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For the first time in cricket history MCC went through an overseas tour without a single victory to their credit. Of the eleven matches played, all seven with the Colonies were drawn, and of the four Tests, the first two were left undecided before West Indies repeated their success of 1935 by winning the last two and the rubber. The prestige of English cricket suffered severely through this complete failure of GO Allen's 1947-48 team, as it did when WR Hammond's side gained no more than three first-class wins--one in Australia against Victoria and two in New Zealand over Wellington and Auckland during the previous winter. Several factors contributed to MCC's depressing record in the Caribbean. In the first place the strongest combination was not available, for among those who did not make the trip were D Compton, WJ Edrich, NWD Yardley, AV Bedser and DVP Wright, while L Hutton only joined the party midway through the tour following urgent cables by Allen imploring MCC to send out someone immediately to reinforce the side. Hutton travelled by air, and we returned together the same way.
The players who took part in the tour were:--
The age of each player is given, and it will be seen that Allen was the oldest at 45 and Smithson the youngest at 21. The average age of the team was 30.
The request for Hutton was caused mainly through so many players meeting with illness or injury. The first casualty was Allen himself. He pulled a calf muscle while skipping on the ship deck on the way out. That mishap caused him to miss the first three matches in Barbados, and at no time was he completely fit. In fact, at the age of 45, Allen was too old. Much was expected from Butler, and in one game on the mat at Trinidad he looked extremely hostile for a brief spell; but he pulled a leg muscle in the opening match, developed a serious attack of malaria during the second Trinidad match, and broke down again in Jamaica. Consequently, England's two main opening bowlers were seldom in action. Allen bowled in only seven innings and Butler in six. Almost throughout the tour Laker fought bravely against pain caused by strained stomach muscles; Ikin spent several days in a Trinidad hospital with carbuncle trouble which left him somewhat weak; Tremlett complained of strained ribs; Brookes chipped a finger bone while fielding in the first Test and took no further part in the tour; Hardstaff missed several matches through tearing a leg muscle while fielding in the first match at Trinidad; and Place bruised a knuckle in the first Test and ruptured a groin muscle while hitting a century in the second Trinidad match. These were some of the problems which brought so much anxiety to Allen and prevented the team from settling down into a properly balanced eleven.
After these experiences it is essential that M. C. C. treat a West Indies tour as seriously as one to Australia. The team commenced playing within three days of arriving at Bridgetown. Under the grilling sun they spent the first two days hard at practice instead of working up gradually, and that no doubt accounted for so many men breaking down. They were never given sufficient time to become acclimatised. Consequently no one could be relied upon to produce his normal English form.
Of the batsmen, only Hutton and Hardstaff showed their full ability. Robertson began satisfactorily, and his second innings century in the Trinidad Test averted defeat, but, like Place, he was inconsistent. A tremendous amount of work fell on Howorth. He played in every match, and usually commanded respect by virtue of his steady length and subtle flight. To Cranston fell the responsibility of leading the team when Allen was unfit, but, like Tremlett, he was called upon to do far too much bowling in the tropical heat. Still, Cranston achieved some fine performances with both bat and ball and was by far the best all-rounder. Evans delighted the native crowds with his spectacular wicket-keeping, but as a batsman he accomplished little, whereas his understudy, Griffith, called on to complete the team for the second Test, distinguished himself by opening the innings and hitting 140, his maiden century in first-class cricket and the highest score of the tour for M. C. C.
There were days when Laker excelled in off-spin bowling, and undoubtedly he was the find of the tour. Much was expected from the two Yorkshire left-handers, Smithson and Wardle, but neither settled down to the strange conditions, and Ikin, another left-handed batsman whose stubbornness was so valuable the previous year in Australia, did not do himself justice in the tropical heat, although maintaining his reputation as a brilliant fielder close to the wicket. Inability to make the best use of the new ball was Tremlett's chief failing.
While weighing up the merits and defects of Allen and his men one must bear in mind the strength of the opposition; and there can be no doubt that the high merit of the West Indies players was a big surprise. Like M. C. C., mishaps to players affected their teams. G. Headley, F. M. Worrell and J. B. Stollmeyer each missed at least one Test, and L. Pierre, one of the Trinidad fast bowlers, could not appear in the Test on his own ground. West Indies possessed a wealth of batting in Worrell, who scored 472 runs against M. C. C. in eight innings, averaging 118, E. Weekes, J. B. Stollmeyer, C. L. Walcott, R. J. Christiani, J. D. Goddard (left-hand), G. E. Gomez and G. Carew. When in the mood all these men showed themselves brilliant stroke players.
As the tour progressed West Indies also built up a fine bowling combination. Altogether, five fast bowlers of genuine pace took part in the Tests: H. Johnson, E. Kentish, P. Jones, L. Pierre and J. Trim; two steady medium-paced men were E. A. V. Williams and B. Gaskin; while W. Ferguson, a short burly fellow who caused much merriment among the crowds when occasionally he removed his cap and revealed a bald head, gained more success than anyone else on either side by taking 23 wickets in the four Tests with his slow, well-pitched leg-breaks. On top of this, Goddard delivered off-breaks with rare skill at a fair pace, and Worrell supplemented his classy right-hand batting by bowling left-arm slow. West Indies varied their Test captains. Headley led in the first match, Stollmeyer was chosen for the second, but when he was injured the honour was passed to Gomez; and Goddard, appointed for the Third before the tour began, remained in charge for the Fourth when Headley dropped out. There was no question that West Indies deserved their triumph. On current form they must be the strongest cricketing body apart from Australia, and they should be very popular and attractive when they come to England in 1950.
Matches--Played 11, Won 0, Lost 2, Drawn 9, Abandoned 1
Matches--Played 4, Won 0, Lost 2, Drawn 2.
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