First Test Match

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1948

R.J.H.

Bravely as England fought back, the result became nearly a foregone conclusion by the end of the first day after their disastrous batting against a fast attack of exceptionally high standard. Until the last moment considerable doubt existed about the composition of the England side. As Wright was doubtful through lumbago the Selectors sent for Pope (Derbyshire) on the eve of the match, but neither played, Wright being omitted through unfitness. Simpson (Nottinghamshire) was twelfth man. Although only twenty minutes' play was possible before lunch on Thursday, Miller struck a vital blow by clean bowling Hutton with an extra-fast ball and, on a pitch affected sufficiently by a heavy downpour during the interval to make the ball skid through, England lost eight wickets before tea for 74. True, the light never became good and the bowling reached a high level, but England played poorly and there could be no criticism of Yardley's decision to bat first. Washbrook hooked a short-rising ball to long-leg where Brown took a good running catch, Compton, trying a leg sweep, missed a straight ball and Edrich was late with his stroke. Johnston, in the fifth over of his first Test against England, achieved the splendid feat of dismissing Edrich and Hardstaff, out second ball, and he continued to bowl left-arm medium-fast deliveries of sustained hostility--accurate in length, varied in pace and swing.

When Laker and Bedser came together, Australia were so much on top that there seemed every likelihood that England would be out for less than the lowest score made before in a Test at Nottingham -- 112 by England in 1921 -- but the two Surrey all-rounders batted so confidently that they more than doubled the total by adding 89 in seventy-three minutes. Laker hooked firmly and made many fine off-drives during a stay of ninety minutes, and Bedser mixed good defence with clean driving. A dazzling slip catch by Miller set the keynote on Australia's excellent fielding, but Australia suffered a handicap when Lindwall pulled a groin muscle midway through the innings and could not bowl again in the match. Johnston's full analysis was 25--11--36--5. Less than a quarter of an hour remained for Australia to bat and neither Barnes nor Morris took a risk. Barnes made an unsuccessful appeal against the light after the first delivery of the innings -- a wide by Edrich.

Although a good spell by Laker gave England great encouragement at one period on the second day Australia recovered and pressed home their advantage, but on a perfect pitch and in ideal weather conditions England deserved equal praise for limiting the batsmen to 276 runs in six hours. For the most part Yardley set a defensive field and, though lacking penetration, his bowlers performed their allotted tasks in concentrating on and just outside the leg stump. At one period Laker's off-breaks put the Australians into a position where they struggled for runs. Laker broke the opening stand of 73 and when he dismissed Barnes and Miller at 121 his analysis read: 12.4-5-22-3. Laker owed a great deal to Evans for disposing of Barnes who cut a ball hard on to the wicket-keeper's thigh whence it bounced into the air; Evans whirled round and diving full length held the ball with one hand inches from the ground. Miller played for an off-break, but the ball went with Laker's arm and resulted in an easy catch at slip. Then Yardley caused surprise by taking off Laker in order to use the new ball against Brown, normally an opening batsman accustomed to swing. The change in bowling provided Bradman with an opportunity to hit his first 4 after eighty-three minutes, but again he relapsed into long periods of defence and, as Brown followed suit, scoring became very slow with Australia fighting to restore their early superiority. They passed England's total without further loss, but at 184 Yardley went on for the first time in the innings and once again he showed his usefulness as a change bowler in Tests by getting Brown leg-before with his fourth delivery. England met with no other success on Friday; an unbroken stand of 108 between Bradman and Hassett left Australia 128 ahead. Seldom had Bradman been so subdued in a big innings as he was over the 28th Test century of his career. He did not welcome Yardley's tactics in asking his bowlers to work to a packed leg-side field, and he spent over three hours and a half in reaching his 100, the last 29 runs taking seventy minutes.

