First Test match

England v Australia 1938

England, in a match memorable for the setting-up of many new records including seven individual hundreds, put together the highest innings total ever hit against Australia. Not until half past three on the second day did Australia have an opportunity of batting and with 151 scored half their wickets had fallen. McCabe then played an innings the equal of which has probably never been seen in the history of Test cricket; for the best part of four hours he maintained a merciless punishment of the bowling. Although his phenomenal effort did not save his side from the indignity of having to follow in, it broke the control of the play which England had held from the outset and by concentrating upon defence in their second innings Australia saved the game.

In a magnificent contest of skill, the excellence of the wickets always counted heavily in favour of batsmen. first innings conferred upon England a very important advantage. Australia put their faith in spin bowlers, but hardly ever did a ball turn and the bowlers who had so confused county sides came in for harsh treatment. On the opening day Barnett shared with Hutton in a first-wicket partnership of 219 which surpassed the previous best against Australia in England by the Hon. F. S. Jackson and Tom Hayward, who made 185 for England's first wickets at the Oval in 1899. The full value of Barnett's dashing attack on Australia's bowling was probably not appreciated at the time. Besides easing the task of though batsmen who followed, it provided a heartening influence on the play of Hutton, whom together with Compton, had the distinction of hitting a century on a first appearance against Australia. For the first time in a Test match, four individual hundreds were registered in one innings for, following the success of Barnett, Hutton and Compton, Paynter made the highest score against Australia in England and also shared with Compton in a record fifth wickets partnership of 206. The previous best figure for this wickets was 192 by R. E. Foster and Braund (L. C.) at Sydney in 1903.

As the result of two hours' batting by Barnett and Hutton before lunch on Friday 169 runs were scored. The Gloucestershire man drove and cut in magnificent style and was particularly sever on Fleetwood-Smith. In view of the kind of innings he played, it was not surprising that he made false strokes; he was almost caught in the gulley when three, when 51 he hit a ball back hard towards Fleetwood-Smith and next over offered a difficult chance to Bradman, running from deep mid-off. The satisfaction of making a hundred before lunch-time was denied to Barnett, but off the first ball bowled after the interval he completed three-figures and altogether he made 126, batting nearly three hours and hitting eighteen 4's. Some of his drives off the back foot were splendidly executed. Hutton batting about half an hour longer and if, compared with Barnett, he looked slow, he was very sure of himself. An incident that occurred soon after the match began, when the ball rolled against the middle and leg stumps without displacing a bail, did not disturb him. He summed up the length of every delivery to a nicety, and three fieldsmen close to the bat did not have the least chance to snap up. Hutton placed his strokes particularly well and his hitting to the on-side and to leg and his late-cutting was admirably done. He hit fourteen 4's.

The next ball after the completion of his hundred ended Hutton's innings and then Australia made better progress; Edrich played on and Hammond, after a few forcing shots, was bowled neck and crop, but England finished the day with a score of 422 for four wickets, the last hour and a half producing 141 runs from Paynter and Compton. Some fine running between wickets featured this stand. Compton's stylish and confident play crated a big impression and Paynter by quick footwork mastered the spin bowling.

When on Saturday, Compton was fifth out, England had 487 runs on the board. In a stand with Paynter lasting two hours, twenty minutes Compton hit finely on the leg side, also excelling with the drive and square cut, and in scoring 102, including fifteen 4's, he batted without a mistake. Owing to the ball lodging in the wicket-keeper's pads. Paynter escaped being stumped when 88 and the one other opportunity Australia had of getting him our occurred with his score 163, Fleetwood-Smith at fine leg making a creditable but unavailing effort to hold a hard hit. Some good cover driving by Ames featured a sixth wickets stand of 90 and with Wright batting steadily after the eighth wickets fell, Paynter completed 200. when Hammond declared England's innings and Paynter left the crease about quarter-past three on Saturday, 30,000 spectators rose to their feet, cheering the Lancashire left-hander all the way to the pavilion. Just as the effort of Barnett was the foundation of England's batting triumph after an innings lasting ten minutes less than nine hours, so Paynter during five hours, twenty minutes' batting most efficiently consolidated the work of the early batsmen. Often jumping in to drive he forced runs well, hit Ward for a 6 and also included a 5 and twenty-six 4's among his figures. During the innings four of Australia's bowlers each had a hundred runs hit off him.

