Fifth Test match

England v Australia 1938

No more remarkable exhibition of concentration and endurance has ever been seen on the cricket field than that of Leonard Hutton, the Yorkshire opening batsman, in a match which culminated in the defeat of Australia by a margin more substantial than any associated with the series of matches between the two countries. Record after record went by the board as Hutton mastered the bowling for the best part of two and a half days. At the end of an innings which extended over 13 hours, 20 minutes, this batsman of only 22 years had placed the highest score in Test cricket to his name, and shared in two partnerships which surpassed previous figures. Adding 382 with Leyland, he took part in a stand which was a record not only for England's second wicket but for any wicket for England, and his stand of 215 with Hardstaff established a new record for England's sixth wicket. As a boy of 14, Hutton, at Leeds in 1930 had seen Bradman hit 334 - the record individual score in Test matches between England and Australia. Now on his third appearance in the series the Yorkshireman left that figure behind by playing an innings of 364.

This Test will always be remembered as Hutton's Match, and also for the calamity which befell Australia while their opponents were putting together a mammoth total of 903. First of all Fingleton strained a muscle and Bradman injured his ankle so badly that he retired from the match and did not play again during the tour. Before this accident, England had established a supremacy which left little doubt about the result; indeed, Hammond probably would not have closed the innings during the tea interval on the third day but for the mishap to the opposing captain.

The moral effect of the loss of Bradman and Fingleton upon the other Australia was, of course, very greatly. After fielding out an innings lasting 15 hours and a quarter, several of them batted - to all appearances - with very poor heart but Brown, going in first, was last man out before a follow-on 702 runs in arrears. He played an heroic innings under the shadow of impending defeat and Barnes, in his first Test match, well justified his choice, but from a depressing start in each innings there was no real recovery. This came as an anti-climax after the batting mastery which obtained until the tea interval on Monday. It was not a case of England driving home the advantage but rather of Australia losing inspiration to make a braver struggle to put a better face on defeat.

Hammond's fourth consecutive success in the toss was, of course, one factor influencing the result. Another was the way in which the Australian team was chosen. The risks taken by Bradman in going into the match with only O'Reilly, Fleetwood-Smith and Waite to bowl seemed to be inviting trouble. Neuritis was given as the reason for the omission of McCormick, who in any case had done nothing to suggest he was likely to trouble England's batsmen on a good Oval wicket. It came to a question of choosing either White of Ward, or omitting both those bowlers and so making the batting as strong as possible. Whether Bradman, as was suggested, gambled upon winning the toss after three failures and so being in a position to call upon his spin bowlers when the pitch had become worn will probably never be known. Although deprived through injuries of both Ames and Wright, England, with more all-round strength, were able to include six players who were recognised bowlers. The inclusion once again of Leyland was a move which yielded splendid results. As Wood, in his 40th year, at last gained the honour of keeping wicket for England, there were five Yorkshiremen in England's XI, and every one of them excelled. Between them they scored 612 of the runs and took 10 of the 16 wickets that fell, and Wood held three catches.

Compared with the England side beaten at Leeds, there were three changes, Hutton, Wood and Leyland replacing Barnett, Price and Wright; the last-named, together with Ames, met with injury after being selected. The first day's cricket brought about the overwhelming success of batsmen which, with the wickets easy-paced and true, it was natural to expect. Waite and McCabe, the opening pair of bowlers, were innocuous and although O'Reilly, soon after he went on, got rid of Edrich and so took his 100th wicket in Tests against England, that was the one success for Australia before stumps were drawn with 347 runs scored. Coming together at 29, Hutton and Leyland settled down to a partnership which surpassed all previous records for England. Each of them enjoyed one escape. Hutton, when 40, jumping in to hit an offbreak form Fleetwood-Smith, missed the ball which, with the batsmen well out of his ground, Barnett failed to gather. Leyland, having scored 140 would have been run out had not Waite, the bowler, after a fast throw-in by Badcock, knocked the bails off before the ball was in his hands.

With few bowlers of class at his call, Bradman had to conserve the energies of O'Reilly as much as possible. The field was set carefully for the saving of runs and although both the England batsmen scored numerous singles on the off side Australia gave a superb display in the field, Bradman inspiring the team with his fast running and clean picking-up. If the bowling lacked venom it was mainly accurate in length, particularly before lunchtime when 89 runs were scored. In a match with no time limit, Hutton and Leyland very wisely refused to take risks until after the interval; Hutton, in fact, never altered his cautious game. That the scoring rate quickened was due mainly to the powerful driving and neat cutting of Leyland. Hutton used similar types of strokes in correct and fluent style and all the time his defence never faltered. At the close on Saturday, Hutton had scored 160 and Leyland 156 - the former having batted nearly six hours and Leyland 50 minutes less time. A curiosity of the day's cricket was that four times a no-ball led either to the wicket being hit or the ball being caught.

A heavy shower which fell shortly before Monday's play was due to begin caused 25 minutes' delay but this improved rather than spoiled the wicket. The first event of note was the passing of the record stand against Australia made by Hobbs and Rhodes, who in 1911-12 at Melbourne shared a first-wicket partnership of 323. Following the same steady lines as before, Hutton and Leyland carried on this magnificent batting until England were 411 runs up when the stand ended through a wonderful piece of fielding. Hutton drove a ball from O'Reilly hard to the off side, and Hassett fumbled it. Then he slung in a very fast return to the bowler's end and Bradman, sizing up the situation in an instant, dashed towards the wicket from mid-on, caught the throw-in and broke the wickets before Leyland could complete a second run. Out of 187 - his highest of seven three-figure innings against Australia - Leyland batted nearly six and a half hours and hit 17 fours.

