England 0 Australia 4

Australians in England, 1948


Brightly fades the Don ... Bradman in action in 1948 © Getty Images
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When, announcing retirement from first-class cricket, D. G. Bradman claimed that the 1948 side bore comparison with any of its predecessors, he accurately reflected the majority of opinion on the 19th Australian team visiting England. In retaining The Ashes held by Australia since 1934, these Australians enjoyed almost uninterrupted success, while becoming the first side to go unbeaten through an English tour: certainly they achieved all that could be expected of a combination entitled to the description great. Yet they gave cause for reservation of such sweeping judgment as the Tests were by no means so one-sided as results suggested, and Yorkshire and Hampshire played themselves into positions arousing visions of the first Australian defeat by a county since Hampshire beat the 1912 team. Still, for the most part, victory followed victory so inevitably for the Australians that at times opponents took on an air of defeat almost before the match had been in progress more than an hour or two. Once or twice that impression extended even to the Tests.

A summary of their achievements proved the might of probably the most united Australian party sent to England. Not only did they win exactly half their 34 matches with an innings to spare, two by ten wickets, one by nine wickets, two by eight wickets and one by 409 runs, but eleven batsmen between them hit 50 centuries, and in first-class games seven of their seventeen players completed 1,000 runs, with Loxton only 27 short when he broke his nose while batting at Scarborough. Comparisons of totals reveal even more. The Australians made 350 or more in 24 innings whereas, apart from the Tests, the highest total against them was Nottinghamshire's 299 for 8. Twice the Australians failed to reach 200, but they dismissed opponents for less than that figure no fewer than 37 times, and in seven innings for under 100.

After Bradman's team surpassed all records, by winning four out of five Tests, by a touring team in England, the theory that in International cricket winning the toss usually meant winning the match seemed to need the qualification that other matters should be equal, for Bradman guessed the spin of the coin correctly only once in the rubber. In reaping full reward for superiority at all points the Australians were flattered by the margin of their Test victories. Several factors contributed to the accentuation of England's weaknesses. To counteract Yardley's presumed good luck in winning the toss, the weather mostly favoured Australia; England batted in appalling light at Nottingham, in bad light at Lord's and for a time at The Oval, but Australia did not once face such a handicap. Moreover, England stood in a fine position at the end of the third day at Manchester where they led by 316 runs with only three wickets down in the second innings. At the time it seemed fair to think that only rain robbed England of victory, but when they gained an equally strong advantage in the Fourth Test at Leeds and then suffered defeat the first opinion about Manchester required revision.

The Australians were helped further by the failure of more than one English player to bridge the gap between county and Test cricket as well as by a number of strange decisions by the English Selection Committee. Few would have changed places with the Selectors in their difficult task, but they themselves must have regretted their non-selection of a leg-break bowler for Leeds, and the last-minute preference for a fifth seam bowler instead of Young, whose left-arm slows might have brought a different result. As it happened two of the main batsmen, Compton and Hutton, found themselves cast for the roles of key bowlers and they deserved sympathy, not blame, for their failure to exploit the conditions. Widely criticised as it was, and in spite of subsequent events at Leeds and The Oval, the dropping of Hutton from the Third Test could not be classed in the same category. On his reappearance Hutton looked to have benefited a good deal by the rest from continuous Test strain. To complete England's disadvantages was the aid given Australia by the still-experimental rule of a new ball after 55 overs. Such good use did Lindwall, Miller and Johnston make of their frequent opportunities with the new ball that Bradman faced few bowling problems till the destination of The Ashes had been settled. To put it briefly, the more powerful team enjoyed the larger share of good fortune and they missed few chances of capitalising on their strength.

