Fourth Test Match

England v Australia 1909

Having already won two matches out of three the Australians in the fixture at Old Trafford were more intent upon avoiding defeat than upon adding to their victories. At any rate, when in a very strong position on the third afternoon, they delayed the closure so long that England had no great difficulty in drawing the game. The match was considerably interfered with by rain, cricket on the second day being restricted to less than an hour and a half. Some changes were made in the England eleven, Blythe, who had not played at Lord's or Leeds, reappearing and R.H. Spooner, K.L. Hutchings and P.F. Warner coming into the side for the first time. C.B. Fry, who at this period of the season was rather out of form through want of practice, was not selected, Hayward was too lame to be picked and Hobbs had not fully recovered from a severe injury to his hand. The Australians thought it well to make one alteration in the eleven that had triumphed in the previous two matches, Hopkins taking the place of McAlister.

A good deal of rain had fallen in Manchester on the Sunday and on the first day, the wicket being always slow and rather difficult, the ball beat the bat to such an extent that an innings was completed on each side, Australians scoring 147 and England 119. The game opened in a way that gave England's supporters ground for great hope. For the fourth time in succession Noble won the toss, but so finely did Blythe and Barnes bowl that at lunch five wickets were down for 64. The sixth wicket fell at 66, but the last three batsmen hit with such determination that 81 runs were added in an hour before the innings ended. Barnes and Blythe did not quite keep up their early form with the ball, and as runs came so fast MacLaren might have ventured upon a change. The Australians owed much to Armstrong who played with untiring patience. As he took an hour and fifty minutes to score his 32 not out, his play presented little attraction to the spectators, but his defence was invaluable.

Going in against such a moderate total as 147 England looked to have a splendid chance. For a time everything went well, Warner and Spooner staying together for fifty minutes. They only scored 24 runs, however, and it was thought they might have been more enterprising. Warner left at 24 and Spooner at 39. From this point the batting fell to pieces, Laver bowling with astonishing success and carrying everything before him. In all he took eight wickets, and only 31 runs were hit from him, his performance being on the face of it one of the best ever accomplished in Test Matches. Still without depreciating what he did it must be said that his bowling was not so excessively difficult as to account for the failure of the batsmen. By general consent he was flattered by a great deal of feeble play. Probably the high wind helped him. He did not seem to break very much but his length was excellent and there was a good deal of variety in the pace and flight of the ball. Needless to say England's collapse caused bitter disappointment. No batsman was more at fault than Hirst, who with a wide space in front of him for a straight drive, pulled a half volley and sent it right into the hands of Hopkins at long on.

Of the little time available for cricket on the second day the Australians made excellent use. Going in with a lead of 28 they soon lost Gregory, but Bardsley and Macartney took the score from 16 to 77. Macartney was always at his ease, but Bardsley for an hour was often at fault in timing the ball. He had just begun to play well when a catch at slip ended his innings. Directly he was out rain set in and nothing more could be done that day. So long continued was the downpour that grave doubts were entertained as to cricket being practicable on the third morning, but thanks to a dry night and a fair amount of sunshine the ground recovered to such an extent that the match was continued at a quarter past twelve. The start, however, might well have been delayed for a little longer, the turf being so greasy that the English bowlers could not at first get a proper foothold. The Australians were in a very happy position as they could hardly lose the match and they had an excellent chance of winning it. Indeed most people thought that the wicket would become so difficult as to leave England little hope of escaping defeat. However, the cricket falsified expectation, the bowlers never receiving the amount of assistance they expected.

The Australians gave a splendid display of batting, playing quite the right game. Barnes and Blythe were far from reproducing their form of the first day and Rhodes alone bowled well. At lunch time the score was up to 186, the Australians being 214 ahead with half their wickets in hand. It was thought that Noble would declare at about three o'clock, but he would not take the slightest risk and not until twenty minutes to four was the innings closed, nine wickets having then fallen. Ransford was batting for an hour and fifty minutes for his 54 not out. Well as he and Trumper played however, the finest cricket in the innings was that of Macartney.

England went in at four o'clock. There was, of course, nothing to play for but a draw, it being obviously impossible to get 308 runs in 2 hours and a half. Spooner and Warner practically put defeat out of the question, scoring 78 runs together in ninety minutes. When 25, Spooner gave a chance off Laver's bowling to Armstrong at slip, but apart from this one mistake his batting was superb. A draw being inevitable stumps were pulled up at a quarter past six.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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