Fourth Test Match



England became the first team to win the first four Tests of a series in England. Interest in the match was increased because, with the team for Australia being chosen on the Sunday, at the England XI's headquarters at Lymm, Cheshire, the first three days were in the nature of a trial for the tour. Moreover, with that purpose in view, the selectors introduced three new caps in Dexter, Subba Row and Illingworth, besides recalling Watson, Statham and Richardson, so that there were six changes compared with the side who won at Leeds.

With the sun shining and Reid winning the toss, New Zealand made their highest total of the five Tests, but, after two fine days, only forty minutes' cricket was possible on Saturday and play did not begin on Monday before 3 p.m. Yet England won comfortably enough by 2.20 p.m. on Tuesday and again Lock, with seven wickets for 35 runs in the second innings, was the match-winner. He brought his figures for the series to 31 wickets for 215 runs and his number of victims in Test cricket to 102.

England's batting also gave much satisfaction. Watson was a new opening partner for Richardson and, with their stand producing 126, everyone felt that the former Yorkshire left-hander had played himself into the M. C. C. team for Australia. This proved to be correct, but as usual the finest batting came from May, who hit his tenth Test century. Dexter, too, gave an excellent display and was indeed unfortunate that his chance to bat did not come until Monday after the touring team had been selected.

For this match New Zealand strengthened their bowling by calling on Blair and Moir, who replaced Miller and Cave. This meant that Sutcliffe opened the innings but, though he batted well for nearly two hours, fine fast bowling by Trueman and Statham caused the first four wickets to fall before lunch for 66. Afterwards Playle defended doggedly while MacGibbon played aggresively and their stand yielded 55. Sparling, on his twentieth birthday, also gave valuable help to MacGibbon, who lasted until Statham took the new ball. Hitting nine 4's, MacGibbon batted two and a half hours for 66, the highest innings in the five Tests for New Zealand.

Another useful partnership developed between Sparling and Petrie, so that at the close on Thursday New Zealand were 220 for six wickets. Sparling soon went next day, his innings having occupied nearly three hours; the partnership of 61 was also the best of the series for the touring team. Petrie kept up his end for two and a half hours before he hooked a short rising ball from Trueman on to his left ear, which was severely grazed. He had to be helped off the field and took no more part in the cricket until Monday; Reid, who declined a suggestion from May that Ward should act as deputy, kept wicket for New Zealand. Altogether the New Zealand innings lasted nine and three-quarter hours, Blair being last out at quarter past one.

With the two left-handers, Richardson and Watson, mastering the bowling from the start of the innings, England were never in difficulty. They made the first three-figure opening stand for England in this country since Richardson and Cowdrey began with 174 against Australia on the same ground two years earlier in the match when Laker achieved the record personal bowling feat of nineteen wickets.

Richardson never allowed false strokes to disturb his equanimity. He played more often than usual off the front foot and was more enterprising though never as solid as Watson, who presented an impregnable defence. The Worcestershire captain made 74 in two and a half hours, hitting ten 4's. Watson, second to leave, stayed three and a half hours and hit four boundaries. May signalled his appearance with a majestic off-drive and soon afterwards, with twenty minutes remaining, bad light ended the day's cricket, England's total being 192 for two wickets

A bad hole had been worn on the pitch at the Stretford end in the region of the off stump to the left-handed batsman. It had been caused by the fast bowlers, Trueman and Hayes. The captains agreed to ask the ground authorities to do what they considered necessary in the way of repairs. They also agreed that the cover placed at the end of the pitch should be brought forward to protect the pitch over the hole, so that in the event of rain the trouble would not be further aggravated. While the rules allowed for the renovating of bowlers' footholds--an innovation for Tests in 1958--no one was sure whether it was intended that repairs could be carried out to the pitch, but it was considered that in the circumstances a common-sense attitude should be adopted.

Before play was resumed next day at 2.45 p.m., the groundsman had filled the hole with a large piece of turf and it gave no more bother though, with much rain having fallen, plenty of sawdust was required to prevent the bowlers from slipping.

Moir having damaged an ankle, New Zealand included two substitutes, Alabaster and Cave, and the former soon caught Graveney at second slip. MacGibbon and Blair troubled both May and Subba Row, but at 3.25 p.m. rain terminated the short day's play of twelve overs with England 206 for three wickets.

More heavy night rain prevented cricket until 3 p.m. on Monday. Petrie, fit again, was behind the stumps and two delightful displays by May and Dexter compensated the crowd for the long wait. Driving magnificently, May hit four 6's and seven 4's before falling to a brilliant catch at cover. He batted two hours thirty-five minutes and his stand with Dexter realised 82 in an hour. Dexter followed his captain's example, twice on-driving Reid for 6 with perfectly-timed strokes. He also hit six 4's, scoring 52 in ninety minutes. The pitch becoming increasingly difficult, May declared with a lead of 98.

Forty minutes remained for play and with May setting an umbrella field for Trueman and Statham, Sutcliffe, excelling with the drive and leg-glance, hit five boundaries in making 28 while D'Arcy scored two, New Zealand finishing at 30 for no wicket.

The resumption came promptly at 11.30 a.m. and Lock bowled till the match was finished. Both he and Statham took divots out of the soft surface and, with the ball coming through at varying pace and height, the batsmen had a thankless task.

Statham began the collapse in the sixth over of the day when he sent Sutcliffe's off-stump reeling with a ball that moved fast off the pitch, Sutcliffe being very late with his stroke. Lock induced a catch from D'Arcy to the slips, where Dexter pushed the ball on for Subba Row to take it.

Reid, the captain, struck a defiant blow by punching Lock through the covers, but Lock offered the bait again and this time Reid lifted a catch to mid-off where Watson was waiting. Next, Lock trapped Playle with his faster ball. Illingworth took over from Statham, and with Harford offering no stroke he bowled him off his pads. MacGibbon was deceived by Lock's change of pace, so that in seventy minutes England captured the first six wickets on the last day for the addition of 21 runs, but they met with resistance from Petrie and Moir.

In the next three-quarters of an hour before lunch only one more wicket fell, when Lock held a hard low return from Sparling who thus gave him his 100th Test wicket. New Zealand, 76 for seven at lunch, knew their fate was sealed and three more overs sufficed to complete the debacle. Moir, half an hour for 12, was another Lock victim, and Petrie, fifty minutes for nine; was held off Illingworth at square-leg before Lock took the last wicket with a beautiful ball that clipped Blair's off-bail. So England won comfortably on a glorious sunny afternoon. Over 35,000 paid £10,662 to see the match.

© John Wisden & Co