England 1 Australia 1

The Australian team in England 1938

Wilfrid Brookes

The visit of the Australian team coincided with a marked revival in English cricket, several young players of high merit coming to the front. Yet the Australians, although having the atrocious luck of losing the toss in each of the four Test matches played, drew the rubber and thereby retained the Ashes. That this was a most creditable performance is not likely to be questioned even by the severest critics of the team.

It would be a delicate task to compare this Australian side with the previous combinations which have come over from the Commonwealth, and as very little would be gained by embarking on such an effort, it is not attempted here. The result of more than four months' cricket was that Australians remained undefeated by any country eleven and only once - after they had won the fourth Test at Leeds - did they go down before England.

Like the team of 1921, the side also suffered a reverse in the Festival match at Scarborough, but against the two defeats they could set fifteen wins in first-class engagements, and outside the representative matches they rarely encountered formidable opposition. It would not be unjust to state that the weather saved them from defeat by Yorkshire at Sheffield in the early days of July, for when that match was abandoned the country, with seven wickets standing, required no more than 67 runs to win.

Sussex, too, pressed them hard at Hove, putting up a higher innings total against them than did any other country eleven, but were unable to dirve home an advantage that at the close of the second day's play looked very strong.

    The team consisted of the following sixteen players:
  • * D. G. Bradman ( South Australia) (captain)
  • * S. J. McCabe ( New South Wales) (vice-captain)
  • C. L. Badcock ( South Australia)
  • S. BARNES ( New South Wales)
  • * B. A. Barnett ( Victoria)
  • * W. A. Brown ( Queensland)
  • * A. G. Chipperfield ( New South Wales)
  • J. H. Fingleton( New South Wales)
  • * L. O'B. FLEETWOOD-SMITH ( Victoria)
  • A. L. Hassett ( Victoria)
  • E. L. McCormick ( Victoria)
  • * W. J. O'Reilly ( New South Wales)
  • M. G. Waite ( South Australia)
  • * C. W. WALKER ( South Australia)
  • F. WARD ( South Australia) and
  • E. S. WHITE ( New South Wales)
  • Manager: Mr. W. H. Jeanes
  • (Secretary, Australian Board of Control)

*Denotes a member of a previous Australian team to visit England.

The strength of the team lay in batting and fielding; the weakness in bowling. There were more individual failures than usually occur in an Australian touring side and had a serious accident happened to either Bradman or O'Reilly at an early stage of the season the record must have been much less imposing. The very appearance of Bradman in the field was sufficient to inspire confidence in his colleagues. Nothing that occurred seemed to disturb his equanimity and the influence he held over the other members of the team, combined with his own brilliant performances, was an extremely important factor in the results accomplished.

In every Test in which he batted, Bradman made a century. When on the third day of the fifth Test he damaged his right ankle and was carried off the Oval ground, England were already in a position which made their success a foregone conclusion, but there is not a shadow of doubt that the moral effect of the loss of their captain, coupled with an injury to Fingleton, accounted, to a very large extent, for the complete rout of Australia that followed.

Bradman did not play again and yet in twenty-six innings he scored 2,429 runs an average of 115.66. not only was this a far better record than he made on either of his two previous visits except for his 1930 aggregate, but he was the first Australian to average 100 runs an innings in England. He also beat Victor Trumper's feat of hitting eleven centuries during a tour, for he played thirteen three-figure innings, three over 200. Leading off with an innings of 258 at worcester, he completed 1,000 runs before the end of May, so repeating his achievement of 1930, and 2,000 runs before any other Australian or Englishman. Both in the first-class averages for the tour and those for the four Test matches his name came out at the top.

One did not detect any waning of his powers. Judged by the standard he himself set, he was perhaps a shade better. The responsibility of leadership certainly did not interfare with his individual play, and his concentration, as shown when in the first two Test matches the stage of affairs demanded that he should bat cautiously, was astonishing. To say that he was a popular captain and a most astute one is not fulsome praise; under his charge the Australians revealed wonderful team spirit which counted a great deal towards their many triumphs. A point that impressed itself upon the mind was quickness to note the strength of an opposing batsman and to make a move directed towards countering effective stroke-play.

The series of colossal scores with which the team opened their programme - they registered 3,954 runs in their first seven innings - revealed the batting power available; during this piling up of runs seven members of the side, apart form Bradman, hit a century. Up to that point in the tour, the Australians did not meet rally strong bowlers, and the sequence of high totals misled some people into believing that a band of super-cricketers had arrived. But the batting ability of the side was made clear in many following matches and in the end six batsmen finished with four-figure aggregates as was the case with both the 1930 and 1934 teams. If Bradman and his colleagues had been favored with a season of regular sunshine and dry wickets their capacity to make big scores would have been demonstrated more forcibly.

