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England won by eight wickets and so won the Ashes for the first time since 1932-33. It was a most welcome victory in Coronation year and a triumph for Len Hutton, the first modern professional to be entrusted with the captaincy of England. Moreover, he led his team to success on the ground on which he made the world record Test score of 364 in 1938 -- the last previous occasion England beat Australia in this country. This was the first time England had won the rubber at home since A.P.F Chapman's team finished 289 runs ahead on the fourth day on this very ground in 1926.
There was something unique in the victory of Hutton's men as far as England and Australia were concerned. Hutton was the only captain who had lost the toss in all five Tests and yet won the series. In 1905, when Sir Stanley Jackson won the toss in the five Tests, England were victorious in the only two matches that were decided. In 1909, when M.A.Noble equalled Jackson's feat, Australia carried home the Ashes by two matches to one. John Goddard, of the West Indies, was similarly successful in India in 1948-49, and the only parallel to the failure of Hassett's team occurred in South Africa in 1928-29. Then H. G. Deane successfully spun the coin five times, but England won by two clear victories.
The absence of a genuine spin bowler proved a severe handicap to Australia. The issue was virtually decided on the third afternoon when Australia, 31 behind on the first innings, lost half their side to Laker and Lock for 61.
Compared with the fourth Test, England brought in May and Trueman for Watson and Simpson, and made Wardle twelfth man. For the first time in the series England possessed a properly balanced attack. The introduction of Trueman, who faced Australia for the first time, proved a wise decision. As Johnson had recovered from his knee injury, Australia preferred him to Benaud.
As in 1926, stories of long all-night queues frightened away many would-be spectators on the first day when the ground was comfortable with 26,300 people present. The news that Hassett had again won the toss was received gloomily by most England supporters, but by mid-afternoon, when seven Australian wickets were down for 160, pessimism changed to optimism.
At first the cricket took the expected course. With six days at their disposal, there was no need for Australia to hurry, but like true cricketers they never ignored the loose ball. For example, the second ball of the day, a full toss from Bedser, was hit truly by Hassett to the long-leg boundary.
Trueman was given a great welcome. He set a normal field for an easypaced pitch: two slips, a gully and two short legs. He began with a lively over. The fifth ball Morris tried to sweep, and as it landed in Evans's gloves Trueman appealed for a catch. The last ball nearly earned a wicket, Compton at short fine leg just failing to reach a very hard chance.
Clearly neither bowler intended to allow Australia any complacency. It was all-out attack with both sides striving for the mastery. Trueman, taking one of the longest runs known in cricket, covered a distance of at least 25 yards in fifteen long strides and required forty-five minutes to complete his first spell of five overs which cost 12 runs.
Then came Bailey, but the initiative appeared to be with Australia. Towards the end of an hour Bedser broke the opening stand in his eighth over when his swerve deceived Morris, who, offering no stroke, turned his back and was leg-before. The Surrey giant had now dismissed Morris five times in nine Test innings in this series and altogether eighteen times in twenty Tests. This success gave England timely encouragement, and within ten minutes Bailey claimed the dangerous Miller, who, padding up, was also lbw. Hutton used Trueman in short spells, and at lunch the total was 98 for two wickets -- Hassett 51, Harvey 29.
Light rain during the interval seemed to enliven the pitch, and suddenly Bedser and Trueman drilled a big hole in the Australia batting. A fine stand of 66 between Hassett and Harvey was terminated when Hassett, playing forward, gave a catch to Evans. In the following over Harvey mistimed a hook and Hutton, running with his back to the pitch from short square leg, brought off a grand catch.
Another shower held up the game for ten minutes, and then De Courcy, having already flashed at Trueman, repeated his error and Evans held another catch -- wide of the off stump. That made half the side out in only two and a half hours for 118, but while Archer defended Hole played a splendid innings. Hole declined to be subdued, and though he narrowly escaped when Lock dived in Bedser's leg-trap, he pulled and drove until Trueman beat him by pace and Evans seized his third catch. Without addition, Archer, having stayed nearly an hour, lifted the first ball on Bedser's return to the attack back to the bowler. This turned out to be Bedser's final wicket in the series, but it was an historic one. It gave him his 39th of the 1953 Tests and so he beat M. W. Tate's 38 of 1924-25, the previous best in England-Australia matches.
Now came Lindwall, and with only three wickets to fall he launched a hot attack, ably assisted by the left-handed Davidson. For an hour and fifty minutes Lindwall indulged in a magnificent display of clean hitting. His off and cover drives were of the highest class. The new ball at 210 did not halt him and he hit eight sparkling boundaries before he was last out to the fourth catch of the innings by Evans. By adding 157 the last five wickets more than doubled the score, and in the circumstances no one could deny that Australia had made an excellent recovery.
