England reign supreme, 1958

Notes by the Editor

Norman Preston

The summer of 1957 brought more glory to England as well as to Surrey under the captaincy of Peter May. Happily the weather was not so unkind as in the previous year, but again many matches were spoiled by rain, especially in the popular holiday month of August when the county treasurers look forward to big attendances.

May's Distinction

May's achievements as captain are without parallel. Never before has the same man led England through a series of Test matches and his county to the top of the Championship in the same year. Lord Hawke, captain of Yorkshire, led England on tour, but not at home. F. S. Jackson led England but not his county, Yorkshire. A. W. Carr provides the nearest approach to May. In 1929 he captained the successful Nottinghamshire side when they won the Championship for the first time since 1907, and he also captained England against South Africa at Manchester and The Oval, but not through the whole series.

The youthful May appears to thrive on responsibility. He made 285 not out--the highest score of his career--in the first Test at Edgbaston at a time when England were in desperate need of runs, and once again he finished top of the final averages, having scored 2,347 runs in 41 innings at 61.76. Confidence and determination to achieve his purpose, in addition to personal charm and ability, show May a born leader.

England's Advance

Since that notable day at Melbourne in February 1951 when England under F. R. Brown rose from the depths of despondency and beat Australia for the first time since 1938, the old country has not lost a single Test series.

Clearly England stand at the top of the cricket world. Rarely has our prestige been so high. There are some who aver that England never possessed a better side, but in making comparisons one must remember that conditions have changed. Pitches are certainly very different in this country and in Australia compared with twenty years ago and at home the duration of matches has been extended. Tactics, too, have changed with a leaning on occasion towards defensive bowling.

The tale of success is illustrated in the following table:

1950-51 New Zealand2101 F. R. Brown
1951 South Africa5311 F. R. Brown
1951-52 India5113 N. Howard
1952 India4301 L. Hutton
1953 Australia5104 L. Hutton
1953-54 West Indies5221 L. Hutton
1954 Pakistan4112 L. Hutton (2) D. S. Sheppard (2)
1954-55 Australia5311 L. Hutton
1954-55 New Zealand2200 L. Hutton
1955 South Africa5320 P. B. H. May
1956 Australia5212 P. B. H. May
1956-57 South Africa5221 P. B. H. May
1957 West Indies5302 P. B. H. May

All-Round Strength

For all-round ability I would say that A. P. F. Chapman's 1928-29 Australia team had no superior in thirty years. Look at the batting order: J. B. Hobbs, H. Sutcliffe, W. R. Hammond, D. R. Jardine, A. P. F. Chapman, E. Hendren, H. Larwood, G. Geary, M. W. Tate, G. Duckworth, J. C. White. Three batsmen: M. Leyland 137 and 53 not out, C. P. Mead 8 and 72, and E. Tyldesley 31 and 21 each had to be content to appear in only one Test.

The reasons for England's present success are surely the possession of a grand captain; a fine array of bowlers suited to all types of pitches and the way these men have been so brilliantly supported in the field. It is an old adage that bowling and fielding win matches and in this respect the present England team can be said to be second to none. Moreover, England have not depended on one or two individuals. Adequate reserves have been available when first choices have withdrawn.

West Indies, after their wonderful performances of 1950, were expected to offer a stiff challenge. The slender margin which generally exists between success and failure when International teams are in conflict was clearly in evidence during the first Test at Edgbaston. When Ramadhin caused the England batsmen to flounder and was responsible for the side being dismissed for 186 on a perfect pitch, it seemed that West Indies had gained the ascendancy, especially when they replied with total of 474.

At that juncture England were saved by May and Cowdrey, the very men who often stood fast during the previous tour of Australia. These two brilliant University players took part in a stand of 411, the highest ever recorded for their country, and so England not only avoided disaster in that match, but went on to outplay the team from the Caribbean. West Indies never had a second chance after they failed to press home their initial advantage at Edgbaston.