The bowling was much less satisfactory. It is a moot point whether the presence of Grimmett would have improved it as much as those who criticized his omission declared. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that Grimmett would have been of infinite value to O'Reilly. In all the circumstances O'Reilly carried heavy responsibilities and yet he mined unapproached among leg-break bowlers for accuracy of length. No bowler of his type and of his quality came to the forefront in English cricket; he is emphatically one of the greatest bowlers of all time. It was nothing short of remarkable that despite the moderate support accorded to him he bowled so consistently well and so effectively. His record, in fact, was very little different form that of 1934, and he again finished at the top if the bowling averages. When, as in the Leeds Test and in some county matches, the wicket gave him the least encouragement he robbed the greatest batsmen of initiative, and was most destructive. Although it is difficult to be certain on the point, O'Reilly appeared to be rather faster than on his previous visit, practically up to medium pace. Possibly his approach to the wicket with arms flying in windmill fashion, coupled with quickness to bring his arm over at the moment of releasing the ball, deceived the onlooker as well as the batsman with little experience of playing him.

Whenever O'Reilly was not getting wickets, the attacking limitations of the team were, more often than not, shown up vividly. Fleetwood-Smith, Ward and McCormick enjoyed days of success but, judged on their performances when opposed to a picked England eleven and strung up to their highest pitch, none of them performed with as much credit as had been hoped for when the team was selected.

Bearing these things in mind, one must extend hearty congratulations to the Australians in sharing the important spoils at stake. They played their way out of a critical position at Trent Bridge, held their own at Lord's and won the third Test at Leeds fairly and squarely. For the defeat at the Oval in he final game which was arranged to be played to a finish but actually did not extend over four full days, there were, as already stated, extenuating circumstances. Neuritis prevented McCormick from taking part and help of both Bradman and Fingleton was lost to the Australians when, with those two players injured, they had to face the fantastic total of 903 runs.

Next to Bradman, the big batting successes for Australia were Brown and Hassett. On his previous visit to England Brown had proved himself a player of high promise, and the judgment of the selectors in choosing him again, despite a disappointing season for Queensland, was amply confirmed. Few players have more confidence and patience that Brown. Classic in style and one of the dour school of opening batsmen, he ran into form after the middle of May and in each of the first two Test matches hit a hundred. During the Lord's game he achieved a fine feat of endurance for he was on the field while every ball was bowled until after five o'clock on the fourth day.

Whereas in 1934 Brown had an aggregate of 1,308 runs, average 38.47, he finished the tour under review with a record surpassed only by Bradman; he scored 1,854 runs for an average of 57.93. One could not fail to admire his calmness and grim determination with English fieldsmen crowding round him at Trent Bridge; nothing could fluster him. The big occasion nearly always brought out the best from Brown, and although a few of his innings were weary to watch, because of the preponderance of defensive method, he at other times showed he had all the strokes at his command. Hassett, adding together the runs he made and the runs he saved, was one of the most useful men on the side. He never quite fulfilled the promise of a sensational start when in three successive matches - against Oxford, Leicestershire and Cambridge - he hit a three-figure score, but his batting left little to be desired. He appeared to make his strokes very late and, although adopting almost a two-eyed stance, had, so far as could be seen, no technical faults. In a way, he called to mind, because of his correctness and very sound back play, W. G. Quaife, another little man, and there was a good deal of surprise that he did not come off in the big matches although it must not be forgotten that has second innings at Leeds counted a lot in Australia's victory.

Scoring nearly 1.600 runs, Hassett held third place in he batting averages with Badcock fourth. Badcock played some grand innings but a glance at the averages for the Tests will indicate in what direction he was found wanting. He often seemed to be on the verge of great things but, whether a weakness of temperament or technique was the explanation, the fact remains that except in the lesser matches he was an indifferent batsman. Short, thickset and with tremendous power in his forearms, Badcock hit very hard to the on when in form and was quick to punish anything short of a length, but he often failed though attempting forcing strokes before getting the pace of the wicket.

Another newcomer to England who did not fulfill the expectations of his friends was Fingleton. Here was a batsman who was inclined to flatter ordinary bowlers and who seldom brought into play an attacking stroke. That he possessed remarkable powers of defence everyone knew before he came to England, and when in three of his first seven innings he made a hundred it looked as though he would be a very able successor to Woodfull. But Fingleton did not maintain this consistent form of early matches and not until the middle of August did he complete a four-figure aggregate. His chief value to the side was in fielding in which respect he often took the eye when placed close in on the leg side to O'Reilly.

