Second Test Match

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1956

L.S.

At Lord's, June 21, 22, 23, 25, 26. Australia won by 185 runs and gained their first Test victory in England since 1948 at The Oval. They went in to the match still without a win against a county side, but proved conclusively that their early form could not be taken as a true guide. The team played splendidly together, took a firm grip on the game and never relaxed. There were several splendid individual performances, notably by Miller, Benaud and Langley, but it was really a triumph of team-work. England, well served in bowling and fielding, twice failed with the bat.

England again could not call on Tyson, still injured, but Statham who missed the first Test, was fit to play and he, Trueman and Wardle replaced Moss, Appleyard and Lock. Lock later developed internal trouble and went to hospital for observation. The Australians were without Lindwall and Davidson, both injured at Trent Bridge, and two newcomers to Test cricket, Mackay and Crawford, replaced them.

After nearly three weeks of intermittent rain the weather improved shortly before the match and the pitch rolled out firm and easy-paced, but throughout the game fast and fast-medium bowlers were able to make the ball move appreciably off the ground and this resulted in many snicks. In addition batsmen frequently attempted strokes but missed the ball altogether.

McDonald and Burke did Australia a great service when, after Johnson won the toss, they opened with a stand of 137. This was the best start for Australia against England for 26 years. In 1930 Woodfull and Ponsford began with 162 at The Oval. Although they had one or two anxious moments later, Australia never really looked back after this promising send-off. Burke, who batted so well in the second innings at Nottingham, again showed his soundness. The score reached 70 at lunch time but might have ended soon afterwards, May missing a sharp chance in the gully off Statham with McDonald 43. Burke, when 45, cut a ball only a little above May, crouching at second slip, another possible chance, and not until the stand had lasted three hours fifty minutes did England gain their first success. Then Bailey, in the course of four balls, sent back McDonald and Harvey and eased England's anxieties.

Trueman, at second slip, hampered somewhat by Cowdrey at first slip, held an excellent catch low with his left hand to dismiss McDonald. Soon after tea, Burke, who batted four hours ten minutes, was drawn forward by Laker and stumped. That ended England's success on the first day. Bad light held up play for fifty-two minutes until ten past six and in the last twenty minutes May, who had an unhappy time, missed another sharp chance at second slip offered by Burge, when 16, off Trueman.

Australia finished with 180 for three, the outcome of six hours' play, but next day lost their last seven wickets for 105. England fought back splendidly, only one stand checking them, that between Mackay and Archer, who put on 53 for the sixth wicket. Mackay, the left-hander, relied on dead-bat tactics and rarely attempted a scoring stroke. He stayed two hours forty minutes for 38.

As in the first Test, Australia were soon plagued by injury. After sending down only 29 balls at the start of his Test career, Crawford pulled a muscle at the back of his thigh and could not bowl again in the match. That made Australia's eventual victory even more creditable, but once more it threw a heavy strain on Miller and Archer, who again responded magnificently.

Richardson and Cowdrey failed to repeat their first Test success. Richardson, repeatedly sparring at off-side balls, eventually touched one to the wicket-keeper and Graveney was soon bowled. England looked to be recovering from these two early disasters with Cowdrey and May batting well, but the first of three really brilliant catches in the match ended the stand. Cowdrey hit a ball with tremendous power, but Benaud, in the gulley, flung up his hands and held on to it with everyone looking towards the boundary. The force of the ball knocked Benaud backwards.

At the close of the second day England were 211 behind, only 179 having been scored throughout the six hours. Saturday provided a most exciting day's cricket as first one side and then the other gained the upper hand. May, missed at first slip off Miller when 45, batted two and a half hours for 63 and Bailey gave a typically defiant display, but the others failed and England out for 171 were 114 behind. Miller, bowling for long spells and moving the ball either way at varying pace, took half the wickets for 72.

Australia's long lead looked like being decisive, but great-hearted bowling by Trueman and fine fielding put England back in the game. First Cowdrey in the gulley held a fine low right-handed catch almost as good as that by Benaud, to break the opening stand. Harvey took ten off the first three balls he received and was out to the fourth, brilliantly taken at short fine leg by Bailey, who dived full length and held a genuine leg-glide with his right arm outstretched just off the ground.

These two great efforts inspired the Englishmen, particularly Trueman, who put every ounce of energy into his work and bowled really fast. He had Burke caught at first slip, yorked Burge and after Bailey had dismissed Archer, returned for a final spell and sent back Miller, Evans holding another fine catch at the wicket. Australia finished the third day with six men out for 115, only 229 ahead. Trueman took four of the wickets for 38.

At that point the game looked evenly balanced, but from Monday morning Australia took control. Benaud set about the bowling so wholeheartedly that England's chances soon waned. Mackay made a passive partner for Benaud. Between them they put on 117 for the seventh wicket of which Benaud made 97, including one 6 and fourteen 4's. Trying a big hit to complete his century shortly after Trueman took the new ball, Benaud skied a catch behind the stumps. He batted two hours twenty-three minutes and was one of the few batsmen in the match willing to attack. His previous best score against England was only 34. Mackay, even more stubborn than in the first innings, spent four hours twenty-five minutes over 31, one of the slowest Test innings on record. He averaged seven runs an hour.

England were set the formidable task of scoring 372 to win eight hours forty minutes to bat. They soon ran into trouble, Richardson again being caught at the wicket. Cowdrey and Graveney showed no inclination to force matters, but their caution did not help and Graveney was second out at 59. The final day began with England 72 for two and again they were forced to struggle. Their lack of enterprise enabled the Australians to throw all their efforts into winning the match without worrying about the possibilities of England getting the runs. Watson was bowled when hitting across a full toss and Cowdrey, after batting just over three hours for 27, was lbw at 91.

Johnson set a close, attacking field, particularly to Cowdrey, and Burge stood astonishingly close at forward short leg, barely two yards from the bat. At one point May, after a word with Cowdrey, spoke to Johnson, but apart from moving round a little squarer, Burge remained almost in touching distance from Cowdrey. While May and Bailey were together there seemed a faint chance that England might save the game, but the end was in sight when Bailey fell just before lunch.

May, missed at the wicket when 35, continued his stubborn resistance, but apart from a quickly hit 20 by Evans, no one else did much.

May had just passed his third fifty in successive innings against Australia when he edged a catch to the wicket-keeper. He batted a little over two hours. The remaining three wickets went down for six runs and at seven minutes to three o'clock the match was over. Miller took five more wickets and made his match analysis ten for 152, a great performance for a 36-year-old fast-medium bowler.

No fewer than 21 wickets fell to catches behind the stumps. Evans did well at the wicket for England, holding six catches and making one stumping, but Langley achieved an even better performance for Australia. He established a new Test record for a wicket-keeper by helping to dismiss nine men in the match. His five victims when England batted a second time equalled the Test record for one innings by W. A. Oldfield in 1924-25 and himself in 1955 in Jamaica.

The attendance for the match was 134,875, 3,040 short of the highest figure at Lord's for the corresponding match in 1953.

© John Wisden & Co