New Zealand's Task

What of the future? This summer England receive New Zealand who, since they succeeded in drawing all four three-day Tests when they were last here in 1949, now face a stiffer programme of five five-day matches. The deeds of Sir Edmund Hillary at Everest and the South Pole have stirred the world and brought fresh lustre to New Zealand. May their cricketers show the same determination in their difficult task. We remember with admiration the names of Lowry, Dempster, Donnelly and Sutcliffe. A country which has produced such great players may well acquit themselves creditably in the year 1958.

Meanwhile England will be concerned in finding the men to visit Australia and New Zealand next winter for the purpose of retaining the Ashes which were retrieved in 1953. The batting, it appears, will be built round four main pillars, May, Cowdrey, Richardson and Graveney. There will be a concentrated search for opening batsmen. An obvious choice would have been the Rev. David Sheppard, whom all cricketers will wish success in his new appointment as first Warden of the Mayflower Family Settlement in East London.

Future Test Stars?

Likely candidates are M. J. Stewart and T. H. Clark, the Surrey opening pair, M. Hallam (Leicestershire) and two left-handers, D. V. Smith (Sussex) and W. B. Stott (Yorkshire). For the middle order, J. M. Parks (Sussex), D. W. Richardson (Worcestershire), M. J. K. Smith (Warwickshire), D. J. Insole (Essex), K. F. Barrington (Surrey) and E. R. Dexter, the Cambridge captain, may command attention.

Dexter, who is only 21, has a flair for most games. A magnificent stroke-player, he could develop into an all-rounder like Keith Miller, whom he resembles when in the act of bowling. Dexter caused something like a sensation when, on a drying pitch at Lord's, he took five wickets for eight runs for Gentlemen v. Players. On the other hand, as captain also of Cambridge University golf, he may play himself into the Walker Cup team.

Coming to the specialist bowlers, the accent must be on speed. In the past the teams with successful opening bowlers have won the day in Australia. I refer to Barnes and Foster in 1911-12, Larwood and Tate 1928-29, Larwood and Voce 1932-33, and Statham and Tyson 1954-55. Similarly Australia thrived when Gregory and McDonald, and Lindwall and Miller were in their prime. England can still have Statham, Tyson, Loader and Bailey of the last combination in Australia, and pressing for places will be Trueman, Moss and Dexter.

The ideal spin-bowling trio would be Laker, Lock and Wardle, provided all are fit. Australian crowds have never seen Laker and Lock, who have wrought such destruction on responsive English pitches. The years have taken toll of both men. Laker is frequently troubled by the condition of his worn spinning-finger and Lock has been compelled to undergo a knee operation of the same kind that was previously performed on Denis Compton.

Evans Retains His Youthful Skill

For ten years Godfrey Evans has excelled behind the stumps and at the age of 37 he still retains his youthful skill and enthusiasm. He needs to make only five more Test appearances to pass the record number of 85 held by the incomparable W. R. Hammond. A great inspiration to his colleagues, Evans has no equal in the world as a wicket-keeper who, as a race, are renowned for longevity. Herbert Strudwick kept for England when 46 and the noted Australian, W. A. Oldfield, was in his fortieth year before he retired.

At the age of 40, A. J. McIntyre is still generally regarded as second only to Evans among active English wicket-keepers. A second choice will be needed for Australia and no doubt M.C.C. would like to follow their usual custom and give a chance to a younger man. Possibles are J. T. Murray (Middlesex), G. Millman and K. V. Andrew. Murray performed the stumpers' double by scoring over 1,000 runs and helping in 100 dismissals, but one doubts whether he is better than Millman, who did well in his first season with Nottinghamshire, or Andrew, Evans' understudy four winters ago.

The arrival of Graveney as a prolific run-getter in Test cricket was one of the most satisfactory features of last summer. After being left out at Edgbaston, he failed at Lord's, but in their wisdom the selectors did not cast him aside. In two brilliant displays, he hit 258 at Trent Bridge and 164 at The Oval. The best and most attractive of professional batsmen, he should continue to delight his admirers, for he reached his thirtieth birthday only last June.

