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After waiting for twenty-two years, England have again won a rubber in Australia and retained the Ashes they retrieved at Kennington Oval in 1953. This is a great triumph for Len Hutton, the captain, and a great thing for English cricket. At last England are on top again and with so many excellent young players in the first-class counties, the team should be even stronger when Australia renew the challenge in England next year.
Twelve months ago I drew attention to the way history has repeated itself in cricket following two wars. Now the circle has been completed. After the second World War, as after the first, Australia overwhelmed England, winning the first three Test rubbers. In each case Australia won eleven times before England broke the monopoly. Then, as now, England won back the Ashes - at The Oval - in the fourth series and retained them in convincing fashion when touring Australia.
Between 1946 and 1950 English cricket suffered many humiliations, culminating in those heavy reverses at the hands of West Indies at Lord's, Nottingham and The Oval. F. R. Brown began the England revival, since when Hutton, who succeeded him in 1952, has captained his country in twenty Tests up to that wonderful day at Adelaide. Already the Hutton era embraces five Test campaigns in which England have mastered Australia twice, India once and shared the honours with West Indies in the Carribean and with Pakistan.
I feel sure that Hutton and his fellow selectors carefully examined the reasons for victory in previous Tests in Australia before they chose the side for the most recent visit. During the past fifty years England have won the rubber only four times in the Antipodes. Each time success has depended on a great pair of opening bowlers. In 1911-12 Barnes and Foster took 66 wickets for 22.27 runs each, dismissing Australia for such totals as 184, 133, 191, 173 and 176 despite the presence of such talented batsmen as Trumper, Hill, Macartney, Bardsley and Armstrong, and England won by 4-1. In 1928-29 England again produced two wonderful pace bowlers in Larwood and Tate, who shared 35 wickets. Australia were dismissed in three innings for 122, 66 and 253, though among their batsmen were Woodfull, Ponsford, Ryder, Bradman, Kippax and Jackson. Again England won by 4-1.
In 1932-33 came the Bodyline tour of Larwood and Voce. They took 48 wickets for 21.89, Australia, though possessing batsmen of the calibre of Woodfull, Ponsford, Bradman, Kippax, Richardson and McCabe, being put out for totals of 164, 191, 193, 175 and 182. Again the rubber ended with England winning 4-1.
In 1954-55 Statham and Tyson routed Australia. Excluding the last Test - these Notes were written immediately after the rubber was clinched at Adelaide - they took 43 wickets costing 22.65 apiece. In five innings Australia made only 228, 184, 231, 111 and 111. Small wonder that everyone expected that Hutton's men would make the rubber 4-1 at Sydney.
Australia thrived similarly after the two wars with those grand combinations, Gregory and McDonald and Lindwall and Miller. Yet two of the greatest bowlers went through unsuccessful tours because they lacked adequate help from the other end. I refer to Tate in 1924-25, when he took 38 Test wickets, and Bedser in 1950-51, when his haul was 30. Each time England lost by 4-1.
This most recent struggle for the Ashes thrilled cricket lovers the world over. The issue was closer than the bare results indicate. As in England in 1953, one could rarely predict which way a match was likely to go. One day Australia looked to be on top; the next England would turn the tables. For the time being the ball has gained the mastery over the bat and generally youth, guided by the wise old head of Hutton, has taken command.
Fielding still remains an integral part of the game. When Australia scored 601 at Brisbane and won the first Test by an innings and 154 runs, England paid dearly for missed catches and there seemed to be little chance for them. Then within a month the whole outlook changed. Three days before Christmas, England won at Sydney by 38 runs-a handsome present for their friends at home-and for good measure they added a New Year"s gift in the shape of victory by 128 runs at Melbourne.
Of necessity the full review of the tour together with the reports and scores of each match must await the 1956 edition, but there is no reason to hold back some observations. Let us consider England"s assets. By their performances in Australia, Tyson and Statham have proved beyond all doubt that fast bowling has returned to English cricket. Tyson was mainly instrumental in those victories in Sydney and Melbourne. He took four for 45 and six for 85 at Sydney and two for 68 and seven for 27 at Melbourne, but at Brisbane his only reward for much toil was one for 160.