No such inspiring start as had been given to England by the first wickets pair was enjoyed by Australia. Going on at 29, Wright, with his fourth ball in a Test match, dismissed Fingleton who played a long hop on to his wickets. By subdued and not altogether certain batting, Brown and Bradman raised the score to 111 and then Bradman, deceived in the flight of a ball, played it against his pads from which it glanced into the wicket-keeper's hands, Two appeals against the light were unsuccessful and before time Australia also lost Brown, who batted extremely well for two hours and a half. Ward went in as stop-gap and played through the last two overs despite the intimidating effect of an arc of nine fieldsmen within nine yards of his bat and Farnes bowling at top speed.

As a result of this most successful day for England, Monday's play began with Australia's score 138 for three. McCabe being 19 not out, made in 35 minutes. A record of these facts is a necessary preliminary to a description of the amazing batting which followed from McCabe and gave such an epic turn to the game. Six wickets were down for 194 and then McCabe, assisted in turn by three left-hand batsmen - Barnett, O'Reilly and McCormick - altered the whole aspect of affairs. In a little less than four hours, McCabe scored 232 out of 300 - his highest score in a Test match. His driving was tremendously hard, he hooked short balls with certainty and power, one off Farnes yielding a six, and he showed real genius in batting Hammond's efforts to keep him away from the bowling. While McCabe was running riot, the England captain delayed calling for the new ball and took other measures in the hope of keeping down runs, but the Australia, having completed his first hundred in two hours, twenty minutes, proceeded to score 4's much more readily. Wright was hit for 44 runs off three successive overs. Although he traveled so fast, McCabe did not offer a real chance, but once Edrich made a plucky effort to hold a ball hooked with terrific power. In the last ten overs bowled to him, McCabe took the strike in eight and hit 16 of his thirty-four 4's and in a last wickets stand of 77 with Fleetwood-Smith he scored 72 in 28 minutes. His glorious innings ended in a fitting way for in attempting a big hit off Verity he skied the ball to cover.

The probability that he would be in a position to enforce a follow-on influenced Hammond to conserve verity's energies and the Yorkshireman bowled no more than 45 balls during the innings. England's fielding remained sure and enthusiastic all the time and although McCabe's rate of scoring might suggest the attack was demoralised that was not the case. When Australia followed on 247 behind, batting of a much different character was seen. Brown and Fighleton adopted stone-walling tactics which called forth mild barracking from some of the spectators and Fingleton followed the extraordinary procedure of stepping away form his wicket, taking off his gloves and laying down his bat. A good left-hand slip catch by Hammond disposed of Fingleotn after an opening partnership of 89 in two and a quarter hours and Tuesday's play was notable of a dour resistance by Brown and Bradman who, making a hundred apiece, batted with grim patience and admirable skill. In view of the position Australia were of course justified in playing this type of game and by adding 170 in three hours, then minutes they robbed England of practically all chance of winning. Brown stayed nearly five hours and a half, and hit thirteen 4's - a splendid performance for his side. He played Verity admirably. Troubled by a leg strain, Bradman was never seen as an attacking batsman, but he amazed everyone by the power of his concentration while batting the whole day. His second innings, begun twenty minutes before Monday's play closed, lasted six hours and there were only five 4's in his not out 144 which, being his thirteenth hundred in England - Australia matches, allowed him to take the record form Jack Hobbs, who hit twelve hundreds in the series. Verity bowled with precision and Wright sometimes made a ball turn, but the pitch was too good for England to force a win. Shortly after the interval Australia stood only 114 ahead with half their wickets gone and they saved the match, although the Englishmen stuck gamely to their task. Annoyed by the wearisome cricket, spectators late in the day indulged in ironical cheering, whereupon Bradman showed disapproval of this slight demonstration by standing clear of his wickets until the noise subsided. The total attendance was 89,681 and the receipts £15,293 2s. 9d.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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