Too great emphasis, however, must not be placed on Australia's luck, for England should have turned to better advantage their openings in the Second and Fourth Tests. Delay in putting on a slow bowler allowed Australia's tail-enders to redeem a bad start at Lord's and the combination of unsuitable selections and mistaken tactics by England, with magnificent work by Australia, at Leeds caused an upheaval of rare magnitude in Test history. At one period England were 423 for two in the first innings and, though Australia stuck to their job superbly in limiting the innings to 496, they lost Morris, Hassett and Bradman for 68. Then, on a pitch ideal for spin bowling, came the astonishing fight-back which gave them victory by seven wickets after being set to get 404 in 345 minutes, the biggest fourth innings total in a Test between the two countries in England. That day, when Australia became the first country to win a Test with a last innings score of over 400, English cricket pride went reeling round the ring. The knock-out blow was delivered at The Oval where 52 was England's lowest score in a home Test with Australia.

From whichever angle the Tests were and are studied, the speed bowling of Lindwall, ably backed by Miller and Johnston, constituted the biggest single weapon on either side. Undoubtedly, Lindwall bore a major part in England's defeats. Not only did he combine controlled pace and accuracy, which allowed batsmen few moments of respite, but he helped bowlers at the other end to their triumphs because, worried by Lindwall, batsmen often took undue risks in their efforts to score from his colleagues. Lindwall introduced an additional source of concern to batsmen by the employment of the extra fast bumper. Unlike Australia, where the bumper, pitched much shorter, usually goes through at uniform height, there were variations of lift on the English pitches when Lindwall bounced the ball and batsmen found no easy choice in deciding whether to attempt to hook, to play a dead bat or to duck. The speed of the ball from the turf left little time for the batsman to change his mind or his stroke for, most important, Lindwall bowled this ball with remarkable precision of length and direction. Proof that batting against Lindwall in England was not enviable was given by the accidents at various times to Compton, Washbrook, Keeton, Robertson, Todd and Watkins.

Yet although Miller did no comparable physical damage, his bumpers created more annoyance to those spectators and cricket-lovers who disliked this type of bowling. His habit of wheeling round, flying into an abnormally fast start and tossing back his head before releasing the ball gave an impression that petulance more than cricket tactics dictated his methods at such times. To many people it seemed a pity that such a fine player and one of the game's personalities should have caused the only sign of displeasure, minor as it was, by crowds during the tour; but he could not expect otherwise when he bowled five bumpers in eight balls, as against Hutton at Nottingham. When most virile, Miller was just as fast as Lindwall and, though he did not live up to his reputation as the finest all-rounder in the world, he was always an immensely valuable member of the side by reason of his aggressive batting, sure slip catching and match-winning bowling spells. Jumping into batting form at the start of the season Miller appeared certain of many big scores, but he fell away though performing big deeds, as against Yorkshire at Bradford, and when he shepherded Harvey through a critical period at Leeds in the fourth Test.

Both Lindwall and Miller were helped in bowling by the lack of practice afforded the majority of English batsmen against such speed since before the war; but this could not be advanced as a reason for the consistent success of Johnston, who shared with Lindwall the distinction of equalling the fast bowling record which E. A. MacDonald established by taking 27 wickets in the 1921 Test series. Bradman worked nobody harder than Johnston, who responded by dismissing 102 batsmen in first-class matches, and generally proving such a vital cog in the wheel that probably he would have been missed more than any other bowler had he been injured. His performances, like those of Lindwall, Bradman, Hassett, Morris, and Tallon are dealt with in other sections of the Almanack.

Good as was the bowling, possibly the attack did not compare as a combined force with that of some past Australian teams, such as the 1921 side. Johnson began well enough with 29 wickets in four matches, but he experienced a lean time until towards the end of the summer and he was not so troublesome to batsmen in Tests as when at home, principally because of the difference in pace of the pitches and his inability to bowl round the wicket, an almost essential part in the make-up of an off-spinner in England. False expectation against Johnson in Australia usually cost a batsman his wicket, but on slower English pitches there was time to change a stroke and still keep the ball out of the stumps, even though beaten by flight. Through aptitude for keeping runs down during long spells of bowling Toshack fitted into Australia's plan of attack with his left-arm slow to medium bowling. His leg-theory tested the batsman's patience and he was assisted by the urge to take runs before the return of the shock bowlers with the new ball. For a considerable part of the season Toshack was troubled by his knee, the soundness of which made him doubtful for the tour until nearly the last moment, and he broke down during the Fourth Test, a cartilage operation being found necessary soon afterwards. As with McCool, limited opportunities came to Ring, the other leg-break bowler, who was slightly the faster through the air, and, though playing in the last Test, Ring was never a trump card in the pack.

