Fifth Test Match


At last promise turned to fulfilment. By a victory as worthily achieved as it was earned, England broke Australia's post-war run of twenty-six Tests without defeat. Australia strove to the end to preserve their cherished record, but England won deservedly. Even so, their success was more a triumph of individuals than of team-work. Hutton and Simpson, with the bat, and Bedser, Brown and Wright in bowling practically carried the rest of the side. As it was, many moments of anxiety and suspense occurred before the final scenes of elation.

The honours of the first day went to the rival captains. Such good use did Australia make of Hassett's fourth defeat of Brown in the toss for innings that, despite the early loss of Burke, shortly before tea their score stood at 111 for one. Then Brown went on for his second spell. With the tendons of his shoulders not recovered from the car accident he had hoped not to be compelled to bowl, but when Bailey twisted an ankle in his third over of the day the plan needed revision. Brown immediately changed the course of the innings. In seventeen balls he accounted for Morris, who had not recaptured his Adelaide form, Harvey and Miller without conceding a run. Harvey failed to connect properly with a cut and Miller, playing too soon at the first ball of Brown's next over, gave a return catch.

Hole's first duty on Test debut was to avert a hat-trick. This he accomplished, and he showed skill and grace before Bedser beat him with the new ball. Hassett remained Australia's hope and, with wickets falling fast at the other end, he emerged from defensive care. A flow of delicately-timed drives and cuts carried him to within sight of a century before Hutton at slip took a catch wide to his right. For three and a half hours Hassett mixed correct defence with style and seemingly effortless stroke-play. As ever, he was calm and unhurried to a degree. Bedser and Brown, who bowled medium pace throughout, encountered little other opposition. On a pitch much more in favour of batsmen than bowlers they merited the fullest praise for their work in dismissing Australia so cheaply. At the close of the first day, on which eight wickets fell for 206, Brown was limping and his shoulder gave him considerable discomfort.

Heavy rain prevented play on Saturday and, after a swift end to Australia's innings, England opened with a flourish on Monday when the pitch was as good as at the start of play. Forty runs came in half an hour before Washbrook edged a fast out-swinger. Helped by unusual lapses by Australia in the slips, Hutton and Simpson carried England into a strong position. Their second wicket stand of 131 was broken by Hole, who beat and bowled Hutton with a flighted off-spinner. Worse followed when Lindwall and Miller took the new ball. In the most dynamic spell of fast bowling of the five Tests they tore away the middle of England's innings. Quickly the total veered from 204 for two to 213 for six. Compton was beaten by an extra good ball, Sheppard, Brown and Evans by sheer pace. The day ended with England only one run ahead and four wickets left. Simpson was then 80.

Next day Simpson leaped into his finest form. Bedser, Bailey and Wright went almost at once, and when Tattersall joined him Simpson stood eight short of a century. In the next hour he scored 64 to Tattersall's 10, so that England led by 103. The last wicket partnership of 74 was the second highest of the innings. Simpson flayed fast and slow bowling to all parts of the field in an innings reminiscent of his whirlwind century against New Zealand at Manchester in 1949. Although Hassett placed nearly all his fieldsmen to save boundaries, six of Simpson's twelve 4's came in his last 56 runs. His innings of five hours forty minutes first held England together when collapse threatened, then gave his side the initiative. Simpson's first Test century against Australia was reached on his 31st birthday. Few onlookers could reconcile that this was the same player whom the off-spin bowlers, particularly Iverson, had tied down in previous matches.

Once again Bedser broke through quickly. Morris and Archer were back in the pavilion for 62, both victims of his late swerve and speed from the pitch. With Harvey hitting over a ball which kept low and Brown repeating his first innings dismissal of Miller, Australia lost four of their best batsmen before the arrears were wiped off.

A fifth-wicket stand by Hassett and Hole carried a distinct menace until Wright delivered the knock-out blow by dismissing Hassett and Johnson in one splendid over. The ball which bowled Hassett might have beaten anyone. A beautifully flighted leg-break pitched on the blind side, curled round Hassett's bat, and hit middle and off. Hole again showed his class, but in two hours on the fourth morning England captured the last six wickets for 68 and they needed only 95 to win. Bedser, again the best bowler, brought his match analysis to ten wickets for 105 and his Test aggregate to 30--grand bowling in every way. If Hutton had failed, Australia might still have turned the game, and, indeed, they made England fight strenuously to the last, but Hutton's presence provided comfort and, fittingly, he crowned his own triumphant tour by making the winning stroke.

© John Wisden & Co