Why the transformation? The easy-paced pitch offered no encouragement in the first Test, but that alone does not provide the answer. In that disastrous match Tyson relied almost entirely on speed. He ran from a mark of thirty-two paces and just hurled the ball down the 22 yards. Tyson soon realised that these tearaway methods were useless in Test cricket. He needed control over length and particularly direction and to achieve these objectives he cut down and remodelled his run so that he finished with seven or eight determined, raking strides. Unlike most athletes, Tyson runs with his toes pointing outwards and he used to finish with shuffle. That caused loss of impetus and meant that the long run was a sheer waste of energy. He learned to begin with a shuffle and then carry right through. I would not be surprised if Tyson manages sooner or later to do away entirely with the shuffle.
Tyson is a very conscientious young man. From the time the England team sailed from Tilbury he kept himself in condition running many laps round the decks of the Orsova before breakfast and throughout the tour he made sure he was always physically fit for the big occasion. He is the fastest bowler in cricket today and gives every promise of being a telling force in England"s fortunes for some years to come.
It seems unbelievable that Lancashire turned him down on account of doubtful physique. Not only was this decision unfortunate for Lancashire, but it was unfortunate for Tyson himself. His adopted county, Northamptonshire, are not likely to provide him with the big benefit which must have come to him had he stayed in his native county. It is also to be hoped that Tyson will not wear himself out on the lifeless Northampton pitches. Now would be an appropriate time for Northamptonshire to remodel their pitches.
While Tyson was the main weapon, Statham played a vital and equally valuable part. Justice has been done to Statham in the Five Cricketers of the Year and it is a pleasure to record that he has since further justified himself in Australia. Whereas Statham finished virtually top of the English bowling averages in 1954 with 92 wickets at 14.13 each, Tyson came a long way down the list with 78 wickets at 21.38 each, which stresses Tyson"s advance during his first tour abroad.
Supporting these two was T. E. Bailey-still England's only real all-rounder and a most valuable member of the party. It is interesting to note that England failed at Brisbane when they entered the match with only four bowlers- Bedser, Statham, Tyson and Bailey, and that victory was achieved when emphasis was placed on attack and the team met Australia with five bowlers, leaving out Bedser but including Appleyard and Wardle.
The giants of cricket come and go. The rise of Tyson has apparently hastened the end of Alec Bedser"s glorious career in Test cricket. One test failure sufficed to put Bedser on the shelf. Unfortunate to be stricken down with an attack of shingles at the beginning of his third M.C.C. tour of Australia, Bedser took only one wicket for 131 runs at Brisbane and out he went - a vastly different experience from that of some batsmen who fail but still receive another chance. Bedser belongs to the truly great. One of four England bowlers who have obtained 100 wickets against Australia, he holds the record for the number of wickets taken in one series, 39, and he has dismissed more batsmen, 232, than any other bowler in Test history, besides bowling more balls than any other bowler. Bedser has always encouraged youth and many young bowlers are grateful to him for sound advice.
Few people anticipated that two young amateurs would carry off the batting honours in Australia-at least during the important early months of the tour. Both Peter May and Colin Cowdrey accustomed themselves quickly to the strange conditions and lived up to the promise they showed during their University careers. While these products of the Public Schools and Oxford and Cambridge were displaying the arts of batsmanship, the failures of Hutton, Graveney, Simpson, Wilson and Compton were a sad reflection upon the methods adopted by the modern professional.
To a certain extent the change in Australian pitches accounted for the shortcomings of so many batsmen in both teams. The Australian authorities, like those in England, have made a genuine attempt to provide more helpful conditions for the bowlers. With the growing of grass on the pitches, the familiar shirt-front surface has disappeared. No longer is the turf at Sydney and Melbourne uniform. In some places there is grass and in others no grass, and consequently the ball comes through at varying heights. That is where the ordinary performer with the bat comes to grief; but May and Cowdrey have shown that by determination and concentration the high-class player can master these conditions as well as produce attractive strokes in front of the wicket.
England have been so well served by Hutton since he first appeared in Test cricket in 1937 that his small scores in Australia - his first six innings yielded only 129 runs - disappointed his admirers as well as himself. Some people argued that the cares of captaincy reduced Hutton's efficiency as a run-getter. In my opinion Hutton suffered a reaction from an overdose of cricket. In two years he led England in four Test campaigns - home and away against Australia, away to West Indies and home to Pakistan. This all-the-year-round match-programme tends towards staleness. I feel sure our leading players take part in too much cricket and I would like to see M.C.C. leave blank the winter prior to England visiting Australia.
