Fourth Test match

England v Australia 1938

Australia won by five wickets. Their success enabled them to retain the Ashes. As a result of the fiasco at Manchester, this was actually the third meeting between the two countries and by general consent it was the most interesting of all the season's Test matches. A fine test of skill had many glorious moments, the cricket was often thrilling to watch, and the decision of the game about quarter past four on the third day confounded all expectations. In contrast to what occurred at Trent Bridge and Lord's, only 695 runs were scored in the match; on each side the captain made top score, Bradman registering yet another three-figure innings.

At no time was the wicket easy for batting and Australia won largely because they possessed bitter spin bowling. For O'Reilly, the match provided a big triumph, for he took five wickets in each innings for altogether 122 runs. Exactly why the pitch, even during the early stages of the game, played so queerly was hard to understand. A likely explanation was that it was kept on the damp side through moisture being drawn to the surface in the humid weather prevailing. At any rate bowlers were able to turn though ball and as though match progressed spin acted more quickly; by Monday the wicket had worn and O'Reilly took full advantage of this state of affairs.

The loss of the services of both Ames and Hutton, owing to injuries, formed a considerable handicap to the Englishmen and as P. A. Gibb, chosen as wicket-keeper in the team for the Manchester Test, also met with an accident on the field, Price, of Middlesex, took his place. The decision to omit Goddard from the England eleven suggested that the Selectors, despite a long and careful examination of the wicket before the toss, had no suspicions that the conditions were likely to be more favorable to spin bowlers than to Farnes and Bowes, both of whom appeared in the eleven.

To see England's batsmen struggling for runs after Hammond, for the third successive match, won the toss was at once unexpected and perplexing. In the course of five hours, and despite a splendid effort by Hammond, the innings was over. The Australian bowling had far more accuracy about it than in the two previous Tests and from his first over O'Reilly puzzled the batsmen. Barnett, after offering two chances, was entirely responsible of Hardstaff being run out and although he batted through the two hours up to lunch, during which only 62 runs were scored, he looked strangely uncertain. Not until after the interval did Hammond attempt to change the character of the cricket and then, having hit a no-ball from McCormick for 6, he lost Barnett to a fine one-hand catch at the wicket. Barnett stayed nearly two hours and a half and his stand with Hammond realized 54. With Paynter batting steadily, as many runs came from the next wicket. How much Hammond dominated the cricket can be gathered from the fact that he scored 76 out of 108 and hit ten 4's. Another clever piece of wicket-keeping by B. A. Barnett began a minor collapse for after Paynter, losing his balance, was stumped, Compton, next over, was bowled and, with one added, Price left to a slip catch. Some brave hitting by Wright and Verity brought 41 runs for the eighth wicket but an effort by Farnes to follow the example was quickly stopped by Fingleton, who ran fully 20 yards to hold a skier, and England, after batting five hours, were out of 223.

When Wright, with the first ball be bowled in Australia's innings, got rid of Brown, B. A. Barnett was sent in to play out time with Fingleton and the outcome of this move far exceeded expectations. Barnett, indeed, played a most valuable innings and England bowled for nearly an hour and a half next morning before gaining further reward. The second wicket partnership yielded 59 and Fingleton batted in dogged style for over two hours; Barnett, who made his highest score in Test cricket, was in ten minutes longer. The attack of Farnes and Bowes after lunch was accurate and full of danger; McCabe and Badcock in turn were clean bowled and Australia's first five wickets fell for 145. The light at this time was none too good but Bradman, as in each of the two previous Tests, did not let the occasion pass without placing to his name another three-figure score - his twelfth of the tour. Although a beautiful length leg-break led to Hassett being caught at slip after helping to add 50, Waite stayed long enough to see Australia take an innings lead. Shielding his successive partners, Bradman astutely nursed the bowling and he made every possible run against high-class fielding. His stroke-play and his defence were alike admirable. Bowes, who rarely pitched short and made the ball swerve, had a great moment when he knocked Bradman's middle stump out of the ground. Only two runs were added after the Australian captain was eighth man out - he batted a few minutes less than three hours and hit nine 4's. In dismissing O'Reilly, Hammond made a grand catch, low down with his right hand, after moving quickly across from slip.

Bad light once interrupted this innings and when England went in 19 runs behind an appeal was upheld. Barnett and Edrich survived an awkward fifty minutes prior to close of play and they put 60 runs on the board before being separated next morning. This in fact was the most productive stand of the whole match. For the collapse which afterwards set in no one could have been prepared. O'Reilly, on a worn pitch, and ably supported by Fleetwood-Smith, finished off the innings before lunch-time, England's full ten wickets actually going down for the addition of 74 runs to the overnight score. Successive balls accounted of Hardstaff and Hammond, the latter being finely caught close in at short square-leg, and Compton had the ill-luck to be caught off his wrist. Paynter, after going in third wicket down, made a gallant effort and, not out, batted over an hour, but the sixth, seventh and eighth wickets all fell at 116, Fleetwood-Smith dismissing Verity and Wright with consecutive balls, a feat which O'Reilly performed at the expense of Farnes and Bowes. Except when he changed ends, O'Reilly bowled fifteen overs without a rest and he took five wickets for nine runs apiece. With six men on the leg side close to the bat, and with no-one in the long field, he demoralised the majority of the batsmen. Paynter's innings, in truth, was the one example of resolution and no-one was bold enough to attempt to wrest the initiative from the spin bowlers. England's 123 represented their lowest total against Australia for 17 years.

Left to get 105, Australia had to struggle hard for success. Farnes kept up a splendid attack but misfielding gave Australia valuable runs. Intense excitement came into the cricket when Wright, after going on at 48, quickly sent back Bradman and McCabe. With the first four batsmen in the order all out, Australia had to contend with atrocious light but the batsmen refrained from appealing and, as Hassett began to drive and pull in any easy, confident style, England's chance of turning the tables gradually slipped away. A storm threatened and Hassett, no doubt anxious to settle the match before the rain came, tried to drive a leg-break and skied the ball to point. His brave innings , however, in company with Badcock had carried the total to within 14 of victory and there were five wickets to fall. Rain interrupted the play with nine runs needed but Australia got home without further loss, making the required runs in an hour and fifty minutes. Wright puzzled the batsmen so much that he might have been a match-winner of England had the fourth innings task exceeded 150 runs. On this wicket responsive to spin, he certainly looked more dangerous than any other bowler on his side. The daily attendances were: Friday 23,925; Saturday 36,842; Monday 38,847; making a total of 99,614, of whom 75,614 paid. The receipts for the match amounted to over £14,189.

© John Wisden & Co