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August 18, 2000
When Caddick bowled Courtney Walsh to wrap up a sensational England victory today, there was still time to spare on the second scheduled day of play. It is over 54 years since the last Test over in two days. Tests for many years were played over just three days, but even then Tests finished in two days were rare - there have been only 16 such matches in the history of Test cricket, most of them in the 19th century.
The historic 1946 match was remarkable for a number of reasons. Australia were visiting New Zealand, and this encounter marked the first Test between the two southern nations. It was also the last Test of the man Bradman regarded as the greatest bowler he ever faced, Bill O'Reilly. It was played at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, and was the first Test of the post-war era. Thirteen players made their debuts in this match, some like Butterfield never to play again, but others like Miller and Lindwall to become some of the most familiar names in the game over the next decade. Australia were missing Bradman, in retrospect probably a merciful omission, and were captained by Bill Brown. Walter Hadlee won the toss and chose to bat, but the New Zealanders had little answer to the bowling of Lindwall, Toshack and O'Reilly. The "Tiger", at the age of forty deployed his medium pace leg breaks and googlies to great effect, taking 5 for 14 in twelve overs, as the New Zealanders mustered just 42. The Australians found batting by no means easy against Cowie, but Brown and Barnes put on 109, and at the end of the first day Australia were 149/3. They lost quick wickets on the second day, but declared on 199/8, Cowie taking 6/40. New Zealand's second innings was an improvement, but not by much as they made just 54, O'Reilly taking 3 for 19, Miller getting a couple of wickets, and only two players reaching double figures. Australia would not play New Zealand again for nearly 30 years.
We only have to look back another decade to the previous two day Test, Australia defeating South Africa in Johannesburg. Australia were again without Bradman, but O'Reilly played a prominent part, taking five wickets in the first innings, Fingleton made a century, and South Africa were spun to defeat by Grimmett. Although lasting two days, over 230 overs were bowled (as opposed to 156 at Headingley).
The last time West Indies were involved in a two-day Test was 1930-31, when Australia beat them by an innings. Ironmonger bemused the West Indian bats with his unorthodox spin, taking 7 wickets in their first innings of 99, and at the end of the first day Australia were 197/1, Bradman 92*. They declared on the second day after Bradman reached 152, and West Indies made just 109, Fairfax, Ironmonger and Grimmett sharing the wickets.
England played their last two-day Test in 1921, when the Australians won the first Test by 10 wickets at Trent Bridge. Gregory and MacDonald were in fearsome form, England totaling 112 and 147, Australia only 232, but needing just 30 in their second innings - over 200 overs were bowled in the two days!.
The 941 balls needed for England to complete their victory at Headingley, however, is nowhere near to the shortest Tests in terms of deliveries rather than duration, the record being the 656 balls required for Australia to defeat South Africa on a viscious Melbourne sticky wicket in 1932 . This Test was played over three days, but with the second day completely washed out, a result was achieved in under 6 hours of playing time.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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