One must remember that Hutton has not even the privilege of leading his own county team. He is an ordinary member of the eleven when he plays for Yorkshire. The first professional to captain England in modern times, he was involved in the most thankless task any cricket captain has undertaken when he went to West Indies. Instead of finding a friendly cricket atmosphere he and his players were subjected to the impact of deep political and racial feeling-an experience all of them wish to forget. A few members of the team did not hide their innermost feelings, with the result that Hutton came under severe criticism, although his behaviour was blameless. There followed behind the scenes moves to deprive Hutton of his highest ambition-captaincy of M.C.C. in Australia.
Small wonder that all this petty wrangling caused a breakdown in Hutton's health during the Pakistan tour of England last summer. In the end only a single vote gained Hutton the honour of taking the team to Australia. Next in line was David Sheppard, who captained Sussex so splendidly in 1953. Sheppard led England, during Hutton's convalescence, at Nottingham and Manchester and if charm and personality were the only qualities required for Australia, Sheppard would have filled the position adequately. Unfortunately Sheppard was one of the batting disappointments of F. R. Brown's team in 1950-51 and he did not inspire confidence by his performances in the representative matches of 1954.
The English season of 1954 was spoiled by rain. It was the wettest summer since 1903 and, basing the takings by comparison with an ordinary season, it is reckoned that the cricket counties were nearly £80,000 out of pocket. That is a serious matter. It would be difficult for county cricket to survive without adequate finance. The gradual disappearance of the amateur from English first-class cricket is also tied up with this vital matter of finance, and one wonders how long the counties can exist under present conditions. Weather and the approach of the professional player to the game are responsible for the alarming fall in attendances as well as for the lack of success of the English professional batsmen in Test cricket.
Cricket in England received a wonderful stimulus when the Ashes were recovered from Australia during the Coronation Year of 1953 and the thrills of the recent struggles in Australia have helped to retain public interest. I hear that since Pakistan beat England at The Oval, enthusiasm for the game in Pakistan has increased tremendously. Several centres are to be set up for coaching purposes and the services of three English cricketers have been sought. I am indebted to Roy Webber for pointing out that Pakistan achieved a feat without parallel in winning a Test in England during their first tour. Australia played their first Test in England in 1880 and gained their first victory in 1882. South African engaged in their first Test in England in 1907, but had to wait until 1935 for their first win. West Indies took part in their first Test in England in 1928, but success did not attend their efforts until 1950. New Zealand, 1931, and India, 1932, still seek a first victory in the home of cricket.
It was unfortunate that the youngest member of the Imperial Cricket Conference, Pakistan, should come to England in such a wet season. When I watched them open their tour at Worcester and Cambridge in pleasant conditions, I thought they had sufficient talent to develop into an attractive and efficient combination. They were natural cricketers and I was particularly impressed with Hanif Mohammad, a delightful little batsman, and Maqsood Ahmed, a clean hitter. All things considered, Hanif acquitted himself splendidly in scoring 1,623 runs in first-class matches, but he must have got many more in a fine summer. Fazal Mahmood accomplished the best individual performance of the season when he took twelve England wickets for 99 at The Oval, and it gave me great pleasure to present one of the county trophies to him in commemoration of a notable feat. Few people are aware, I think, that the Indian Board of Control chose Fazal to tour Australia in 1947, but he could not go because of partition.
By a desperate effort in the last month, Surrey overtook their rivals and won the County Championship for the third successive season. On July 27, they were eighth in the table, 46 points behind Yorkshire who had played two more matches. Then Surrey proceeded to win nine of ten matches-five in two days-the other yielding four points from a draw with Middlesex at The Oval. Superb bowling and fielding again gained Surrey success. The four England bowlers, Bedser, Laker, Lock and Loader, each took 100 wickets, a feat last performed by four men in one county in 1937 by Perks, Martin, Howorth and Jackson, of Worcestershire. The bowling of Laker and Lock during the last nine weeks was almost astonishing: Laker took 44 wickets, average 9.06 and Lock 43, average 8.83.