Compared with the sustained hostility of the Australian speed trio England's attack suffered from the absence of a genuine fast bowler, and, hard as Bedser worked, he lacked adequate support: Edrich, Coxon, Pollard and Watkins were tried in turn as his partner without solving the problem. Of the spinners chosen, Hollies looked the best, but he was not called upon till the last Test and Yardley, in view of his faculty for breaking stands, might, with advantage, have given himself more to do with the ball. To Bedser fell the unique distinction of dismissing Bradman in the first four Test innings, so making a sequence of five such successes--Bradman was out to Bedser in the final Test of the 1946-47 tour. On the first three occasions last season Bedser caused Bradman to send a catch to Hutton at short fine-leg, but after the Second Test Bradman could not again be lured into the trap when facing a late in-swinger pitched on the middle stump.

Just as the England bowling needed the encouragement of a swift in road into the opposition, so did the batting fall short of requirements, but when Hutton was restored to the side after his omission from the Third Test, he and Washbrook took complete command of the Australian attack in first-wicket stands of 168, their best in any Test, and 129, so establishing a record by twice sharing in two century opening partnerships in Tests--they did so at Adelaide in the Fourth Test of the 1946-47 series. This performance at Leeds provided each man with his biggest moment of the rubber. Unhappily for England, Washbrook could not play at The Oval, and the inexperienced Dewes found speed bowling too much for him, as did Emmett when he replaced Hutton at Manchester. Apart from those at Leeds, England's best start in the other eight innings was 42 at Lord's, and the next highest 22. With Edrich struggling for a long period to find his form an extreme burden rested on Compton and the next two or three batsmen. Compton rose to his task splendidly and, as figures testified, his duels against the shock tactics of Lindwall and Miller usually ended in his favour; but a pronounced weakness in the vital middle batting and the paucity of the tail increased the already considerable responsibilities of the first four men facing a fresh high-powered attack. A crowning blow to England occurred at Leeds in Australia's second innings when Evans, usually such a reliable wicket-keeper, missed two stumping opportunities, acceptance of which, together with the holding of a number of chances offered in the field, might well have ensured a different result to the match. On the whole, England did not field as well as Australia, nor were the men placed to such advantage, but on occasions, as at Manchester, for instance, Yardley's men were superior in ground fielding and catching.

For Bradman the tour provided the most fitting climax possible to an illustrious career. Apart from leading Australia to continued Test dominance, he made more hundreds than any batsman in the country and for the second time--he hit 13 in 1938--he emulated Trumper's performance of 1902 with eleven first-class centuries on a tour in England. In addition to this supreme batting ability, Bradman demonstrated his knowledge of the game in captaincy and generalship. Most pleasing to him must have been the warmth of the reception accorded him by crowds everywhere, particularly in his last two Tests, at Leeds and The Oval. The British public paid striking tribute to his popularity, and they made such big response to a newspaper fund for a Bradman testimonial that, after receiving a silver trophy, he asked that the surplus money should go towards the provision of concrete pitches similar to those on which he learned his cricket.

Behind Bradman was a batting combination of almost unlimited strength so that, no matter the side chosen, runs could be expected from all except the last one or two men. Not only did the Australians score 15,120 runs for the loss of 304 wickets in first-class games, an average of just under 50 per wicket, but they maintained a remarkably fast scoring rate which was reduced only in awkward periods during Tests. The dashing Miller and exuberant Harvey typified the Australian attitude when at Leeds they set about the English attack at a most difficult time and made 121 runs in ninety minutes, a stand which caused England to lose a firm grip on the game. Several times the Australians scored over 500 in a day against the counties, and they made the highest total in a day's play of six hours when they flogged the Essex bowling for 721 at Westcliff. Their 774 against Gloucestershire was the highest score of the summer and the second biggest by Australians in England. For the most part the Australians exuded confidence which the flow of easy victories at the start must have inspired and in batting no one showed this inestimable quality more than Morris, the most consistent batsman on either side in the Tests. He surpassed his first triumphant Test season in Australia by heading the batting figures with 696 runs, average 87.00, his innings including centuries in the Second, Fourth and Fifth Tests, and he gave no better display than that at Leeds, where he and Bradman made 301 for the second wicket in Australia's second innings.

