Fifth Test Match

England v Australia

Norman Preston

England won by 226 runs with six minutes to spare and squared the rubber with one victory to each country and three matches drawn, but The Ashes stayed with Australia.

Down the years Kennington has generally proved a good place for England and now, after rain had robbed Cowdrey's men at Lord's and Edgbaston, even a storm that flooded the ground at lunch time on the last day could not save Australia.

Just before the interval England's final task appeared to be a mere formality with Australia toiling at 85 for five. In half an hour the ground was under water, but the sun reappeared at 2.15 p.m. and the groundsman, Ted Warn, ably assisted by volunteers from the crowd, armed with brooms and blankets, mopped up to such purpose that by 4.45 p.m. the struggle was resumed.

Only seventy-five minutes remained and even then the deadened pitch gave the England bowlers no encouragement. Inverarity and Jarman stood up nobly to Brown, Snow, Illingworth and Underwood, no matter how Cowdrey switched and his attack with a cordon of ten men close to the bat.

Finally, Cowdrey turned to D'Oliveira, who did the trick with the last ball of his second over; it moved from the off and hit the top of the off stump as Jarman reached forward.

Now thirty-five minutes were left for England to capture the four remaining wickets. Cowdrey promptly whisked D'Oliveira from the Pavilion end and recalled Underwood who finished the contest by taking those four wickets in twenty-seven deliveries for six runs.

The Kent left-arm bowler found the drying pitch ideal for this purpose. He received just enough help to be well nigh unplayable. The ball almost stopped on pitching and lifted to the consternation of the helpless Australians.

Underwood had Mallett and McKenzie held by Brown in the leg trap in the first over of his new spell; Gleeson stayed twelve minutes until his off stump has disturbed and to everyone's surprise Inverarity, having defied England for four hours with rare skill, offered no stroke at a straight ball and was leg-before.

So Underwood, with seven wickets for 50 runs, achieved his best bowling analysis in Test cricket and headed the England averages for the series with twenty wickets at 15.10 runs apiece. No praise could be too high for the way he seized his opportunity on this unforgettable day.

In fact the match produced many heroes. Cowdrey, the winning captain, led his team splendidly. Edrich, D'Oliveira, Graveney, Lawry, Redpath, Inverarity and Mallett stood out for their determined batting, and besides Underwood, there was such excellent bowling by Brown, Snow and Illingworth for England and by Connolly, Mallett and Gleeson for Australia.

D'Oliveira was a late selection for England after Prideaux reluctantly withdrew, following illness. On the first morning England left out Higgs and Australia, who preferred not to include Cowper whose left thumb had been fractured the previous week, introduced Mallett to Test cricket.

Cowdrey won the toss and on the first day England scored 272 for four, Edrich holding the innings together by contributing 130. The pitch was firmer than expected after heavy rain the previous week-end. It was the fourth hundred by Edrich in thirteen Tests against Australia and altogether he batted seven and three-quarter hours for his 164, hitting twenty 4's. Including his 17 in the second innings, Edrich came within eight runs of Denis Compton's 562 in 1948 - the largest aggregate by an English batsman at home against Australia.

England had an anxious time on that first day until Graveney settled down and this own graceful style put on 125 with Edrich. In the last hour D'Oliveira began his fine effort. He hooked the short ball superbly and next day drove magnificently. When 31, D'Oliveira offered a chance to the wicket-keeper, Jarman, and after reaching his second Test century he was missed three more times when England needed to push the score along until he was last out for 158. Apart from Knott, the later England batsmen were singularly lacking in enterprise.

There remained seventy-five minutes on the second day for Australia to begin their reply and they lost Inverarity to a fine short leg catch by Milburn while making 43.

On Saturday, Lawry stood between England and a complete break-through. The tall left-handed Australian captain stayed at his crease all day. At first Redpath with his free strokes batted well with him and before lunch they put on 77 to the overnight 43 without mistake.

For two and a half hours England toiled in vain and then Redpath was held in the slips by Cowdrey. Four more wickets suddenly fell and Australia were faced with the possibility of having to follow on. McKenzie defended stoutly after tea and Australia at the close were 264 for seven, having lost only McKenzie to the second new ball. Lawry was 135 not out at the week-end.

The struggle went mostly England's way on Monday. Lawry fell without adding to his score, being taken on the off-side by Knott from an inside-edge off a rising ball. Lawry left no-one in doubt that he disagreed with Fagg's decision and he stopped to speak to the umpire on his way to the Pavilion.

His century was the only one hit for Australia in the series. He batted seven and a half hours and hit twenty-two 4's. For all his youth, Mallett defended with the skill of an experienced Test campaigner for just over three hours, but England held a valuable lead of 170 runs.

Some of the best cricket came when England sought to score quickly in their second innings. Cowdrey alone stayed longer than an hour. The Australians fielded magnificently. Milburn set his side on the venturesome path. He hooked the first ball from McKenzie for 4 and pulled Connolly from outside the off-stump for 6. In an hour England reached 67 for three and in three hours they mustered 181, setting Australia 352 to win at 54 an hour.

Again Milburn began Australia's downfall with a fine low catch in the first over at short leg from Lawry who thus was dismissed twice in the day. Then, facing the last ball before the close, Redpath padded away from Underwood and was leg before. To remove these two stalwarts in thirty five minutes at the end of a momentous day was a great feat by England and put them in sight of victory.

Next morning with the sun shining as it had done throughout the proceedings so far, England drove home their advantage, mainly through Underwood and Illingworth. Inverarity, who defied England for four hours, alone gave any cause for anxiety, and except for the thunderstorm, England would surely never have had to battle also against the clock.

To Australia's credit must be set their sportsmanship. They averaged twenty overs an hour when England were pressing for runs and their batsmen passed each other on the way to the wicket even in that hectic final period, nor did they fritter time away by gardening.

One also must not overlook Connolly's tireless bowling. He always swung the ball awkwardly and his twenty-three wickets in five Tests clearly represented his value to his team.

The estimated attendance for the match was 84,905 and the receipts £64,681.

© John Wisden & Co