First Test Match

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1950-51

At Brisbane, December 1, 2, 4, 5. Australia won by 70 runs. How much the events of the Brisbane Test influenced the remainder of the series could be only a matter of conjecture, but certainly England were entitled to feel that their misfortune here added to their subsequent tasks. Most Australians agreed with the general view that the intervention of a typical Brisbane storm brought in its train defeat for the side which batted better, bowled better and fielded better than the winners. The realisation that on the play they were superior made defeat particularly galling for a team conceded so little chance before the cricket began.

Virtually the game was won and lost at the toss of the coin. When Brown called incorrectly to Hassett, he allowed Australia first use of a good pitch more suited to batting, even though its slow pace did not encourage forcing strokes. Yet the first day belonged to England. They surprised everybody by dismissing Australia for such a meagre total in the conditions.

Compensation for losing the toss came swiftly. From the fourth ball of the day Hutton, at backward short-leg, smartly held Moroney. That was just the tonic needed. For the rest of the innings England's fielding touched the highest class and Evans, behind the wicket, was inspired. No better catches were seen in the Tests than those by which he dismissed Harvey and Loxton. When Loxton cut Brown, the ball struck Evans hard on the glove and rebounded forward. His reaction instantaneous, Evans dived headlong and grasped the catch with his left hand inches from the turf as his body struck the ground with force. Bedser and Bailey also rose to the occasion nobly. Bedser rarely bowled a ball which did not compel the batsman's closest vigilance and he cut either way with marked nip and variation. The good-length ball which beat Hassett pitched on the middle and leg stumps and hit the top of the off. Bailey attacked each batsman to a pre-arranged plan and his life with the new ball enabled England to follow up their previous successes. Wright's figures told anything but the worth of his bowling. Until the last moment Wright had received injections to relieve fibrositis and pulled muscle trouble which made his fitness doubtful, but he produced many fine balls, several of which beat the bat and missed the wicket only because of their high bounce. Curiously his one wicket came from a long hop which caught Miller in two minds. Brown pitched his leg-breaks on a consistently accurate length.

Well as England bowled and fielded, Australia's batting was not convincing. Apart from Harvey, few of the batsmen gave the impression of being at ease. Harvey put his usual vigour into a thrilling sequence of his most spectacular left-handed strokes before being caught at the wicket on the leg side when glancing Bedser off the middle of the bat. His 74, made out of 118, contained ten sparkling 4's. Lindwall was solid and watchful, but impatience cost the wickets of at least three early batsmen.

To the end of the Australian innings the cricket was exciting enough. It became more so. A successful appeal against the light by England's new opening pair, Washbrook and Simpson--Brown decided to put Hutton at five to give strength to the middle--was the final act on that dramatic Friday.

Inside a few hours the storm broke, and cricket could not be resumed until half an hour before lunch on Monday. For thirty minutes Washbrook and Simpson provided skill and courage so far unsurpassed in the match. In that time they scored 28 runs together on a pitch just as treacherous as it played through the remainder of the day, in which twenty wickets went down for 102.

True to tradition, the pitch was the game's villain. Medium-paced bowling of good length presented a well-nigh insoluble problem. Sometimes the ball reared head high, at other times it kept horribly low. Both captains placed nearly all their fieldsmen in a circle a few yards from the bat, and twelve of the wickets resulted from catches close to the wicket.

When the back of England's innings had been broken, Brown declared. His one hope was to force Australia in again as soon as possible. Moroney, who experienced the disaster of a pair on his Test debut, Morris and Loxton were out before a run was scored, and wickets continued to go down so quickly that Hassett retaliated by a declaration which gave England an hour and ten minutes to bat before the close. They required 193 to win. If only two or three men had been lost then their prospects might have been bright. It was not to be.

A lightning yorker by Lindwall wrecked Simpson's wicket with the first ball of the innings. There followed half an hour of sound defence by Washbrook and Dewes. Each left within a few minutes of the other, but England's most crushing blow that evening occurred in the last ten minutes when three wickets were lost. Anxiety caused at least two of these dismissals, McIntyre, for example, being run out trying a fourth run when preservation of wickets was of paramount importance. Wicket-keeper Tallon ran ten to fifteen yards before catching bad throw-in and, with his gloved hand, hurling down the wicket.

So England entered the last day wanting 163 to win with only four wickets left. The task was hard but not hopeless, because evidence was provided at once that, although still difficult, the pitch had lost some venom. Evans helped Hutton add sixteen before he and Compton pushed successive balls from Johnston into the hands of forward short-leg. Australia were within sight of victory, but it was not theirs until Hutton had given yet another exhibition of his wonderful batsmanship on tricky turf. Aided first by Brown and then by Wright, Hutton thrashed the fast bowlers majestically and played the turning or lifting ball with the ease of a master craftsman. When assisted by Wright in a last-wicket stand of 45, Hutton even looked capable of carrying England through, but Wright succumbed to temptation to hook the last ball before lunch. Hutton's was an innings to remember.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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