Fifth Test Match

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1948

H.P.

Toss: England. Test debuts: England - J.G.Dewes, A.J.Watkins.

Australia's victory completed their triumph in the rubber with four victories and one draw.

England having been placed in a humiliating position already, the selectors tried further experiments which aroused strong condemnation. Washbrook, suffering from a damaged thumb, was replaced by Dewes, and Watkins, an unknown quantity in representative cricket, not then prominent for Glamorgan, completed the side, with Simpson twelfth man. These changes proved unfortunate, and Australia met with little hindrance on the road to their most emphatic victory in this series of Tests.

Extraordinary cricket marked the opening day. So saturated was the ground by copious rain during the week that the groundsmen could not get the pitch into a reasonable state for a punctual start. The captains agreed that play should begin at 12 o'clock, and Yardley, having won the toss, chose to bat--an inevitable decision with the conditions uncertain and the possibility of more rain. As it happened, apart from local showers early on Sunday morning, the weather proved fine until England fared badly for the second time. All things considered, the Australians found everything favourable for them, as was the case at Lord's. This does not explain the lamentable collapse of England for the lowest score by either side in a Test at The Oval, apart from the 44 for which Australia fell in 1896, the last occasion on which W. G. Grace led England to victory. This followed their dismissal at Lord's, in the first of the three Tests, for 53, the bowlers being J. T. Hearne and R. Peel.

The sodden state of the pitch, with sawdust covering large patches of turf nearby, made one doubt its fitness for cricket. Bowlers and batsmen found much sawdust necessary for a foothold. This supposed handicap did not seem to trouble the Australians, and reasons for the downfall of England in two hours and a half for such a meagre score were the splendid attack maintained by Lindwall, Miller and Johnston in humid atmosphere against batsmen whose first error proved fatal. Hutton, the one exception to complete failure, batted in his customary stylish, masterful manner throughout the innings, being last out from a leg glance which Tallon held with the left hand close to the ground as he fell--a great finish to Australia's splendid performance.

Lindwall, with his varied pace and occasional very fast ball, excelled. Always bowling at the stumps, he made the ball rise at different heights. Four times he clean bowled a hesitant opponent. Except that Watkins received a blow on the shoulder that destroyed his supposed value as a bowler, the batsmen escaped injury during a most pitiful display. After lunch Lindwall bowled 8.1 overs, four maidens, and took five wickets at a cost of 8 runs!

Everything became different when Australia batted. Barnes and Morris, with controlled assurance and perfect stroke play, made 117, and shortly before six o'clock Bradman walked to the wicket amidst continued applause from the standing crowd. Yardley shook hands with Bradman and called on the England team for three cheers, in which the crowd joined. Evidently deeply touched by the enthusiastic reception, Bradman survived one ball, but, playing forward to the next, was clean bowled by a sharply turning break-back--possibly a googly. As if to avenge the fall of these two wickets in an over, Morris twice hooked Hollies to the boundary and the score rose to 153, while on Monday it reached 226 before Hassett left--109 for the third wicket. That those runs occupied two hours and a quarter testified to good bowling and fielding by a side in a forlorn position, and the next best partnership was the sixth, which added 39.

Morris missed the special distinction of making 200 through his own ill-judged call for a sharp run, Simpson, fielding substitute for Watkins, with a good return from third man causing his dismissal for 196. Scoring these runs out of 359 in six hours forty minutes, Morris hit sixteen fours. His strokes past cover-point were typical of the highest class left-handed batsman. His drives and hooks beat the speediest fieldsmen, and he showed marked skill in turning the ball to leg. He was eighth out, and Tallon got most of the 30 runs added before Bedser at last earned reward for steady bowling by taking the tenth wicket.

Facing arrears of 337, England lost Dewes with 20 scored, but Hutton and Edrich raised the total to 54 before bad light stopped play. The conditions remained anything but good on Tuesday, when the early fall of Edrich to a fine ball from Lindwall preceded the only stand of consequence, Compton and Hutton putting on 61 in an hour and fifty minutes before Lindwall, with his left hand at second slip, held a hard cut from Compton. Hutton maintained his sound form until a bumper from Miller struck Crapp on the head, soon after which the Yorkshireman gave Tallon a catch. Batting four hours and a quarter for 64 out of 153, Hutton was always restrained but admirable in defence.

After he left three wickets fell in deepening gloom for 25 runs. Evans, from the way he shaped without attempting a stroke, obviously could not see the ball which bowled him. Lindwall, with the pavilion behind him, sending down something like a yorker at express speed. The umpires immediately responded to the appeal against the light, and rain at four o'clock delayed the finish until Wednesday morning, when the remaining three wickets realised only ten runs in a sad spectacle for England. The usual scramble for the stumps and bails as Morris held a lofted catch from Hollies marked the close; but much happened subsequently. Mr. H.D.G Leveson-Gower on the players balcony called for three cheers for Bradman and the victorious Australians. Responses over the microphone came in due course, the crowd of about 5,000 enthusiasts coming up to the pavilion to hear and see all that happened as a curtain to this series of Test matches in which Australia completely outplayed and conquered England.

© John Wisden & Co