It was regrettable that after much fine fielding in the Nottingham Test, he appeared to lose all true sense of the situation by laying down his bat, removing his batting gloves and sitting on the turf - an extraordinary action on the part of a cricketer in a Test match. While it is realized that some of the spectators did not have the common decency to keep quiet while the batsman was taking the bowling, this attitude adopted by Fingleton because of barracking which was never more than mild and certainly not hostile, showed an unwarranted lack of appreciation of the fact that only a very small proportion of the onlookers expressed audible disapproval of the slow play.

No one would pretend that McCabe was a success and the reason for his loss of form can only be guess-work. Yet he played an innings at Trent Bridge, which will live in the memory of all who saw it. Without his 232, which almost demoralised the bowling, Australia in all probability would have lost that Test Match; it was puzzling that McCabe scored no more than 892 runs in the other thirty-two innings he played.

Sidney Barnes was unlucky enough to fracture a wrist-bone when taking part in deck games on the journey to England, and, as the injury was a long time mending, a cable was dispatched to the Australian Board of Control suggesting that another player be sent, but the request was not granted. Not until the last few days of June was Barnes fit to join the active forces but he speedily proved himself a worthy choice for the four and worked his way into the Test eleven. An entertaining batsman, with good off-side strokes, as well as a capable wicket-keeper, he played only nineteen innings but despite the long absence form the game he found his form so thoroughly that he averaged over 40. Three times in his last six innings, he hit over 90. after the experience gained from his visit to England, Barnes may confidently be expected to make a big name in the game. Strong in defence, he certainly possessed unlimited confidence.

Fortune proved more unkind to Chipperfield, who missed a few matches after injuring a finger during the Lord's Test and half-way though the tour was operated upon for appendicitis. He achieved far less than was ordinary form except against Yorkshire when on a rain-affected pitch he took seven wickets in an innings for 101 runs, did well enough as an all-rounder, without making himself indispensable, to get a place in the last two representative games.

It would be mere foolish flattery to state that Barnett was the equal of Oldfield as a wicket-keeper, but he did not seriously let the side down and his experience of taking Fleetwood-Smith - not a simple matter - was valuable. In England's first innings at Nottingham (658 runs) Barnett conceded only one bye; at Leeds he caught three batsman and stumped two and played the second highest innings for Australia. His left-hand batting on other occasions was extremely useful and against Surrey at though he and Badcock shared a partnership of 206. Barnett would have done better still unfortunately Walker, the other wicket-keeper, twice hurt his left hand and was able to assist in only nine matches; consequently no true comparison of the form of the two men in wicket-keeping was possible.

Before McCormick came to England, he was acclaimed as the fastest bowler in Australia. Further, one of the party stated when the tour had in progress a few weeks that McCormick was the fastest Australian bowler ever sent to England. That, of course, was exaggeration and after seeing a good deal of his bowling one was inclined to the opinion that McCormick was the most overrated bowler ever to come here. Most emphatically, he was the greatest disappointment of the tour. A plethora of no-balls in the opening match against Worcestershire, when he was called for over-stepping the crease nineteen times in his first three overs - an occurrence without precedent - and altogether thirty-five times in the match, was at first thought to be due to nerves or over anxiety to do well. He tried a run of thirty yards, cut it down and spent a lot of time in practicing his run-up to the wicket but not with good results. In the desire to attain exceptional speed, he could not entirely eradicate his fault and continued to break law 11. Apart from two performances at Lord's, where against Middlesex he took six wickets for 58 and in the Test match he bowled with marked success at the start of each England innings, McCormick accomplished nothing noteworthy, but despite his inability to do himself justice and consequent disappointment, he always accepted the umpire's decision in a very sporting spirit. Indeed, he polished to the officials at Worcester for giving them so much trouble. Although figuring in eighteen matches, he took no more than thirty-four wickets, and all but six of those were secured during May and June. If now and again he sent down a fast in-swinger, he failed to produce the out-swinger.

Fleetwood-Smith remained a problem; not to the top-class batsmen but to those who had anticipated he would fare well on his second visit to England. He could not be written down as a failure but he certainly fell below expectations without improving upon his 1934 record in England. Because of his uncertain length and direction, his well-concealed spin lost value. His stock ball - the off-break to a right-hand batsman - brought better results that any other and on those days when able to command proper control of length he was well-nigh unplayable. Naturally, batsmen with no practical acquaintance of his unorthodox method fell easy prey, and twenty of his eighty-eight wickets were taken in the first two games of the tour. In the Tests, he did nothing out of the common; though he and an analysis of four for 34 in the second innings at Leeds that was more because O'Reilly made batsmen jumpy than owing to any unusual skill on the part of Fleetwood-Smith. In tounty fixtures, the best performances of the slow left-hander were seven for 71 v. Gloucestershire, seven for 45 v. Essex eight for 74 v. Nottinghamshire and eight for 70 v. Somerset.