Surrey's Six Championships

Surrey again dominated the County Championship. There was no question about their superiority. Peter May took over the captaincy from Stuart Surridge and, by the middle of August, Surrey claimed the title for the sixth successive year. While May deserved all the praise showered on him for his double feat in so successfully leading both his country and his county, he was the first to pay tribute to his able henchman, Alec Bedser.

For the first time in their history, Surrey gave an official appointment to a professional when they chose Alec Bedser as vice-captain. With May missing many county matches, Surrey were fortunate to possess such an able deputy leader as Bedser. Paying him the warmest of tributes, May said: "Alec has been splendid in every direction. He remains tremendously keen and has bowled as well as ever. He and I have run the show, including team-selection. As an example of our co-operation, I quote the case of Ken Barrington. When Stuart Surridge retired, we started the season minus a slip-fielder. We decided to try Barrington, and it was important for the side for him to be a success. He settled down immediately and took well over fifty catches. Apart from Alec, I do not single out any individuals because we remain essentially a team. Our success is based very much on the fact that we all play for Surrey and not for ourselves."

The way Surrey have monopolised the Championship since 1952 should be an incentive to their sixteen rivals. Much of the glamour of any contest disappears when year after year the same side remains on top, but Surrey have always been a dynamic and entertaining force since Surridge took control of their fortunes. Peter May is firmly convinced they will make it seven in 1958.

Experimental Laws

The summer of 1957 saw the introduction of several experimental Laws which were confined in the main to county cricket. One, the standardisation of boundaries to 75 yards from the middle of the pitch, was acclaimed a great success by the players though it did not bring about any overall improvement in the tempo of the game. The award of bonus points to the side which leads and scores the faster in the first innings proved an interesting innovation, but whether it will survive together with the limitation of the on-side field remains to be seen. All the experiments will be continued for at least one more season, but the crux of the matter still remains with the players.

The following resolution framed by Surrey in the spring of 1957 shows the way: "The attention of all players should be drawn in the most emphatic manner to the concern generally felt at the defensive tactics employed both by batsmen and bowlers. It is felt that the fundamental cause of this outlook lies not in the game itself, for which little or no legislation is needed, but in the approach by many players, in particular the captains."

Pad Play

If our legislators could check the excessive use of pads and devise means to compel batsmen to rely upon their bats, they would remove an annoying modern practice. The closing stages of the Edgbaston Test provided a notable instance and, seen as it was by thousands of T.V. viewers, showed the game of cricket in an adverse light.

Fast True Pitches

When three Test matches ran little more than half their allotted span and the public, having booked accommodation for the fourth day and, at Headingley, also for the fifth day, paid £17,000 without seeing a ball bowled, it was time that the Board of Control considered the state of the pitches prepared for International matches at the six Test centres. During the winter the Board decided to issue an "edict" --their official term--to the effect that all Test pitches must be fast and true. It seems extraordinary when one considers the care which is taken to provide the right conditions for the contestants at Wimbledon, Wentworth and other outdoor sports centres, that cricket, as far as pitches are concerned, should have departed from its high standard of the Golden Era when Test matches in England used to be restricted to three days and yet produced definite results.

Honours for Cricketers

Personalities in the cricket world were honoured in various ways during the year. Their many friends and admirers will wish to congratulate Lord Monckton, President of M.C.C., and Lord Birkett on their elevation to the peerage. H. S. Altham, M.C.C. Treasurer, Hampshire President and Chairman of M.C.C. Youth Cricket Association, became C.B.E., and very recently Denis Compton, too, was made C.B.E. A noted cricket journalist, Alderman J. H. Morgan, became Lord Mayor of Cardiff. Jack Morgan has followed Glamorgan as a professional cricket writer since their entry into the County Championship in 1921, recording their great and their lesser moments. No one was more delighted than he when Glamorgan won the Championship in 1948, and the following year he told the story of Glamorgan's March of Progress in Wisden. During his year of office, Glamorgan presented him with a Glamorgan County player's tie and the Chief Citizen of the capital of Wales became the first sportsman to be made an honorary playing member of the club.

© John Wisden & Co