Fourth Test Match

ENGLAND v NEW ZEALAND 1949

R.J.H.

At The Oval, August 13, 15, 16. Drawn. At one time on the last day New Zealand faced a big threat of defeat. This occurred when, with four men, including the two mainstays Sutcliffe and Donnelly, out for 131 and seven runs needed to clear their side's arrears, Reid joined Wallace on a pitch taking a considerable amount of spin. During their stubborn stand of 57 England's hopes receded, and a sixth-wicket partnership of 88 by Reid and Rabone carried New Zealand clear of danger. They owed much to the discriminating innings of Reid, who weathered an uncomfortable start and mastered bowlers previously troublesome to all the batsmen. His attacking stroke-play gave considerable pleasure.

England's selectors aroused surprise and some criticism by their last-minute omission of Washbrook from the twelve men invited to be present at the ground. The risk taken in leaving the batting strength, on paper at least, so slender showed the determination of the selectors to throw everything into attack, and their tactics in packing the side with bowlers were commendable enough. Against this, Brown suffered from a surfeit of bowlers, particularly on the first day when Laker, who, with Wright and Bedser, came in for Jackson, Close and Washbrook, sent down only three overs while New Zealand made 320 for eight wickets. The unfitness of their wicket-keeper Mooney and the inability of Rabone, suffering from an injured side, to bowl set New Zealand a team problem which they solved by the introduction of Cresswell and by calling upon Reid to deputise behind the wicket.

By winning the toss for the first time in the series, Hadlee gave New Zealand use of a good pitch, and when Sutcliffe and Scott made 121 together in an hour and fifty minutes the way looked clear for even heavier punishment of England's attack. Sutcliffe's fluent strokes dominated the early play and the stiff-armed Scott provided an excellent foil. Wallace, whose previous best score in the Tests was 14, and Donnelly further improved New Zealand's position, but their dismissals without addition to the tea score of 239 changed the character of the batting completely. England's bowlers, in fact, became so much on top that in the last two hours five wickets fell for 81 runs. Although the defensive attitude of the later batsmen disappointed most of the crowd of 23,000, England deserved credit for their untiring efforts in bowling and fielding. In the outfield Simpson accomplished splendid work, Edrich at first slip took three catches smartly, and Evans crowned a fine wicket-keeping display with a superb one-hand catch from Rabone. He flung himself yards to the right and picked up the ball inches from the turf. Bedser's return to bowling form was the most welcome feature of England's attack, but Wright spoiled some extra-good balls which beat the bat by a large proportion of no-balls and long-hops. Bailey, who often made the ball lift from just short of a length and occasionally delivered a fast bumper, again showed his value as a shock bowler.

New Zealand's last pair held out for half an hour on the second morning before Hutton and his new opening partner, Simpson, gave England a flying start. For a long time Simpson overshadowed Hutton, his delightfully free strokes frequently piercing the defensively-set field. He batted attractively for two hours and twenty minutes before giving a catch to short-leg. Hutton, by this time equally free in method, continued his punishing cricket. Except for a slow period of three-quarters of an hour through the 90's, Hutton could not be faulted in any way. Few people in England had seen him drive with such power, grace and certainty as in his second hundred, which took only eighty-five minutes. Altogether he made 206 out of 365 in five hours before falling to a catch on the boundary. His best strokes were twenty-five 4's.

Edrich, like Hutton, began quietly, but he also drove and pulled with refreshing vigour and reached his century in three hours. In an hour after tea Hutton and Edrich added 104 runs. England's other batsmen tried hard to maintain the fast scoring, and the total of 482 surpassed all previous efforts against New Zealand in England. Other records set up in England's innings were: Hutton's 206 was the biggest score against New Zealand in England, and his stands of 147 with Simpson for the first wicket and 218 with Edrich for the second were the highest for England against New Zealand for those wickets. For once New Zealand's limited attack could not keep the batsmen in check. The strain of the tour and the intense heat of the day told on Cowie, whose lack of hostility no doubt helped to lessen Burtt's effectiveness. Cresswell, with in-swingers and leg-cutters, was the most troublesome to the early batsmen, though Cowie, in better form on the third morning, gained several successes against the tail-enders.

Whether another long innings and sharp running between wickets affected Bailey's bowling was problematical, but certainly he offered little trouble to New Zealand in their second innings. On the other hand, Bedser bowled with life and lift from the Vauxhall end, and, when Laker began to make the ball turn sharply on a pitch showing signs of crumbling after the heavy rolling ordered by Brown before England batted on in the morning, New Zealand were struggling.

A missed chance by backward short-leg off Bedser given by Sutcliffe when one became costly, for he made no other mistake till repeating the stroke at 115. Donnelly's dismissal soon afterwards left the game open, but Wallace, who defied the attack for two hours, and Reid fought through a fine spell by Bedser and Laker. Reid, who batted two hours ten minutes, was unlucky to miss the century he thoroughly deserved. Rabone defended with dour persistence.

© John Wisden & Co