Hammond was at the wickets to see his personal record of highest score for England in a home Test match surpassed by Hutton. It was a remarkable feature of the season's Test games that the 182 not out by Philip Mead at The Oval in 1921 which stood as the record for England against Australia in any home Test was beaten four times during the current series. At Nottingham Paynter made 216 not out, at Lord's Hammond excelled this with 240, Leyland followed with 187 and Hutton not only eclipsed their achievements but surpassed all individual records in Test cricket. Hammond stayed two hours, 20 minutes and helped to add 135 for the third wicket. He was much more defensive than usual, and although taking 12 off one over by Fleetwood-Smith, Hutton no more than one boundary stroke during his last two hours at the wicket. Paynter's dismissal with one more run scored after Hammond left was a surprise. Misjudgment of a legbreak was the reason. Rain extended the tea interval to half an hour and Compton left immediately afterwards. By this time Hutton had entered upon the tenth hour of his innings, and he remained full of confidence even if becoming a little monotonous by reason of his grim, determined dominance of the bowling. Hardstaff, No. 7 in the order, batted very surely and after an ovation to Hutton when he passed the 287 made at Sydney in 1903-04 by RE Foster - before this match the highest innings hit against Australia - an appeal against the light led to stumps being drawn early. England at the end of two days had put together a total of 634 and only half their wickets had fallen.

Hutton claimed exactly 300 of the runs scored at this point and the 30,000 people who assembled at The Oval on Tuesday saw fresh cricket history made. The bowling and fielding of Australia looked more formidable than at any other time in the game and as Hutton carried his score nearer to the record Test innings, Bradman, the holder of it, brought several fieldsmen close in to the wicket for O'Reilly bowling. Every runs had to be fought for. As might be supposed, Hutton showed an occasional sign of strain and he completely missed the ball when with his total 331 he had an opportunity of beating the record by hitting a no-ball from O'Reilly. However, with a perfect cut off Fleetwood-Smith, Hutton duly reached his objective and the scene at the ground, with the whole assembly rising to its feet, and every Australian player, as well as Hardstaff, congratulating Hutton will be remembered for a long time by those who saw it. Hutton took nearly twice as long as Bradman did over as many runs eight years previously, but the Australian's big innings came during a Test limited in duration whereas Hutton played his innings on an occasion when time did not matter.

Before this memorable incident, Hardstaff hit with judgment without departing from the policy of all his predecessors in avoiding risks. The whole of the batting seemed to be inspired by a desire to build up a stupendous total. Hardstaff reached three figures in three hours, ten minutes and a little later Hutton lifted a stroke towards cover and Hassett held the ball easily low down. So a phenomenal innings, lasting from half-past eleven on the Saturday until half-past two on the Tuesday - the longest ever played in first-class cricket - came to and end. Only AC MacLaren, who hit 424 for Lancashire v Somerset at Taunton in 1895, has made a higher individual score in England. In addition to 35 fours, Hutton hit 15 threes, 18 twos and 143 singles.

England's total had reached 770 for the loss of six wickets and some spirited hitting by Wood came as a refreshing contrast to the stern batting which had gone before. Another three-figure stand resulted, Wood adding 106 in an hour and a half with Hardstaff, and shortly after these batsmen were separated there occurred the tragic accident to Bradman, who when bowling caught his foot in a worn foot-hole, fell prone and was carried off the field by two of his colleagues. During the tea interval, England's innings which was the longest on record and produced the highest total for any Test match innings and the highest for any first-class match in England, was declared closed. It was said that O'Reilly, who bowled 85 overs, wore the skin off a finger in imparting spin to the ball.

Before Australia scored a run, Badcock fell to a catch at short leg, and McCabe left at 19. Hassett made some excellent strokes on the leg side; afterwards Barnes and Brown raised the total from 70 to 117 before stumps were drawn and altogether added 75. Bowes on Wednesday twice took two wickets in an over but neither pace nor spin bowling could disturb the equanimity of Brown. An unusual incident happened during the eighth and last stand, in which Fleetwood-Smith participated. When Brown cut the last ball of an over, intending to run a single Hutton, with the idea of trying to give the less experienced batsman the strike, kicked the ball to the boundary.

Instructions to umpires, however, provide for four runs to be added to the runs already made should a fieldsman wilfully cause the ball to reach the boundary, and as this meant the award to Brown of five runs he kept the bowling. In the end, Brown missed the distinction of carrying his bat, for Hammond, running from slip, knocked up the ball and caught it at the second attempt, so disposing of Brown and bringing Australia's first innings to a close.

Brown was in for two and three-quarter hours and in the follow-on, when he was fourth out, he again revealed better defence than any of his colleagues. In the most satisfactory batting of the second innings, Barnes and Barnett made some capital strokes while putting on 74. Verity took the wickets of Barnes and Waite with the last two balls of an over, and although Barnett stayed for an hour and hooked and drove Farnes with power and certainty Australia were out for 123. They were actually dismissed twice in four and three-quarter hours' cricket. On the fourth day, the proceedings were so one-sided as to be almost farcical. The fact that Australia batted only nine men removed some of the honour and glory from England's triumph, but there was nothing in the condition of the wickets to excuse the poor resistance of so many Test batsmen. Bowes's sustained pace and skilful swerve made himself England's best bowler and in the two innings he took seven wickets for 74. The number of people who saw the game was 94,212, including 81,336 who paid for admission. The takings of £19,176 3s 0d are a record for a Test match at The Oval.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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