At The Oval, August 14, 15, 16, 18, 19. Drawn. After a fine opening day the last Test was ruined by the weather. Instead of a possible thirty hours, cricket was limited to ten hours thirty-five minutes as follows: Thursday, six hours; Friday, three and a half hours; Saturday, nil; Monday, sixty-five minutes; Tuesday, nil. Yet financially the match was a success, for the receipts amounted to £19,000 with India's share £5,000.
Hutton was fortunate to win the toss, and although much of the England batting lacked inspiration a total of 326 for six wickets made in eight hours before the rain transformed the pitch was sufficient to put India in danger of an innings defeat. The first day was one of triumph for Sheppard, who hit his first century for England. During his long innings of five hours fifty minutes he was not free from fault. Besides offering three chances he was unhappy in his timing, but he showed the proper temperament in not allowing any faults in his technique to disturb his serenity.
The first four hours were occupied while Hutton and Sheppard made 143 in England's best opening stand against India, and then Sheppard and the left-handed Ikin in the next hour and fifty minutes doubled the rate of scoring while adding 118 for the second wicket. The scene itself was worthy of an Australian occasion. A crowd of 24,000 people basked in the sunshine while England were content to wear down the bowling. At the end of an hour the score reached only 28, and when lunch was taken after two hours no more than 56 runs were on the board, eight of these having come from two overthrows to the boundary. During that hour before lunch Mankad, a master in keeping down runs, exploited a packed off-side field to such an extent with his left-arm slows directed outside the off stump that of his 13 overs 12 were maidens, the only run being scored by Hutton off his 43rd delivery.
Eventually Hutton reached his 50 in just over three hours, but the total was only 126 when Divecha took the new ball in the 75th over. Sheppard arrived at 50 in three hours forty minutes, and then at 143 Hutton, whose most profitable stroke was the off-drive, was caught in the gully at the third attempt. The previous best opening stand for England against India was 111 by C. F. Walters and A. H. Bakewell at Madras in 1933-34. After Hutton left, Sheppard seized the initiative, and Ikin quickly settled down, being equally at home in driving off the front or back foot, and he also hit well to leg. Already Sheppard had shown that Mankad could be hit over mid-on, and he reached the coveted 100 with a grand off-drive from that bowler. When at last he was l. b. w. he had made his 119 (nine 4's) out of 261.
England resumed on Friday with a total of 264, and again they were tied down by keen bowling and some grand fielding, notably by Adhikari, Ramchand, Roy and Manjrekar. Ikin soon went, caught at the wicket playing forward, and May, trying of lift Mankad, was taken at deep mid-on. Only 29 runs were added in an hour and still for all their caution wickets fell, for both Graveney and Evans were taken in the slips, so that at lunch the score was 326 for six wickets, the honours at this stage of the game having gone to India.
During the interval a thunderstorm broke and, although the downpour lasted only twenty minutes, pools of water saturated the middle of the ground; the match could not be continued until 5 p.m., Hutton having declared during the meantime. Only three weeks previously India had suffered a similar experience at Manchester, where they were put out for 58 and 82. They knew what to expect from Trueman and Bedser, and soon their worst fears were confirmed.
In a dramatic twenty-five minutes half the India wickets fell for six runs. England set their field for the kill. Bedser had four short-legs, Graveney, Trueman, Lock and Ikin, two slips, Hutton and Sheppard, and one gully, Laker. Trueman employed an arc of five slips, Hutton, Bedser, Ikin, Graveney and Laker, and had Sheppard almost on top of the striker at forward short-leg and Lock at fine-leg.
Mankad faced Bedser first, and during a maiden over he received a painful blow on the knuckles from a rising ball. Then came Trueman. He measured carefully his run of 30 yards which he covered in fourteen strides. His first ball pitched only half way, but it was a winner, for Roy, steering it off his ribs, fell to a superb catch by Lock, who dived forward and held the ball inches from the turf. In his eagerness for speed Trueman continued to sacrifice accuracy, and the remaining five balls of that over travelled high outside the off stump, Adhikari never connecting.
Mankad faced Bedser again and opened the score by cutting him for two and three before Adhikari turned the last ball into the leg trap, where Trueman matched Lock's catch by throwing himself forward. Then Mankad, trying to hook Trueman, sent the ball high above Bedser at second slip, and there was so much time that Evans moved across and took the catch.
Manjrekar was dropped first ball by Bedser and the false stroke produced a single, taking the score to six. The following over from Bedser brought England two more wickets. Unlike Trueman, he kept the ball up to the batsmen and his swerve and lift made him almost unplayable. Manjrekar fell to Ikin in the leg trap and the next ball yorked Umrigar.
So Phadkar joined Hazare with half the side out for six and facing the possibility of a hat-trick. The position looked so desperate that one wondered whether India could muster 30, the lowest of all Test totals, credited twice to South Africa against England, at Port Elizabeth, 1895-96, and Birmingham, 1924. Happily for India, Phadkar, after a few reckless strokes, met the bowling with the same plucky determination as his captain. For fifty minutes Trueman maintained his assault before stitch in his right side compelled him to rest. At this stage the bowling analysis read: Trueman 6-4-5-2; Bedser 6-2-16-3. Lock began with four maiden overs, and although Trueman soon returned the shine had gone and Hazare and Phadkar saw the total reach 49 before stumps were drawn for the day.
Not a ball was bowled on Saturday, but during the sixty-five minutes that play was possible on Monday before lunch England captured India's remaining five wickets. Most of the time there was a steady drizzle and the turf was soft. It was certainly not a day for batsmen. Both Trueman and Bedser were called four times for no-balls. The slippery turf was the main cause, and Trueman appeared to be disturbed after one over during which he dismissed Phadkar and Hazare and was no-balled three times after consecutive deliveries for dragging his right foot.
Still, by taking five wickets for 48 runs, Trueman finished the series with 29 wickets, and so beat the previous best for England against India in 1946, when Bedser took 24 wickets in his first season. In 1950-51, in India, Mankad took 34.
The game was not given up until one more downpour at 3 p.m. on Tuesday foiled Hutton completing his first season as England's captain with four Test wins in four matches. He informed Hazare as soon as the India innings was finished that he would enforce the follow-on, but considering all the misfortune which befell the touring team few people begrudged them their final escape.