Although there had been some fine catching, England's fielding again left room for much criticism, for Davidson, Lindwall and Johnston were missed by Edrich, Graveney and Bedser respectively. Still, England had every reason to be satisfied in dismissing Australia for 275. Trueman fully justified his selection. Always hostile, he made good use of the occasional bouncer and he looked the part.
Before bad light stopped the struggle at 6.17 p.m. there was time for Lindwall and Miller each to send down one over, and England might well have lost Hutton in Lindwall's tearaway effort. The fourth and fifth balls were bouncers. The fifth flew off the handle of Hutton's bat and five slips surged forward for the catch which unexpectedly never arrived. The ball dropped short because it lost its pace in transit through striking Hutton's cap, which it removed. The cap just missed the stumps or Hutton might have been out hit wicket.
If Saturday belonged to England, Monday went to Australia, for the close of play found England 235 for seven -- 40 behind with only three wickets left. The gates were closed long before play was resumed at 11.30 a.m. and thousands failed to gain admission. Upon England's batting this day everyone felt that the destination of the Ashes depended, but after a promising beginning the initiative passed to Australia.
The conditions were not in their favour, but they bowled and fielded as if their very lives were at stake. They dropped only one catch compared with five by England on Saturday and they tied England down to a scoring rate of less than 40 runs an hour. For a time England prospered. An early setback occurred when Edrich, having batted splendidly, left at 37, but there followed a grand partnership of 100 between Hutton and May, who were together two hours twenty minutes. When that was broken England went through a very bad time, chiefly because of the uncertainty of Compton.
Previously Hutton had been master of the situation, but when joined by Compton he added only six in the next half hour before being bowled by a well-pitched-up ball from Johnston which moved from leg and hit the middle stump. Third out at 154, Hutton made his 82 in three hours forty minutes and hit eight 4's. The departure of Hutton was a serious setback for England. The new ball was due, but Johnston was so dominant with his cleverly flighted left-arm slows that Hassett was able to save Lindwall and Miller for an all-out assault after tea.
When the interval arrived with the total 165 for three, Compton had spent an hour over 16 and Graveney half an hour for two. On a day made for batting, the bowling figures read: Johnston 10--5--14--2; Hole 7--4--8--0. Lindwall and Miller were only warming up after tea with the old ball when Compton's disappointing exhibition ended in a spectacular flying catch by Langley well wide of the leg stump.
Not until the 78th over did Australia take the new ball, and it brought immediate success. The second ball was enough for Graveney, who fell to a brilliant first slip catch, Miller holding a catch at ankle height. That meant half the England wickets down for 170. Miller had five slips, but Evans did not allow anything to worry him. Soon he was hitting cleanly, and in an over which cost Lindwall 10 were two smashing hooks. England had stopped the slump, but the position was still precarious, particularly when Davidson at square leg cut off a vicious stroke by Evans from Johnston. Evans slipped on being sent back and Langley swept a lightning return into the stumps.
Meanwhile Bailey had begun with l5 in thirty-five minutes, but on being joined by Laker he changed his methods and brilliant strokes to the off gave him 11 in an over from Johnston. Laker soon went, but Lock closed an end for the last forty minutes of a dramatic day, England finishing at 235 for seven wickets -- Bailey 35, Lock 4.
The way England pulled the game round on the third day was scarcely believable. Light rain at 6 a.m. and the heavy roller left the pitch easy paced. Again Bailey foiled the Australian bowlers, but they gained an early success. The first ball of Lindwall's second over lifted and Lock was caught off his glove in the leg trap. More dazzling fielding, notably by De Courcy, saved many runs, but not even the odd bouncer troubled Bailey, and he and Trueman put on 25, so that only 13 runs separated the totals when the last man, Bedser, walked to the crease.
England took twenty minutes to get those runs. Every ball seemed vital until Bedser lifted one from Johnston over mid-off and the batsmen ran four. Miller misjudged its pace and delayed chasing it. Now Australia became concerned mainly in preventing scoring strokes and Hassett widened the field, but Bailey, to whom Miller bowled round the wicket, drove and hooked beautifully until, going forward to Archer, he was bowled on the stroke of lunch time by a fine ball which hit the top of the stumps. Hitting seven 4's and never offering a chance, Bailey withstood the bowling for three and three-quarter hours, his final stand with Bedser yielding 44. Johnston bowled his left-arm slows with rare skill and Lindwall and Miller never spared themselves.
To Hutton must be given the credit for bringing about Australia's subsequent collapse. He realised by the way Morris slammed Bedser past cover and Trueman to leg that the batsmen would thrive on pace bowling on this somewhat lifeless pitch for which Hassett had ordered the heavy roller. Hutton allowed Trueman only two overs and Bedser three before at 19 he introduced the Surrey spinners, Laker (right-arm off-breaks) and Lock (left-arm slow). That was the move that brought home the Ashes. The Australian batsmen had not settled down before they were confronted by spin, and their vulnerability to the turning ball as well as their fear of it led to their undoing. Suddenly a day which began so gloomily for England swung completely Hutton's way.