I doubt whether Surrey could have won the Championship without the inspiring leadership and example of W. S. Surridge. He has held the captaincy for three years and each time he has led his men to the top. No man knows more about Surrey cricket than Herbert Strudwick, who, before becoming the county scorer in 1928, was the Surrey and England wicket-keeper. I recall Strudwick, full of admiration for Surridge, saying after Worcestershire had been beaten in five hours and the Championship decided: Matches are won in the field, and there Surridge has set a splendid example. He is the type I like the see near the opposing batsmen because he has only one object in mind, and that is victory. He is one of the best close-in fieldsmen I have ever seen.
While on the subject of playing to win, surely the time is ripe to consider the conduct of the County Championship, that is the method of awarding points and the manner in which various counties seek those points. The system of scoring points has been altered seventeen times since the Championship proper began, and no wholly satisfactory method is likely to be possible in a country like England, where the weather can cause so much interference. I have to thank Mr. H. S. Denton, of Bristol, whom I met in Australia, for referring to a letter he wrote to The Cricketer some time ago. In it he stressed: The game of cricket is meant to be always a game in which each side should bat twice to achieve a result (unless the match is decided after three innings have been played). The present system, by awarding points for the first innings, is undermining the structure of the game.
It will be urged that (1) the weather; (2) drawn games are vital factors which cannot be ignored. But it must be realized that, only too often, far too many county sides set out with the twin ideas (1) not to lose; (2) to make certain of achieving first innings points. These objectives, Mr. Denton declares, are becoming more prevalent with the gradual elimination of the old type of amateur and amateur captain.
After the 1954 County Championship final table was published, Mr J. C. Masterman, Worcester College, Oxford, wrote to The Times: Is it not worth noting that the seventeen counties would finish in precisely the same order if the number of matches won was the only figure which was taken into account? Is it just possible that a simple tally of wins is as good a criterion as any one of some seventeen more elaborate systems of scoring points, and that the county which has won the most matches outright is the most worthy to hold the Championship?
Already M.C.C. have made a move towards checking defensive bowling wide of the leg-stump. They resolved that such bowling was neither in the spirit nor in the interests of the game, and that all county clubs should point out to their respective captains the undesirability of such tactics being employed in any circumstances in English first-class cricket. M.C.C. also have stated their concern at the tempo at which on occasions the first-class game has been played. Throughout 1954 a record was kept of the number of overs bowled an hour in each innings in each county match.
These problems are not confined to county or English cricket as a whole. Time wasting has for too long been a feature of Test cricket. Hutton came in for much criticism from Australian officials and the local newspapers for the stalling which went on when England were in the field, particularly at Melbourne, but Hutton retorted that he learned these tactics in his younger days from the Australians themselves. It is useless attaching the blame to anyone. More important is it to stamp out all negative methods and make cricket the spectacle the public pay so generously to watch.
Test profits from tours of teams to England in the nine seasons since the war amount to roughly £746,000. Look at these figures:
|PROFIT TO ENGLISH CRICKET||Profit to Tourists|
While the British public contribute freely to the coffers of visiting teams, M.C.C. have received scant reward from many of their overseas tours; and when our men are subject to the treatment they received in the West Indies, where there is no profit for the visitors, one begins to wonder whether some of these tours are worth while from an English cricket point of view.
Last November, the day before M.C.C. began their match with an Australian XI, the Melbourne ground was 100 years old. There were no centenary celebrations and the event passed almost unnoticed. Percy Taylor, a prominent Melbourne cricket-writer, drew attention to the fact that the first match played there was on November 4, 1854. When the first English team visited Australia under H. H. Stephenson in 1861-62, they met and beat a Victorian team of eighteen players. In those far-away days, the Melbourne ground was a much different place than it is today. It was surrounded by trees. Now it is the biggest cricket stadium in the world. New stands are being built for the 1956 Olympic Games and it is estimated that when England play there again in 1958-59 there will be accommodation for 125,000 spectators. In due course, when two other stands are rebuilt, 150,000 people will be able to watch the cricket at this remarkable arena. The highest attendance for one match, 350,534, and for one day, 87,798 were set up at Melbourne during the Third Test between England and Australia, 1936-37, and most receipts for any match in Australia, £47,933, were shared between the two countries after the match there last January. It is not surprising that in future England may play two Tests there regularly and not two at Melbourne and two at Sydney on each alternate visit.
