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Australia began the series of Test matches with a splendid victory by 238 runs. On the first three days, at any rate, the fortunes of the game changed sufficiently to keep interest at its highest pitch, while on the last afternoon everyone was on the tip-toe of excitement in watching England's desperate but unavailing effort to stave off defeat. Thus it came about that the decision of the contest was not determined until only ten more minutes remained for play. For a long time before this, however, the impression generally existed that England were engaged in a somewhat hopeless task. It is very easy to be wise after the event, but one could not resist the feeling that with 380 runs required to win, with rather less than five hours left for cricket, the England batsmen, having made up their minds to strive for a draw rather than go for the runs - the success of the latter policy being most unlikely - played into the hands of bowlers like O'Reilly and Grimmett by failing to realise that bolder methods rather than passive resistance might have achieved their object.
Before the match, England were in difficulties about the captaincy, Wyatt, selected for that position, having had his thumb fractured in the Test trial just previously. In the circumstances, it was properly considered wise not to include him, and the leadership of the eleven devolved upon Walters - appearing for the first time in a Test match against Australia. Three fast bowlers were present but only one, Farnes, was included, Bowes being left out and Nichols acting as twelfth man. As events proved, England could have done very well with either of the men omitted, but Farnes was a distinct success, taking five wickets in each innings at a cost of 179 runs. Unfortunately for England, Mitchell of Derbyshire caused no trouble to the Australian batsmen; the match revealed that Australia as a team fielded better than England; but the most disappointing features were the breakdowns in England's batting after the first or second wickets had fallen. Seeing that in the course of their earlier engagements, the Australians had had no fewer than ten centuries scored against them it looked as though they were taking a risk by going into the field without Ebeling, so that their attack rested upon O'Reilly, Grimmett and Wall with McCabe and Chipperfield to help. The course the game took justified the selectors of the team in their action.
As a matter of fact, England up to a point fared quite satisfactorily, for, after Woodfull and Ponsford had made 77 together in ninety-five minutes, two wickets fell before lunch, and shortly before quarter to four Australia had five men out for 153. Ponsford made his runs by varied strokes and hit eight 4's; Woodfull was very stolid for nearly two hours; Bradman hit six 4's in half an hour; and Brown stayed for eighty minutes, but the fact remained that Australia, up to then, had scarcely made sufficient use of their opportunity of batting first on a nice easy wicket. As it happened, no further wicket fell during the afternoon, McCabe, who played a bold confident game, and Chipperfield carrying the score to 207 when rain and bad light ended the day's cricket at quarter to six. On Saturday McCabe was out at 234, having made 65 out of 81 in eighty minutes, but unexpected assistance was given to Chipperfield by Oldfield and Grimmett, and the innings did not end until nearly quarter to three, seven hours play yielding a total of 374. Chipperfield, in his first Test match, just missed the distinction of making a hundred. He was 99, at lunch time, and out third ball afterwards. He and Oldfield added 47, and with Grimmett as his partner 74 runs were added for the eighth wicket. Batting three hours and twenty minutes, Chipperfield obtained his runs largely by cutting, his innings, while eminently useful, being nothing like so attractive as that of McCabe. Going in at three o'clock, England fared well for a time, despite the loss of Walters at 45, for Sutcliffe was in his best form, cutting and off-driving so finely as to score 62 out of 102 in two hours and ten minutes.
Then the game turned. Hammond was out four runs later, and Leyland left at 114, and these three quick reverses caused Pataudi and Hendren to adopt such cautious methods that in forty minutes before the end only 14 runs came, and England at the close found themselves 246 behind with six wickets to fall. Matters on Monday again went badly for England who soon after twelve o'clock had six men out for 165. Then, however, came the one real stand of the innings, Geary giving Hendren such valuable assistance that in an hour and fifty minutes 101 runs were added before Hendren left. Both men played finely in their effort to pull the game round. Geary, indeed, hit with pronounced freedom, and, if possibly a little more restrained, Hendren scarcely made a bad stroke. He was in for three hours and forty minutes, doing great work during a most anxious period. England, however, were all out by three o'clock, and they found themselves 106 runs behind.
Still, Australia at their second attempt lost their first three wickets for 69 before the game turned once more with a partnership between McCabe and Brown. Brown, when 33 and with the total 102, gave a chance of stumping and that probably had a very big effect upon the subsequent course of events, for the two men played out time and altogether added 112 in a hundred minutes, McCabe hitting a six and fifteen 4's in a very fine display. Brown, although playing with a very straight bat, did not approach his colleague in brilliance, but his cricket was always high class. Seventh out at 244, he was in nearly four hours and hit only three 4's. All the other batsmen on the Tuesday morning went out for runs in order to give Woodfull the chance of declaring at the earliest possible moment. He did not do this until half-past twelve when 114 had been added to the overnight score in ninety minutes. By this time the wicket was showing signs of wear, and when England went in a second time Grimmett and O'Reilly were seen to be turning the ball. Sutcliffe and Walters put on 51, but after Sutcliffe had been caught at slip for the second time in the match the batting broke down, and by teatime five men were out for 115. Leyland and Ames tried their hardest and stayed for seventy minutes, but wickets fell at regular intervals and with O'Reilly taking the last three very quickly the innings closed at twenty past six for 141. O'Reilly, following his four wickets in the first innings, took seven for 54 and bowled superbly. Clever variation in flight and pace combined with spin off the worn turf made him very difficult, and he deserved all the congratulations showered upon him at the close by his delighted colleagues.