The averages reveal that Ward bowled fewer overs and took more wickets that Fleetwood-Smith, but they hide the fact that in the Oval Test Fleetwood-Smith sent down 87 overs for 298 runs and gained only one success. Most probably, Ward, had he played on that occasion, would have suffered similarly harsh treatment. All the same, the dropping of Ward from the Test eleven after Nottingham was puzzling. True, he scarcely ever turned the ball at Trent Bridge but neither did anyone else until on the last day the wicket began to wear a little. Ward, like Fleetwood-Smith, was apt to lose accuracy of length. Slower, and less subtle that Grimmett whom he resembled in delivery, he brought off some good performances when the turf took spin - eleven wickets for 77 v. Essex, eight for 53 v. Derbyshire, ten for 64 v. An England XI at Blackpool and seven for 112 at Folkestone were some of them. While (left-arm, slow to medium) was not often seen in the team. Had he not striven for increased pace, which meant discarding to some extent the value of fighting from good height, he might have gained more reward. To there several criticisms of Australia's bowling must be added the lack of a good pair who could use the new ball to the utmost advantage. The sight of McCabe and Waite beginning Australia's attack in a Test match was almost ludicrous.

In truth, on a well-prepared pitch, Australia had only one formidable bowler - O'Reilly - who could in any way regulate batsmen's strokes. The others, if useful on ordinary days, hardly counted in the important matches. Measured by what English followers of cricket have seen from other post-war Australian sides, the fielding was not found wanting. One could deduce from the live, intense and often brilliant out-cricket the influence of Bradman when the players were picked for the tour. To those whose duties brought them into close touch with Bradman and his colleagues, the happy spirit pervading the team was very evident. Wherever they went, they made many friends. The courtesy in a very important respect to the pleasant relations existing among the players and between them and the host of well-wishers with whom they came into contact.

Match reports for

Tour Match: Worcestershire v Australians at Worcester, Apr 30-May 3, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Oxford University v Australians at Oxford, May 4-6, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Leicestershire v Australians at Leicester, May 7-10, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Cambridge University v Australians at Cambridge, May 11-13, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Marylebone Cricket Club v Australians at Lord's, May 14-17, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Northamptonshire v Australians at Northampton, May 18-20, 1938
Scorecard

Surrey v Australians at The Oval, May 21-24, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Hampshire v Australians at Southampton, May 25-27, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Middlesex v Australians at Lord's, May 28-31, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Gloucestershire v Australians at Bristol, Jun 1-3, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Essex v Australians at Southend-on-Sea, Jun 4-6, 1938
Scorecard

1st Test: England v Australia at Nottingham, Jun 10-14, 1938
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Gentlemen of England v Australians at Lord's, Jun 15-17, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Lancashire v Australians at Manchester, Jun 18-21, 1938
Scorecard

2nd Test: England v Australia at Lord's, Jun 24-28, 1938
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Derbyshire v Australians at Chesterfield, Jun 29-30, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Yorkshire v Australians at Sheffield, Jul 2-5, 1938
Scorecard

3rd Test: England v Australia at Manchester, Jul 8-12, 1938
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Warwickshire v Australians at Birmingham, Jul 13-14, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Nottinghamshire v Australians at Nottingham, Jul 16-19, 1938
Scorecard

4th Test: England v Australia at Leeds, Jul 22-25, 1938
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Somerset v Australians at Taunton, Jul 27-29, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Glamorgan v Australians at Swansea, Jul 30-Aug 2, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Durham v Australians at Sunderland, Aug 8-9, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Surrey v Australians at The Oval, Aug 10-12, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Kent v Australians at Canterbury, Aug 13-16, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: Army v Australians at Aldershot, Aug 17-18, 1938
Scorecard

5th Test: England v Australia at The Oval, Aug 20-24, 1938
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Sussex v Australians at Hove, Aug 27-30, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: England XI v Australians at Blackpool, Aug 31-Sep 1, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: England XI v Australians at Folkestone, Sep 3-6, 1938
Scorecard

Tour Match: HDG Leveson-Gower's XI v Australians at Scarborough, Sep 10-13, 1938
Scorecard

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