Match reports


At The Oval, August 13, 15, 16, 17

At The Oval, August 13, 15, 16, 17. England won by 92 runs at a quarter past five on the fourth day with a day to spare. For the first time in the history of cricket in England all five Tests were brought to a definite conclusion, England winning the rubber in this deciding contest. The victory was a triumph for three Surrey players. Peter May, the captain, besides leading his side skilfully, made the highest score, 89 not out, and the two spin bowlers, Laker and Lock, took fifteen of the eighteen wickets that fell to bowlers in the two South African innings.
For South Africa, who have never won a rubber in England, the result was a bitter disappointment. They were badly let down by three of their early batsmen as between them Keith, Endean and McLean made only six runs, all being dismissed for nought in the second innings, while Endean, like Spooner, the England wicket-keeper, went for a pair.
The match was memorable for some grand off-spin bowling by Tayfield. On the third day he bowled from half past twelve until the close, five hours of cricket time, without relief, his figures during this spell being: 52 overs, 29 maidens, 54 runs, four wickets. This sustained effort was considered to be without parallel in Test cricket.
England again lacked the help of Evans, Cowdrey and Tyson. The last two were chosen only to be pronounced unfit the day prior to the match; their places were filled by Graveney and Bailey. In an effort to counter Goddard's leg theory bowling England included five left-handed batsmen, Ikin, Close, Watson, Spooner and Statham, but the plan failed. Indeed, in the second innings these five mustered only 18 runs between them. South Africa showed two changes from Leeds, Cheetham and Fuller coming in for Winslow and Adcock.
As no team had up to that stage of the summer made 200 runs in the fourth innings at The Oval, it was realised before the start that winning the toss might play an important part and May, by succeeding in this respect for the fourth time in the series, gained England an important advantage.
The match began under a leaden sky and soon after lunch on the opening day rain set in, stopping the cricket which amounted to only two and a half hours while England scored 70 for the loss of their first three batsmen. These three men contributed towards the opening stand of 51, Ikin having retired sick after 43 had been made in seventy minutes through being struck in the solar plexus from a ball delivered by Heine who had previously caused him much pain from bouncers.
The heavy atmosphere suited the seam bowlers and both Fuller and Heine were menacing. May never settled down, being first to leave, caught at second slip, and in the last over before lunch Close, who had batted confidently, fell to a fine right-handed catch, Mansell at first slip holding the ball with his right hand high above his head. Ikin resumed his innings after the interval but, deflecting Heine, he was splendidly taken by Waite, the wicket-keeper, low with the right hand on the leg-side.
Then came the downpour which lasted for twelve hours and although most of Sunday was fine the pitch was soft when Compton and Watson resumed batting in brilliant sunshine promptly to time on Monday. All day the bowlers held the mastery, 17 wickets falling for 193 runs, and England gained a valuable lead of 39. First thing South Africa toiled for seventy-five minutes without reward before disposing of Compton who in each innings was dismissed for the same score by precisely the same stroke--a leg sweep which presented a catch to the wicket-keeper. After Compton left, Tayfield disposed of Watson, Bailey and Spooner in five overs for a single, England's total at lunch being 122 for seven wickets.
Goddard, left arm over the wicket, and bowling at or outside the leg-stump, soon removed Laker, Graveney and Lock and finished with five wickets for 31 runs. Whereas England batted for nearly five hours they needed only three and a half hours to dismiss the whole of the South African team. It soon became clear that the soft turf was of no use to Statham, but at 22 Bailey deceived Goddard, the ball keeping low, and then, while Laker sent down a succession of maiden overs from the Vauxhall end, Lock bowled Keith playing forward, trapped Endean in the gully and knocked back the middle stump when McLean lashed out wildly.
For a time Waite stayed with McGlew, their stand yielding 44 before Lock, rolling over, caught Waite in the leg-trap. Next, McGlew, having defended valiantly for two and a half hours, paid the penalty for flashing at Statham, and although Cheetham resisted for nearly an hour none could stay with him, Statham, returning for the second time, finishing the tail.
The third day found the pitch reasonably docile. The rain of Saturday seemed to have bound it together and there was little evidence of dust, but England soon ran into trouble for they lost Ikin in the third over. Close lasted seventy minutes until Goddard disturbed his off-bail, and then May began his important innings which enabled his side to make the highest total of this low-scoring struggle. Graveney, owing to Compton being lame, had been promoted to number three and he and May proceeded to make the best stand of the match, the pair adding 65 in seventy-five minutes. Graveney played really well, but May when only four survived an appeal by Tayfield for lbw. It must have been close. The only time the batsmen showed any freedom was immediately after lunch (61 for two wickets) when they scored 23 off four overs from Mansell.
South Africa badly needed another reliable slow bowler; instead Cheetham was compelled to rely on Heine who maintained a hostile attack for one and three-quarter hours in conjunction with the persistent Tayfield. After Graveney left, May and Compton added only 26 runs in eighty minutes before tea, and Compton when 10 was dropped in the gully by Keith off Heine.
Despite severe pain from his swollen knee and his inability to move freely, Compton by staying two and a quarter hours while the fourth wicket added 62, gave his captain valuable assistance. This was appreciated later for after Compton left England lost four wickets in the last hour for only 38 more runs. So the end of the third day found England 195 for eight, the outcome of six hours at the crease, and next morning South Africa disposed of Lock and Statham, both lbw, for nine more runs. May took out his bat for 89, having defied the opposition for five hours; he hit ten 4's. In each of his four second innings in this series--England batted only once at Trent Bridge--May had carried his side with scores of 112 at Lord's, 117 at Manchester, 97 at Leeds and 89 not out at The Oval.
As England used the heavy roller first thing, Cheetham preferred to have the pitch only swept before South Africa began their task of scoring 244 to win. Compton, who had no runner when batting, could not field and Morgan (Derbyshire) acted as substitute. At the end of half an hour Close missed Goddard off Bailey at first slip and England took fifty-five minutes to separate the opening pair by which time Laker and Lock were in charge of the attack.
The whole outlook changed when in the course of eighteen balls England gained four wickets. South Africa's collapse began in Lock's third over when Goddard was caught at first slip and May at forward short-leg held a hot catch from Keith at the third attempt. These sudden reverses may have accounted for the panic methods adopted by Endean and McLean; both tried to sweep Laker and were lbw. In marked contrast, Waite arrived cool and collected and using his feet he displayed the value of the forward stroke down the line of the ball.
As McGlew was still there, South Africa were not yet without hope, but soon after lunch (57 for four) McGlew went right back on his wicket and was lbw, and, well as Waite continued to play, England's success now appeared to be only a matter of time. Three more missed catches prolonged the issue. A partnership between Waite and Mansell lasted eighty minutes, but after a brief rest Lock and Laker changed ends, and in quick succession Mansell lofted a drive to cover and Waite, with nine boundaries in a splendid innings of two and a half hours, was surprised by a turning ball which just nudged his off stump. Then came a few bold hits by Fuller and Heine before this splendidly-fought match ended with Graveney taking a skier from Heine on the long-on boundary.
So Laker and Lock repeated their success of 1953 when they wrested the Ashes from Australia on this familiar Oval pitch. As on that occasion the turf never crumbled, nor did the ball lift. Laker turned the ball only slightly, much the same as Tayfield, but Lock moved it sharply from leg. Altogether 100,000 people attended during the four days.