First Test Match

ENGLAND v WEST INDIES 1947-48

West Indies, captained by Headley, who went in last in the second innings owing to a strained back, established a clear mastery and looked set for victory when a rainstorm prevented any cricket after the first sixty-three minutes on the last day. The match was memorable for Hardstaff being dismissed at 98 and Christiani for 99 in his first Test. Laker and Howorth bowled grandly for England, Laker taking seven wickets on his début, while Robertson, who made 131 for once out, showed his class in this type of cricket. The absence of Allen and Butler with leg injuries left England without any bowlers experienced in using the new ball, but Tremlett and Cranston commanded respect when the shine wore off. The match proved a triumph for E. A. V. Williams, who only joined the West Indies side at the last minute through F. M. Worrell dropping out owing to food poisoning. In England's first innings Williams was clearly the best bowler. He always aimed at the stumps and bowled so well to his field that on the fourth morning England scored only 17 runs in the first hour and 35 in ninety minutes before lunch. During this period Williams bowled 11 overs, 8 maidens, for 3 runs, 1 wicket. Williams again dominated the cricket the following morning; the total was 144 for five wickets when he came in and proceeded to hit the first four deliveries he received -- all from Laker -- for 6, 6, 4, 4. His next two scoring strokes were 4, 4, off the next over the same end bowled by Ikin. It is doubtful whether in the whole history of Test cricket anyone previously started with two 6's and four 4's. Altogether Williams made 72 out of 96 added for the sixth wicket with Christiani in sixty-three minutes. His only real chance was when 12, Smithson on the long-on boundary dropping a not difficult catch.

Thanks to the skilful and attractive batting of Stollmeyer and Gomez, West Indies scored 244 for three wickets on the opening day, but two sharp showers left the pitch fast and lively without being treacherous, and next morning Laker, with these figures -- 9 overs, 3 maidens, 25 runs, 6 wickets -- caused the remaining seven wickets to go in an hour for 52. By the end of the second day England's total reached 150 for three wickets, Robertson having excelled with the cut and sweep to long leg. On the third morning the England batsmen showed no courage against Williams, and their unenterprising methods led to a collapse. When four West Indies wickets fell in the second innings for 87, England could take credit for fighting back, but Christiani, batting in glasses, drove admirably until he made his only mistake, a poor stroke to a ball pitched on the middle stump.

England wanted 395 to win, and overnight made 60 for the loss of Brookes and Howorth. More rain left the pitch soft and treacherous, but, with everything against the batsmen, down came the rain, flooding the ground and saving England. Place, struck on the right hand in the first innings, and Brookes, who damaged a hand when fielding, both batted under difficulties. When on top West Indies fielded magnificently, particularly Gomez at cover and short leg, while the smart wicket-keeping of Evans was enjoyed by everyone. Cranston, the England captain, set a fine example in the field and little fault could be found with his handling of his limited bowling resources. Laker strained a stomach muscle on the fourth day but carried on.

© John Wisden & Co