Fourth Test Match

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1948

L.S.

By the astonishing feat of scoring 404 for three wickets on the fifth day of the match when the pitch took spin, Australia won the rubber. Until that fatal last stage England were on top, but a succession of blunders prevented them gaining full reward for good work on the first four days.

The biggest mistake occurred before the game started, for the selectors decided to leave out Young, the slow left-arm bowler who had been invited to Leeds as one of the original party. Consequently England took the field with an unbalanced attack. Having only one slow bowler available, Yardley did not know what to do for the best on the last day, and he was forced to make Compton the spearhead and to employ Hutton, who to that point had bowled no more than 22 overs in the season. Even then England should have won. Evans, behind the wicket, fell a long way below his best form, and three catches were dropped in the field.

Australia put together the biggest fourth innings total in a Test Match between the two countries in England; also the aggregate of 1,723 runs was the highest for any match in England.

Handicapped through injuries to Barnes and Tallon, the Australians were forced to make two changes, Harvey and Saggers appearing for the first time against England. The English selectors brought in Hutton, Cranston and Laker for Young, Dollery and Emmett; after being omitted from the original twelve, Emmett was unexpectedly called from Torquay, where he was playing for Gloucestershire in a friendly match, and made twelfth man. The explanation for this surprising move was never officially given, but it was understood that the selectors were worried in case anything unexpected should happen to one of their batsmen.

When Yardley won the toss for the third time in four matches, England gained first use of a perfect pitch. Without Barnes, Bradman did not place a fieldsman close in at forward short leg and the batsmen welcomed their freedom. After their disappointing starts together in the earlier games, Hutton and Washbrook gave England a great send-off with an opening stand of 168, their best partnership in any Test Match. Hutton completely justified his recall to the side and Washbrook successfully eliminated the dangerous high hook stroke which often caused his downfall in earlier Tests. He completed an almost faultless hundred out of 189 and fell in the last over of the day after batting five hours twenty minutes. His second stand with Edrich produced 100.

Bedser, sent in to play the last four balls overnight, proved such an efficient stop-gap that the third successive century partnership resulted. For the second day running the Australians met with no success before lunch, and the third wicket realised 155 before Bedser, who made his highest score in any Test, gave a return catch. Edrich left three runs later after batting five hours ten minutes. This quick fall of wickets revitalised the Australians and the England batting broke down badly. From a total of 423 for two, England were all out 496.

Hassett and Morris opened the Australian innings, but did not shape confidently. Morris left at 13, and next morning Pollard, in his first over, sent back Hassett and Bradman in three balls, making Australia 68 for three. Then nineteen-year-old Neil Harvey joined Miller, and, delivering a terrific onslaught on the England attack, they rescued Australia from their precarious position. In just over an hour and a half they put on 121 by glorious stroke-play. Loxton carried on the big hitting and, with Harvey, added 105 in ninety-five minutes. Harvey hit seventeen 4's while making 112--his second successive Test century. Loxton's terrific driving brought five 6's and nine 4's. Yet despite this punishment England held the upper hand, for with eight wickets down Australia were 141 behind. Then occurred a similar experience to that at Lord's, where Australia's tail-end batsmen could not be dislodged. Johnston and an injured Toshack, who batted with the aid of a runner, in turn helped Lindwall with such success that the last two wickets added 103 and England's lead was restricted to 38.

Hutton and Washbrook opened with a century stand for the second time in the match and created a new world record for Test cricket in accomplishing the feat twice. Both left at 129, but England consolidated their position by rapid scoring. Edrich and Compton put on 103 at more than one a minute and, although a slight collapse followed, Evans, with help from Bedser and Laker, punished the bowling. At the close of the fourth day England led by 400 with two wickets left.

To most people Yardley's decision to continue batting for five minutes next day came as a surprise and the reason for it aroused plenty of comment. The main idea was to break up the pitch by the use of the heavy roller. Three runs were added in two overs, and then Yardley declared, leaving Australia to score 404 in 345 minutes. The pitch took spin and the ball lifted and turned sharply. Unfortunately, Laker was erratic in length. Compton, bowling his left-hand off-breaks and googlies, baffled the batsmen several times, but without luck. Evans should have stumped Morris when 32, and Compton only gained reward when he held a return catch from Hassett at 57, but he ought to have dismissed Bradman, Crapp dropping a catch at first slip. In half an hour before lunch Morris and Bradman put on 64, and after the interval, against a succession of full tosses and long hops, runs continued to flow. When 59 Bradman had another escape off Compton, and Yardley, in despair, called for the new ball even though the pitch favoured spin. Evans should have stumped Bradman when 108, and Laker at square leg dropped Morris when 126. Not until 301 had been put on did England break the stand, and by that time the match was as good as won. Morris batted four hours fifty minutes for 182. Miller did not last long, but Harvey made the winning stroke within fifteen minutes of time. No fewer than 66 fours were hit in the innings, 33 by Morris and 29 by Bradman.

The attendance figures of 158,000 created a record for any match in England. Receipts amounted to £34,000.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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