England v Australia 1936-37
At Sydney, December 18, 19, 21, 22
At Sydney, December 18, 19, 21, 22. England won by an innings and 22 runs.
Possibly even more than in the first Test, the winning of the toss was of paramount importance. Owing to the long drought, the groundman feared the wicket would not last as well as is usual in Test matches at Sydney. The prospect of unsettled weather contributed to uncertainty about the way the wicket would play after the first day or two.
Allen beating Bradman in the toss, England were presented with a flying start and they occupied the wicket for the whole of the first day but scored no more than 279 for the loss of three wickets. Worthington was left out of the eleven and Sims brought in so that the tourists had to rely on Barnett and Fagg as first wicket batsmen. Again England quickly suffered a reverse for Fagg left at 27 but Hammond came in at this point and graced the match with a hundred.
A much discussed feature of play before lunch, when 100 runs were scored for one wicket, concerned five overs sent down by McCormick, who was not only erratic, but pitched short so that the ball flew all over the place. It should be made clear, however, that suggestions of "body-line" bowling were uncalled for. McCormick merely used the recognised methods of the fast bowler and did not set an exaggerated leg field. Batsmen experienced little trouble in playing him during the later stages of the match; he had not fully recovered from the attack of lumbago and never again attained any real speed.
Barnett lost his wicket immediately after lunch when he played outside a ball that came through faster than anticipated. Then Leyland came on the scene to dash the hopes of the Australians. This was not one of the Yorkshire left hander's most attractive displays, but it was obvious that he and Hammond played to a set plan. Leyland was criticised even more than Hammond for his slow play by Australian experts who neglected to give their own bowlers and captain full credit for limiting the batsmen's scoring scope by the nature of their attack and the setting of the field. Nevertheless O'Reilly rather wasted time with leg theory while Ward bowled on or just outside the leg stump, and so prevented Leyland from going all out for a shot without taking a risk.
The tea interval found England's total 209 with two men out: a much different state of things from some of the previous matches. During the period between lunch and tea the Australians' fielding was surprisingly ragged, returns to the wicket-keeper being very loose. It improved afterwards when the England batsmen, instead of putting on runs fast against a tired attack, proceeded even more slowly. The idea was for Hammond and Leyland to play for "close" but this they failed to do for Leyland was given out, leg before wicket under the new rule.
The third wicket stand realised 129. Ames joined Hammond, who was unbeaten at the end of the first day with 147, and batted throughout the second day, curtailed owing to rain by 90 minutes, for an addition of 84. England lost only three more wickets, raising the total to 426 for 6. There was a curious incident when Hardstaff had scored 11. Robinson, the twelfth man, was fielding behind the square leg umpire and Hardstaff hit a ball from O'Reilly hard into his hands. A shower had rendered the ball aslippery as a wet soap, and the catch was missed. Apparently both umpires were watching the fieldsman when Bradman called attention to the fact that the Nottinghamshire man had stepped on to his wicket sufficiently to dislodge a bail when making the stroke, Hardstaff was given the benefit of the doubt.
Heavy rain in the night created a problem for Allen next morning, and as events proved, he was right in declaring straightaway. Australia, as at Brisbane, were caught on a wet wicket, and figured in an inglorious collapse- all out for 80.
Nothing more sensational can be imagined than their first dreadful quarter of an hour, when O'Brien, Bradman and McCabe were all sent back without scoring. Voce dismissed them with his seventh, eighth and tenth balls and equalled the feat of F.S. Jackson (at Nottingham in1905) and of W.J. O'Reilly (at Manchester in 1934), both took three Test wickets in four balls. Seven wickets were down for 31 but with lunchtime approaching, O'Reilly played a desperate innings, and hit three sixes, one off Verity and two off Sims. Allen, though not perhaps relishing such prolific scoring, was no doubt secretly glad Australia were not all out before lunch, a happening which would have necessitated an immediate decision as to whether to enforce a follow on or bat a second time. During lunch Allen decided to put Australia in again. Already the wicket had shown signs of recovery, and it rolled out a perfect batting wicket, so that he took a risk which might have cost him the match.
The general opinion was that Australia's batsmen had exaggerated the dangers of the wicket, which was damp not sticky. They did much better on going in again, and at the close of the third day Fingleton (67) and Bradman (57) were together with the score 145 for one wicket.
The English victory was said by Australian critics to have been registered at five minutes to one on the fourth day, when Bradman, having surpassed Clem Hill's aggregate of 2660 runs in Test matches for Australia v. England, was bowled by verity for 82. McCabe alone refused to be unnerved. He proceeded after lunch to give the brightest batting exhibition of the whole match and mastered all the English bowling, which was made to look suspiciously weak. Fortunately, Hammond kept the attack together with his perfect length and his speed off the pitch.
Teatime came with the score 309 for 5 and odds on England having to bat again. The interval gave England's bowlers fresh heart; Voce once more found top form, and he and Hammond, bringing about another sensational Australian collapse, won the match. McCabe tried to hit a ball from Voce to leg but it kept low and he was out l.b.w.- the only ball that beat him in an heroic innings of 93. The whole side were out for 324.
Though it was Hammond's steadiness as a bowler that clinched England's superiority, which he himself had established with his great innings of 231 not out, Voce again came out with fine figures- seven wickets in the match for 76 runs. England enjoyed all the luck that was going- winning the toss and getting rain just when it was wanted- while Australia were hard hit by Badcock being ill; he could not bat in the first innings and although he left a sick bed to bat in the second, he made only two. No one could dispute the fact that England, as at Brisbane, looked the better side. The details of Hammond's wonderful innings are worth recording. He batted 460 minutes and hit twenty-seven 4's, seven 3's, nineteen 2's and 64 singles.