Helping cricket recover, 1946

Australian services team

Norman Preston

By embarking on a programme which eventually involved them in nearly 50 fixtures, including five Victory matches against England, Australian Servicemen made a valuable contribution towards the recovery of cricket in all parts of the Mother Country. Above everything else the cricket provided enjoyment for all kinds of people seeking relaxation after six years of total war.

In the early months of 1945, no ideas of such a tour existed. The R.A.A.F. cricket XI was already established and the A.I.F., stationed at Eastbourne after service in the Middle East, were preparing for the rehabilitation of 6,000 of their prisoners-of-war still in German hands. They took a lease of the Saffrons ground as part of their programme for restoring P.O.W.'s to full health. The organiser, Captain John Mallyon, arranged matches against various teams and meanwhile the R.A.A.F. drew up a separate list of games. Sir Pelham Warner, who did so much for cricket during the lean years, arranged his programme at Lord's with the Australians as frequent visitors, including two-day games against England at Whitsun and August Bank Holiday, and a single day game in July.

So the season began, but when V-E Day came on May 8 those simple arrangements gradually grew like a snowball. The three games at Lord's between England and Australia were in turn extended to three days each, and the British Inter-Services Committee staged two more representative matches in the provinces at Sheffield and Manchester. At no time was there any suggestion that the games should count in the regular Test series, and no doubt this decision went a long way towards making the cricket so agreeable. In fact, all five games were contested by each side, under the admirable captaincy of W. R. Hammond and A. L. Hassett, in a spirit of fellowship and goodwill, which I, among many, would like to see continued when the real Tests come round again.

Adequate descriptions are given of all the games and therefore I do not propose to mention them here, except to say honours were evenly divided, Australia winning the first and third matches, England the second and last--both played out of London--the fourth being drawn. The Australians possessed only one man of Test experience, Hassett, and to him belonged the credit of knitting them into such a splendid team. He may not have done himself justice with the bat on all occasions, but he did enough to make us realise that skill is more important than height and that he was still in the first flight of batsmen from all parts of the world.

I would single out K. R. Miller, the tall Victorian, as the find of the season from Australia's point of view. Having the temperament for big cricket, he possessed the ability to play the right kind of innings according to the state of the game. Essentially a front of the wicket batsman, he was a great attraction wherever he went, and I firmly believe he is destined to become one of the great men of Australian cricket. As an opening bowler he was the liveliest seen in England during the summer. Besides Miller, S. G. Sismey, wicket-keeper, and the three slow bowlers, C. G. Pepper, D. R. Cristofani and R. S. Ellis may reach the top mark. Bearing in mind the bowling problem which beset D. G. Bradman in 1938, A. G. Cheetham and R. G. Williams, both tall and elegant in action, would have been welcome in some touring sides of the past. After the third Victory match, Cheetham returned home and left a gap which was never filled properly, as Miller strained a back muscle that prevented him being used consistently as a bowler.

There were two repatriated prisoners-of-war in the party--R. G. Williams and D. K. Carmody. Despite spending nearly four years in a German prison camp after being shot down in a Maryland aircraft during the Libyan campaign, Williams soon found his form and he claimed Hutton as a Victim four times in the five games with England. Carmody, released by the Russians after one year in Germany, failed to produce the form he showed before his capture. Within a week of getting back to England he joined the side; he might have done better as a batsman if he had rested longer.

As for the batting generally, too much depended upon Miller. More stability was needed. R. S. Whitington, often worried by hay fever, displayed a beautiful square cut and often hooked well, but desire for progress frequently led to his early dismissal. The fact that Cristonfani and Pepper, a tremendous hitter, came second and third in the Test averages indicated the weakness of the side. These two right-arm slow bowlers achieved some notable success against the pick of England's batting strength by virtue of their steady length and skilful finger spin. Both mixed their deliveries, sending down the leg-break, googly and top-spinner. Ellis, left-arm slow over the wicket, concentrated on the off-break, and he, too, rarely lost his length. Finding a place in the last two matches, J. Pettiford gave promise of developing into a dependable all-rounder. He spun the leg-break more than his colleagues could and appeared to be a talented batsman, but with no regular position in the batting order he never settled down as a run-getter. Like all Australian teams, the fielding, day by day, was exceedingly good and sometimes brilliant--a remark that also applied to England apart from the third match.