Though Barnes was not so successful in county games he rose to his best against England with a century at Lord's and three other scores of over 60 in six innings, in one of which he retired hurt after scoring a single. Through the nature of his duties as opening batsman, Barnes imposed upon himself limitations in stroke-play, relying mainly on powerful fore-armed square-cuts and hooks for his runs, but when the situation warranted he revealed all the aggression which made him such an attractive batsman in former seasons. For instance, at Scarborough Barnes scored 50 in twenty-five minutes after reaching his century, and 6's followed 4's in a whirlwind display of hitting. In addition to his batting Barnes exercised a big influence on opposing batsmen through his fielding at forward short-leg, or point, as at Leeds. Intrepid, he fielded so close to the bat that it was not surprising when he received a blow in the ribs during the Manchester Test. He could not play again for some weeks, and in his absence at Leeds there was a noticeable lack of former hostility by the Australians in the field. In this Test some of the vulnerability of the Australians was shown when the England batsmen twice gained almost complete ascendancy against an attack which was made to look ordinary. Then, with Barnes back on sentry duty at The Oval, England suffered her biggest humiliation. Probably a number of batsmen were sufficiently affected by his close attendance to cause them to lose concentration on the bowler running up, but equally important was the fact that the knowledge of his presence influenced opponents to avoid strokes in that direction. The Barnes demeanour in the field illustrated the general purposefulness of the Australians, who kept themselves on their toes all the time by rapid catching practice in odd moments during the course of the game.

Sure indication of the Australian might in batting was given by the omission of Brown from three Tests. He scored eight centuries during the tour and finished with an average of nearly 60; but, like Hassett, he was not so free in stroke-play as on previous visits. In fact, at times Brown carried caution to near extreme, but by his dashing batting against Gentlemen of England at Lord's, he proved he could play the other type of game. A fine driving batsman with a fierce square-cut, Loxton achieved little as a bowler, but he played his part as an all-rounder, one of many in the team; in addition to his batting feats, he kept the game alive by his unlimited enthusiasm. Whether in stopping the ball or hurling down the wicket from almost any angle, he won the admiration of all who appreciated keenness in the field.

No less pleasurable was the gay left-hand batting of Harvey, the youngest member of the side. At 19 years of age, Harvey carried all the confidence of adventurous and successful youth, and he began playing strokes from the moment he took guard. After Miller's guidance by example through the start of his first Test innings against England, at Leeds, Harvey raced on to his second successive Test century--he made 153 against India the previous winter--and the 90's troubled him as little as any other period in his assault on bowlers threatening to take command of the game. Like nearly all Australians of his age Harvey fielded brilliantly, and he made some memorable catches, particularly at long-leg. With runs coming so regularly from the early batsmen, such men as Hamence and McCool did not receive the chances that would have been afforded them in a side less strong in batting. When scoring 99 against Somerset, Hamence looked a very good player; but often he was called upon to attempt forcing tactics right away following big scores by his colleagues. For McCool little went right either in batting or bowling. Troubled for most of the season by a blister on his spinning finger which continually bled, he did not reach his best till almost the end of the tour when, pitching a much-improved length, he flighted and spun his leg-breaks in something like his Australian form. Johnson, who against Somerset hit his maiden century in first-class cricket and who paved the way for victory with spirited batting against Hampshire after the Australians faced a first innings deficit of 78; the hard-driving Lindwall, Saggers and Tallon formed solid batting support, and even Toshack made useful contributions in Tests in which he scored nearly all the runs he made on the tour.

