Second Test match

England v West Indies 1939

Norman Preston

At Manchester, July 22, 24, 25. Drawn. Old Trafford carried on its tradition for bad weather. A year before not a ball could be bowled during the four days allotted to the Test with Australia and on this occasion so much time was lost that a definite result never seemed possible. On Saturday the cricket was restricted to thirty-five minutes and in this period, England, sent in to bat by R. S. Grant, scored 11 runs without loss. A storm on Sunday evening gave the ground another drenching, but on Monday, after inspections by the captains and umpires, great activity by a host of groundsmen who used blankets to remove the water, the match was resumed a few minutes after midday.

The weather remained cheerless and bad light caused some interruption, so that by the luncheon interval England's total reached only 34 for the loss of Fagg who played-on. Real fun began after lunch. Suddenly, England collapsed before the accurately flighted off-breaks of Grant and the clever bowling of Clarke, who mixed leg spin with an occasional googly. Both men maintained an admirable length and the ball often jumped unexpectedly. In the field West Indies supported their bowlers magnificently; their agile picking up and swift returns kept runs down to a minimum.

Both Hutton and Paynter left at 34; Paynter chopped the ball into the wicket-keepers' hands and next over Hutton was easily taken in the leg trap. The position did not worry Hammond and the England captain made some grand drives from Clarke. Then came another delay through a shower and possibly this unsettled both batsmen, Hammond and Compton each being quickly dismissed by Clarke. Compton, when hooking was unlucky to tread on his wicket, while Hammond, running out to drive, was stumped yards out of his crease.

In this way half the side had gone for 62 and England, with a long tail, were in a desperate plight, but Hardstaff and Wood, who against Australia the previous August at the Oval shared in a stand of 106, came to the rescue. Pursuing his natural free-hitting game, Hardstaff took complete control. Wood played a valuable part by presenting a solid defence and the sixth wicket realised 88 before the Yorkshireman skied the ball and was caught by the bowler. Hardstaff continued his enterprising display and drove with astonishing ease until caught at backward point. He made his 76 out of 111 in 100 minutes, and besides punishing Cameron for 6 he hit eight 4's. Hammond immediately declared and so West Indies had to bat for 75 minutes at the end of the second day.

With the pitch likely to become even more difficult, Grant set a fine example to his men by going in first and launching a severe attack on the bowling. He began by freely cutting Bowes and Copson and when Goddard, who appeared in the England team in preference to Verity, came on at 22, Grant showed an utter disregard for the imposing array of short legs. Compton, standing within eight yards of the bat, received a fearful blow on the thigh. Three times the West Indies captain hit Goddard for 6, and also claimed four 4's before he was well caught in front of the sight screen by Fagg. Grant had given a superb exhibition of clean hitting and he received a fine ovation; the whole crowd, including everyone in the pavilion, rose to him. Actually he made 47 out of 56. Headley and Sealy continued the gay hitting and raised the score to 85 by quarter past six when more rain ended the day's play.

Tuesday was the birthday of Bowes who celebrated the anniversary with a splendid spell of bowling which was mainly responsible for England gaining a lead of 31. The pitch was wet and Bowes made the ball rise awkwardly from a good length. He bowled from 11.25 until 1.05 while the last seven West Indies wickets went down for 38 runs; during this period Bowes had this analysis - 10.4 overs, 4 maidens, 14 runs, 5 wickets.

Copson shared the attack with the tall Yorkshireman from the time the total reached 106 until the innings was over and, apart from Headley, the two fast bowlers carried all before them. As at Lord's, where he hit two hundreds, Headley received little support, and even he on this occasion experienced some anxious moments; he was puzzled by more than one delivery from Wright, while Copson, during one very good over, when Headley was obviously perplexed, nearly held a hot return.

The rest of the match was rather unsatisfactory. With only two innings completed no more than four and a half hours remained for play. Hutton and Fagg exercised, what seemed to most people, excessive caution. They allowed the bowlers to gain the mastery and when such fine hitters as Paynter, Hammond, Compton and Hardstaff appeared, they found Constantine and his fellow bowlers had taken command. Consequently, instead of Hammond being able to declare at the tea interval, leaving the West Indies a reasonable proposition, the English innings was prolonged. In the end the touring team were set the almost impossible task of making 160 in 70 minutes.

Grant intended to have another smack at the English bowlers but was caught off the first ball of the innings at deep point. The only other notable incident occurred when Hammond made his 100th catch in Test matches by holding a snick from Headley, after the ball had spun out of Wood's gloves.

Considering the dismal weather the match was well patronised. On Saturday, when only 64 deliveries, including four no-balls were sent down, 11,000 spectators of whom 6,797 paid for admission, were present. On Monday the crowd numbered 10,000 and on Tuesday 8,000.

© John Wisden & Co