When play began on the Saturday Bradman needed only two runs to become the first player to complete 1,000 for the season. These he obtained, but in the third over Hutton at short fine-leg held the first of his series of catches given by Bradman off Bedser's late in-swinger. Bradman's unusually subdued innings lasted four hours and three-quarters. For the most part he allowed himself no liberty. On Bradman's departure Hassett became the big problem. Johnson fell to Laker's fifth ball and Young took a brilliant return catch from Tallon during a remarkable spell of bowling, before Hassett found an able partner in the hard-driving Lindwall, who did not require a runner in spite of his groin trouble. In one period of over an hour Young sent down eleven overs without conceding a run and his figures for a complete spell of two hours and a half were: 26-16-14-1. In the innings Young gave away only 79 runs in 60 overs. The eighth-wicket stand added 107 before Bedser knocked back Hassett's off stump, so taking his 50th wicket in Test cricket. Four runs later Evans caught Lindwall smartly on the leg side. Though Hassett pursued his policy of defence for five hours fifty minutes he hit hard whenever the opportunity arose and his strokes included a 6 and twenty 4's. A last-wicket partnership of 33 emphasised England's difficulties which were increased immediately they began the second innings, 344 behind. Once more Australia gained the incentive of a fine start, when in Miller's second over Washbrook attempted to hook a bumper and edged a catch to the wicket-keeper. Misjudgment in cutting a ball outside the off stump cost Edrich his wicket at 39, but Hutton showed sparkling form and Compton overcame an anxious start against Johnson. In a delightful display of stroke-making Hutton reached 50 with two successive 4's off Miller in an over which produced 14 runs. At this period Miller bowled medium-paced off-breaks, but he turned again to fast deliveries and incurred the noisy displeasure of sections of the crowd when he bowled five bumpers to Hutton in his last eight balls, one of which struck the batsman high on the left arm. By the most attractive batting so far in the match Hutton and Compton scored 82 together in the last seventy minutes.

Before play began on Monday the Nottinghamshire Secretary, Mr. H. A. Brown, broadcast an appeal to the crowd to leave the conduct of the game to the umpires and he deplored the barracking of Miller on Saturday. The not-out batsmen continued their good work, but the light became even worse than in the first innings. After an unsuccessful appeal play was held up when the ground caught the edge of a thunderstorm. Almost immediately on the resumption Miller produced a fast break-back which beat Hutton completely in the still gathering gloom. Bad light interrupted the game soon afterwards and though the stoppage was brief conditions became so bad again that the players retired a second time. On this occasion Compton wanted only three runs for his century. After fifty-five minutes the umpires thought the light good enough to continue, but it was still bad. Indeed, rarely can a Test Match have been played under such appalling conditions as on this day. Great credit was due to Compton and Hardstaff, even in the absence of Lindwall, for their resolution. Although Hardstaff went at 243 and Barnett did not settle down Compton batted in masterly fashion when continuing his third century in successive Tests at Trent Bridge, and Yardley gave sound aid till Johnston took a return catch smartly. England faced an almost hopeless task at the beginning of the last day when they stood only one run ahead with four wickets left, but hope remained as long as Compton was undefeated. He found another fine partner in Evans and in spite of two short breaks for rain they held out till ten minutes before lunch when Miller released a lightning bumper at Compton. The ball reared shoulder-high, Compton shaped to hook then changed his mind and tried to get his head out of the way. As he ducked Compton lost his balance on the muddy turf and tumbled into his wicket.

This tragic end to one of the best innings of Compton's career and his highest in Test cricket against Australia sealed England's fate. No praise could be too high for the manner in which Compton carried the side's responsibilities and defied a first-class attack in such trying circumstances. He held out for six hours fifty minutes and hit nineteen 4's.

Evans completed a gallant 50, which included eight boundary strokes, but the end of the innings soon came and Australia wanted only 98 to win. Miller, who accounted for England's two best batsmen, Hutton and Compton, in each innings, and Johnston shared chief bowling honours. Australia fielded grandly, in contrast to England, and no one was better than the twelfth man, Harvey, substituting for Lindwall whose absence threw much extra work on the other bowlers.

Bedser added interest to the last stages by bowling Morris at 38 and dismissing Bradman for his first duck in a Test in England, caught in exactly the same manner as in the first innings; but Barnes and Hassett quickly hit off the runs, Barnes showing tremendous power in square-cutting. The match ended humorously. After making a boundary stroke Barnes thought the game was over when the scores were level, and he snatched a stump before racing towards the pavilion. Barnes was halfway up the pavilion steps when the shouts of the crowd made him realise the error and he returned to the crease. When Hassett did make the winning hit another scramble for souvenirs took place; and in this Barnes was unlucky.

© John Wisden & Co