With exceptions, such as at Manchester where Compton gave three chances at the wicket and other catches went to ground, the Australian fielding seldom fell below a high standard as befitted a team helped by few changes being necessary in its composition through three series of Tests--at home to England and India and then in the Motherland. This was a striking contrast to England, who played 21 men, of whom 14 bowled, in the five games, chiefly through the policy of trying to find all-rounders to bolster up the middle batting and the bowling.

Indebtedness for the smooth running of the tour and general harmony of the team was due largely to the manager, Mr. Keith Johnson, hard-working and always genial. Paying tribute to the loyalty of the players, Mr. Johnson said there had not been a discordant note in the party throughout the tour.

Ground and gate attendances created records in many parts of the country and the Australians received about £75,000 as their share of the profits, more than double the previous highest from an English tour.

LOYAL THANKS

In a farewell message to England Mr. Johnson declared that their most lasting memory of the tour would be the visit to Balmoral. We felt we were going into an Englishman's home and into his family heart. It was difficult to believe that we were being entertained by Royalty. My personal wish would be for everybody in the Empire to spend an hour or so with the King and Queen. It would do them a tremendous amount of good.

While the Second Test was in progress at Lord's on June 25, a plaque, comprising the R.A.A.F. badge and an inscription in appropriate colours on fine vellum, framed in Australian jarrah wood, was presented to Lord Gowrie, President of M. C. C., by Air Commodore U. Ewart, Commander of R.A.A.F. Overseas Headquarters in London. The inscription reads:--

Presented to the Marylebone Cricket Club by the Royal Australian Air Force to commemorate the matches played at Lord's during the years 1942-43-44 and 45 by the Royal Australian Air Force Eleven as a team or in association with the Australian Imperial Forces during World War II.


Match reports for

Worcestershire v Australians at Worcester, Apr 28-30, 1948
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Leicestershire v Australians at Leicester, May 1-4, 1948
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Yorkshire v Australians at Bradford, May 5-6, 1948
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Surrey v Australians at The Oval, May 8-11, 1948
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Cambridge University v Australians at Cambridge, May 12-14, 1948
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Essex v Australians at Southend-on-Sea, May 15-17, 1948
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Oxford University v Australians at Oxford, May 19-21, 1948
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Marylebone Cricket Club v Australians at Lord's, May 22-25, 1948
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Lancashire v Australians at Manchester, May 26-28, 1948
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Nottinghamshire v Australians at Nottingham, May 29-Jun 1, 1948
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Hampshire v Australians at Southampton, Jun 2-4, 1948
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Sussex v Australians at Hove, Jun 5-7, 1948
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1st Test: England v Australia at Nottingham, Jun 10-15, 1948
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Northamptonshire v Australians at Northampton, Jun 16-18, 1948
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Yorkshire v Australians at Sheffield, Jun 19-22, 1948
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2nd Test: England v Australia at Lord's, Jun 24-29, 1948
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Surrey v Australians at The Oval, Jun 30-Jul 2, 1948
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Gloucestershire v Australians at Bristol, Jul 3-6, 1948
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3rd Test: England v Australia at Manchester, Jul 8-13, 1948
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Middlesex v Australians at Lord's, Jul 17-20, 1948
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4th Test: England v Australia at Leeds, Jul 22-27, 1948
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Derbyshire v Australians at Derby, Jul 28-30, 1948
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Glamorgan v Australians at Swansea, Jul 31-Aug 3, 1948
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Warwickshire v Australians at Birmingham, Aug 4-6, 1948
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Lancashire v Australians at Manchester, Aug 7-10, 1948
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Durham v Australians at Sunderland, Aug 11-12, 1948
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5th Test: England v Australia at The Oval, Aug 14-18, 1948
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Kent v Australians at Canterbury, Aug 21-23, 1948
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Gentlemen of England v Australians at Lord's, Aug 25-27, 1948
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Somerset v Australians at Taunton, Aug 28-30, 1948
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South v Australians at Hastings, Sep 1-3, 1948
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HDG Leveson-Gower's XI v Australians at Scarborough, Sep 8-10, 1948
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