiry into a report published in The Age alleging watering and issued the following statement:

"After a searching inquiry it is emphatically denied that the pitch or any part of the cricket ground has been watered since the commencement of the Third Test match on Friday, December 31."

With Compton fit England had their strongest side (Bedser again being omitted) and Australia welcomed back Ian Johnson, their captain, and Miller, but Langley, the wicket-keeper, stood down through injury which gave Maddocks his opportunity to make his debut in Test cricket.

This time Hutton, winning the toss, decided to bat, but apart from Cowdrey, Evans and Bailey England made a sorry show. Cowdrey went in when Edrich and May had fallen for 21 and soon he saw Hutton and Compton follow, these four wickets going down in less than an hour for 41.

Then another defiant amateur, Bailey, joined Cowdrey and they checked the Australian bowlers for two hours, adding 74, following which there came a Kent partnership by Cowdrey and Evans that produced 54, before the last four wickets fell for 22. For four hours Cowdrey batted without mistake, getting his body and bat behind short rising balls which Lindwall and Miller were able to bowl off this pitch almost at will. Cowdrey specialised in perfectly-timed drives, both straight and to cover, and he forced the ball skilfully off his legs.

Miller bowled magnificently throughout the ninety minutes before lunch when his figures were 9 overs, 8 maidens, 5 runs, 3 wickets. There were only two scoring strokes against him, a cover drive for 3 by Compton and one for 2 by Cowdrey. As Miller's knee was still suspect Johnson later preferred to conserve his energy for batting. Hutton, troubled by a heavy cold, decided only at the last minute to play.

So England faced the second day knowing that yet again the bowlers must rescue them from a crisis, and thanks to Tyson and Statham ably assisted by Bailey and Appleyard the first eight Australian wickets fell for l5l. Hutton used his bowlers in short spells, for the heat was stifling. As Compton could not field, having bruised his thumb when he fell to a bouncer, Wilson acted as substitute, excelling in the leg trap.

Maddocks, who had kept wicket neatly and efficiently, rallied Australia. Arriving when six men had gone for ll5 he saw the total to 188 for eight at the close, having made 36 in two and a quarter hours. Maddocks batted another half-hour making top score, 47. He and Johnson added 54 and with Johnson lasting altogether two hours Australia gained a lead of 40, their last four wickets adding l16 against England's 22.

It was essential that the early England batsmen did not let down their side a second time and the arrears were cleared before a turning ball across the wicket took Edrich's off stump. So at eight minutes to three May joined Hutton and proceeded to play masterly cricket in which the straight drive predominated. There was always the possibility that he might be trapped by a creeper, but May watched the ball intently. At 96 he saw Hutton fall to one which moved fast and low from outside the off stump. The captain had served his side well by remaining nearly two and a half hours and giving a fine example of watchfulness and concentration. With May in such form, Cowdrey preferred to take the defensive, but soon he played on, England being l59 for three at the close; May 83, Compton 10.

On the fourth day May soon left having batted three hours twenty minutes and hit eight 4's. Bailey defended for two and three-quarter hours but Evans and Wardle hit gaily, Wardle taking 16 in one over from Johnston and 14 from the next by Johnson. Actually Wardle hit 38 out of 46 in forty minutes, but this time the rest of the tail failed so that Australia were left to make 240 to win.

A superb right-hand catch by Cowdrey at forward short-leg when he disposed of Morris brought England their first success at 23, but in order to keep Miller fresh, Benaud came next and both he and Favell exercised great care until Appleyard yorked Favell. Nearly half an hour remained that day and Benaud (19) and Harvey (9) raised the total to 79 for two.

This meant that Australia still required 165, a task that seemed far from impossible. The pitch was worn and the experts predicted that England must look to Appleyard, pointing out that the conditions were made for his off spin, and probably they were right, but Tyson and Statham saw England home without Hutton having to look elsewhere for any bowling.

Sheer speed through the air coupled with the chance of a shooter at any moment left the Australian batsmen nonplussed. Tyson blazed through them like a bush fire. In seventy-nine minutes the match was all over, the eight remaining wickets crashing for 36 runs. Here are the bowling figures:

Tyson6.3 overs,0 maidens,16 runs,6 wickets.
Statham6 overs,1 maiden,19 runs,2 wickets.

A wonderful leg-side catch by Evans when Harvey glanced the seventh ball of the day heralded the collapse. The loss of Harvey was a terrible blow to Australia and with Benaud hooking too soon and Edrich catching Miller at slip from a ball which lifted, Tyson claimed three wickets in 21 balls in the first half-hour.

Then Statham accounted for Hole, who flashed; Maddocks played on to Tyson and in the same over Lindwall went to drive a half-volley which shot under his bat. Next Statham bowled Archer with a fast full toss and finally Evans took his third catch, this time from Johnston high with the left hand, Australia being all out in three hours and five minutes.

The full attendance for the match was 300,270. The receipts, £A47,933, were a record for any Australian match.

© John Wisden & Co