England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 1953

When the 19-year wait finally ended

A match report from the 5th Test at The Oval in 1953, when England regained the Ashes after 19 years

The match report of the last day of the fifth Test at The Oval in August, 1953, taken from the 1953 edition of The Cricketer, in which England won the Ashes for the first time in 19 years.



Ron Archer was one of three wickets for Alec Bedser in Australia's first innings © The Cricketer
The last morning of the match, in spite of the fact that three hours of play would be certain to see a decision one way or another, brought another splendid crowd. It was a morning of splendid sunshine, too.

The Australian tactics were soon obvious. Understandably, they had to put all their faith in Johnston, bowling spinners, and the job of any bowler at the other end was to keep runs down.

Johnston had an attacking field placing, with short leg and three slip fieldsmen. Lindwall had the job of keeping runs down and he bowled to a preponderance of leg-side fieldsmen.

He did more. He took as long over each delivery as possible in order that Johnston, who had the brunt of the bowling to do, had reasonable rests.

These tactics, plus some brilliant fielding--especially by Harvey and Davidson--saw England fighting for every run.

Johnston bowled beautifully, that is, so far as length, direction, and variations in pace were concerned, but only occasionally did he manage to spin one and make it bite.

May made one lucky slash which sent the ball over the top of slips for a 4. On another occasion he edged between the wicket-keeper and Miller at first slip for 4 more, and once he edged through the slips for a 2.

They were the only blemishes in batsmanship which was equal to every call. Neither man was worried at playing the maiden over. When the opportunity to hit came along both did so. May made some excellent strokes to the covers, hitting with the force of a battering-ram; and Edrich, on an occasion when Lindwall departed from his role of negative attack so much as to bowl a couple of bouncers, cracked each one of them decisively to the boundary.

The score was taken to 88 before Australia had success and surprisingly it was Miller, who had relieved Lindwall, who was responsible for the separation. Also bowling to a leg theory field placing, Miller made May snick a catch to Davidson at leg slip. May had scored 37 valuable runs.

Compton came out to join his Middlesex captain with 44 runs wanted to win. Compton took 2 and a single to leg from Miller. Edrich took 3 to leg from Johnston and, when Lindwall returned for a last flip before lunch, Edrich brought the 100 with a late cut for 3.

Lunch was taken with England needing 31 runs. This desperate situation called for desperate measures. Lindwall began the afternoon's bowling--with four short leg fieldsmen--and he began with a maiden over. Johnston, who bowled throughout the morning session, again took over the attack from the Vauxhall end. Compton took a single from Johnston and 2 from Lindwall. Edrich cut Johnston for 3 straight through the legs of slip fieldsman Hole. Not until England were within nine runs of victory and still eight wickets to fall did Hassett give in. He bowled an over himself, which realised 4 runs. Morris bowled at the other end, where Compton finally took 4 to square leg to bring England the victory.

What a yell went up. England had won the Ashes for the first time in 19 years.

Thousands of spectators flocked across the take up position outside the dressing-rooms and they chanted "We want Len."

Appropriate little speeches were made and Hassett, the chief theme, which being the excellent spirit which has prevailed between the two rival teams.

When the excitement of the event had passed pondered over the game and the series. For the first time I felt England had gone into a Test match with a balanced attack...and they had won.

The short-sightedness of the Australian selectors in not including a finger spin bowler in the team had not been evident, even in a wet summer, until this last big match of all. What a boon the off-spin bowler Ian Johnson would have been. I thought of the excellent captaincy of Hutton and the contribution the England Test match veterans, Hutton, Bedser, Evans, Bailey, Edrich and Compton had made to the victory.

For the Australians I remembered the batting of Hassett, the most consistent of them all, and particularly the magnificent bowling of Lindwall and Miller. I feel that Miller has had one of those seasons which comes to every cricketer. His final figures did not reflect the excellence of his bowling contribution.

I compared the improvement of our young players, May, Graveney, Lock and Trueman, with the Australian newcomers, Archer, Hole and Davidson. I formed the opinion that England, a little stronger than in recent years, had beaten a side much weaker than in the past. In Australia the defeat will act as a spur. In England victory must be encouragement. Satisfaction in the result must not blind us to the need to build strongly.