While thinking of the future, let us consider the composition of the England eleven. Clearly England badly need some new batsmen. A new team could be built around May, Cowdrey, Tyson, Statham, Trueman and Lock. I do not expect Hutton will retire yet awhile from the Test scene, but he is nearing the end of a great career. Of the younger brigade who may well join those already named I am inclined towards P. E. Richardson, Worcestershire"s left-handed opening batsman, M. J. Stewart, K. Barrington and P. J. Loader ( Surrey), D. B. Close ( Yorkshire), R. W. Barber ( Lancashire), K. V. Andrew ( Northamptonshire), D. Bennett and F. J. Titmus ( Middlesex), and J. M. Parks ( Sussex).
When G. Duckworth accompanied L. Hutton's team to Australia as scorer and baggage-master, a link connecting 50 tours of Test cricket was broken. For once William Ferguson was missing from the party. Ferguson was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1952 for his services to cricket. He made his first trip to England in 1905 as assistant to J. Darling's team and scored in two hundred Tests, participating in forty-four tours with cricketers from England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies and India.
Following are the summarised scores of the first four Test Matches between England and Australia in 1954-55:
First Test. At Brisbane, November 26, 27, 29, 30, December 1. Australia beat England by an innings and 154 runs. England won the toss. Australia 601 for eight wickets, declared ( R. N. Harvey 162, A. R. Morris 153, R. R. Lindwall 64 not out, G. B. Hole 57); England 190 ( T. E. Bailey 88; R. R. Lindwall three for 27, I. W. Johnson three for 46) and 257 ( W. J. Edrich 88; R. Benaud three for 43).
Second Test. At Sydney, December 17, 18, 20, 21, 22. England beat Australia by 38 runs. Australia won the toss. England 154 ( J. H. Wardle 35; R. G. Archer three for 12, W. A. Johnston three for 56) and 296 ( P. B. H. May 104, M. C. Cowdrey 54; R. G. Archer three for 53, R. R. Lindwall three for 69, W. A. Johnston three for 70); Australia 228 ( R. G. Archer 49, J. Burke 44; F. H. Tyson four for 45, T. E. Bailey four for 59) and 184 ( R. N. Harvey 92 not out; F. H. Tyson six for 85, J. B. Statham three for 45).
Third Test. At Melbourne, December 31, January 1, 3, 4, 5. England beat Australia by 128 runs. England won the toss. England 191 ( M. C. Cowdrey 102; R. G. Archer four for 33, K. R. Miller three for 14) and 279 ( P. B. H. May 91, L. Hutton 42; W. A. Johnston five for 85); Australia 231 ( L. Maddocks 47; J. B. Statham five for 60) and 111 ( L. Favell 30; F. H. Tyson seven for 27).
Fourth Test. At Adelaide, January 28, 29, 31, February 1, 2. England beat Australia by five wickets. Australia won the toss. Australia 323 ( L. Maddocks 69; T. E. Bailey three for 39, R. Appleyard three for 58, F. H. Tyson three for 85) and 111 ( R. Appleyard three for13, J. B. Statham three for 38, F. H. Tyson three for 47); England 341 ( L. Hutton 81, M. C. Cowdrey 79; R. Benaud four for 120) and 97 for five wickets ( K. R. Miller three for 40).
The Ashes were originated in 1882 when, on August 29, Australia defeated the full strength of England on English soil for the first time. The Australians won by the narrow margin of seven runs, and the following day the Sporting Times printed a mock obituary notice, written by Shirley Brooks, son of an editor of Punch, which read:
In affectionate remembrance of English Cricket which died at The Oval, 29th August, 1882. Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances. R.I.P. N.B. The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia.
The following winter the Hon. Ivo Bligh, afterwards Lord Darnley, set out to Australia to recover these mythical Ashes. Australia won the first match by nine wickets, but England won the next two, and the real ashes came into being when some Melbourne women burnt a stump used in the third game and presented the ashes in an urn to Ivo Bligh.
When Lord Darnley died in 1927, the urn, by a bequest in his will, was given to M.C.C., and it held a place of honour in the Long Room at Lord's until early in 1953 when, with other cricket treasures, it was moved to the newly built Imperial Cricket Memorial near the pavilion. There it stands permanently, together with the velvet bag in which the urn was originally given to Lord Darnley and the score card of the 1882 match.