Flight Lieutenant Keith Johnson, a member of the Australian Board of Control, flew from Australia to manage the team, arriving the first week in June. A stranger to this country, he found the programme in only skeleton form; and that the tour proved such a success from every point of view was due to his hard work and courtesy. Before the team sailed for India, Johnson left the following message:

As manager, I would like to say 'thank you' to the Cricket administrators, the cricketers and to the great cricketing public of Britain. Many of our team have been in your country for many years, and all have been away from home a long time, but it is with feelings of regret that we are saying 'Good-bye' to a land where we have been received with so much kindness, hospitality, and co-operation. The matches of the 1945 season will always be a pleasant memory to us, and if we have in any way contributed to the rehabilitation of English cricket, then it was our honour and our pleasure. May I say that we, too, have benefited from these games, and go back home with more experience of cricket and better players.

I have heard it said that we have done for English Cricket what the A.I.F. Team did in 1919; if this be so, we are very proud to be associated with our famous predecessors. There was something about the games of last season, something care-free and refreshing, which I hope has come to stay. I would liken it to a mixture of Lord's, Old Trafford, Trent Bridge, Bramall Lane, and the village green; it was certainly a good mixture. I think it did us good, and we must take it in large doses, and never lose the prescription.

In thanking all the people who helped us I would particularly refer to Sir Pelham Warner, our guide, philosopher and friend; to him we owe the honour of the first opportunity of playing at Lord's and our subsequent important games.

I think it significant that on VE Day and VJ Day we were playing cricket at Lord's and Blackpool; playing on the grounds our countries had given so much to protect. I remember the bomb-holes on Old Trafford, Lord's and Bramall Lane, and the groundsmen proudly pointing to how the turf had once more grown nicely over it. I remember a ground in Darwin, in Northern Australia, scarred in the same way by another foe, and I remember with thankfulness the grand men of our Empire who made our Great Victory possible. I remember with respect and admiration the boys of the Battle of Britain, Dunkirk and other dark days--Ken Farnes, Charlie Walker, Hedley Verity, Ross Gregory and thousands of the cream of our youth who paid the supreme sacrifice. I hope that we prove worthy, in the years ahead, of these grand young men who adorned our cricket fields and who fell on the field of battle.

You are putting your bats away here now, and in other parts of the world they are taking them out, the village greens of other countries are ringing with the joyous shouting of youth at play, for the grand game is always being played in some part of our Cricket Empire. We look back with pride and pleasure to the grand country where the game was born and nurtured.

KEITH JOHNSON.


All Matches: Played 48, Won 24, Drawn 15, Lost 9

VICTORY MATCH AVERAGES

England Won 2; Australia Won 2; Drawn 1

ENGLAND

BATTING

MatchesInns.Not OutsRunsHighest Inns.Average
Sqd.-Ldr. W. J. Edrich59233173*47.28
Flt.-Sgt. C. Washbrook59232911247.00
W. R. Hammond58036910046.12
L. Hutton59038010442.22
Lt. J. D. Robertson4702398434.14
L. B. Fishlock230826927.33
Lt.-Col. S. C. Griffth581933613.28
Sgt. R. Pollard462482512.00
G. H. Pope340433510.75
Lt. D. V. P. Wright5722995.80
Sgt. W. B. Roberts3401162.75

The following also batted:--

Sqd.-Ldr. L. E. G. Ames 57 and 7; D. B. Carr 4 and 1; J. G. Dewes 27 nad 0; A. R. Gover 0* and 1; Col. E. R. T. Holmes 6 and 2; Sqd.-Ldr. R. W. V. Robins 5 and 33; Col. J. W. A. Stephenson 31 and 1; Flt.-Sgt. W. E. Phillipson 18*; Hon. L. R. White 11 and 4.

BOWLING

*Signifies not out.

Inns.OversMdns.RunsWkts.Average
W. E. Phillipson25616130914.44
G. H. Pope6134.3363161521.06
R. Pollard8189.3425912523.64
W. B. Roberts56219134526.80
J. W. A. Stephenson2474167627.83
D. V. P. Wright8165.4344361333.53
A. R. Gover236.44141270.50
W. J. Edrich7545163281.50


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