Laker started the Australian procession. Bowling round the wicket, he twice beat Hassett, and then with the last ball of his first over he got the Australian captain leg-before as he retreated into his wicket. One hour later half the Australia team were back in the pavilion for 61.
In one astonishing spell of fourteen minutes four wickets fell while only two runs were scored. Lock went over the wicket to the left-handed batsmen, but Hole threatened danger with free hitting at the expense of Laker. Again Hutton countered. He placed a deep extra cover as well as a long-on, and Laker with his very next ball got Hole lbw.
Lock never erred in length or direction from the pavilion end, and as Harvey shaped to drive he knocked back his off stump. In the next over Trueman at short square leg hugged a sharp catch from Miller, and then Morris, playing back and trying to force Lock away, was leg-before. So on this gloriously sunny afternoon Australia found themselves confronted with impending defeat. With half their wickets down they were no more than 30 runs ahead.
Hassett saw that the only possible escape was a repetition of Lindwall's method. Young Archer began the offensive by helping himself to 11 in an over from Laker, but at 85 De Courcy was brilliantly run out by Bailey who at mid wicket swooped on a stroke by Archer. De Courcy tried to get back but Lock broke the wicket at his leisure.
When Archer on-drove Lock magnificently for 6, Hutton placed May on the pavilion rails and Trueman at deep extra cover, but Archer and Davidson still hit at will. A boundary to long leg and then a hook for 6 gave Davidson 10 in two balls from Laker, so that at tea Australia were 131 for six -- Archer 44, Davidson 21.
The break gave England a chance to review the position. Clearly they needed to plan to avoid more heavy punishment. Next Laker exploited leg-theory with only three off fielders and Lock off-theory with only three leg fielders. This sensible arrangement plus two steady spells by Bedser resulted in the four remaining wickets being taken for 31 more runs. Archer, who besides his 6 hit seven fours, batted an hour for his thrilling 49. Lindwall hooked Lock for 6, received a life at slip from the same bowler, and then, essaying another six, was caught on the pavilion fence by Compton.
England, having dismissed Australia in two hours forty-five minutes for 162, needed 132 to win with ample time at their disposal. They owed much to Lock. The pitch gave him little help, yet such was his finger spin allied to skilful flighting and change of pace that he took five wickets for 45. Laker, too, played a valuable part. He did not approach Lock in accuracy, but he accounted for the dangerous right-handed hitters, Hassett, Miller, Hole and Lindwall. Lock removed three left-handers, Morris, Harvey and Davidson, as well as Archer and Langley.
Fifty minutes remained on Tuesday when Hutton and Edrich began England's final task. Both produced some excellent strokes, but at 24 Hutton brought about his own dismissal. He hit Miller firmly to square leg and took the obvious single, but when De Courcy fumbled he tried to steal a second run and failed to get home. Hutton looked terribly disappointed as he walked slowly back to the pavilion. May stayed with Edrich for the last quarter of an hour and England finished at 38 for one wicket.
They now needed 94, and only rain and a sticky pitch were likely to deprive them of the victory so near their grasp. How those Australians fought to hold the Ashes! Johnston bowled tantalising slows from the Vauxhall end without relief and little help from the slightly worn pitch from 11.30 a.m. till 2.45p.m., when, with only nine more runs wanted, Hassett ended the struggle by going on with Morris. Lindwall bowled for seventy-five minutes in his first spell, returned for the last ten minutes before lunch, and continued for another half hour. Here is their analysis for the fourth day: Johnston 23--12--36--0; Lindwall 19--5--38--0.
At first Edrich and May made very slow progress: 14 in the first half hour and 24 in the hour. Harvey, Davidson and Lindwall excelled in the field. The attack was always directed at the stumps. Only rarely did Lindwall risk a bumper; runs were too precious to be given away. Slowly the score crept to 88, and then Miller, having dispensed with his slips -- five men were on the leg side for his off-spin -- got May caught at short fine leg. The stand produced 64 in one hour fifty minutes.
Earlier Edrich magnificently hooked two successive bumpers from Lindwall. Now he was joined by his Middlesex colleague, Compton, and they took England to victory. Compton made the winning hit at seven minutes to three when he swept Morris to the boundary.
At once the crowd swarmed across the ground while Edrich, who batted three and a half hours and hit six 4's, fought his way to the pavilion with Compton and the Australian team. In a memorable scene both captains addressed the crowd, stressing the excellent spirit in which all the matches had been contested both on and off the field.
The attendance for the Test reached 115,000 and the receipts amounted to £37,000.
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