For eight weeks a goodly portion of the English-speaking peoples of the earth have been concentrating their gaze, almost to the point of world-forgetful-ness, on the struggles of England and Australia for cricket's greatest prize: The Ashes—a five-inch urn filled with, yes, ashes. This time the scene of struggle was Australia, the champion English were favored to retain The Ashes, and the matches were marked as usual by brief-second flashes of brilliant play and even semidelirious response (see opposite page), punctuated, as usual, by long, stately, somnolent pauses.
In the first of the five matches, held in Brisbane, Aussie hopes rose as the English in their first innings (time at bat) scored only 134 runs before all its wickets fell (side retired). The Aussies won that match and match No. 2 as well, in Melbourne, as the English hitters kept on dying at the wickets. Mourned Sir Len Hutton, captain of England's victorious teams in 1953 and 1955: "Our batting lacks liveliness of response." A gloating Aussie paper doubted the English "could beat the girls of St. Trinians." Sydney was a draw, but then came Match Four in Adelaide. England let Australia bat first ("Biggest blunder since the Boston Tea Party," said an Aussie paper). Australia ran up 476 runs, was never headed, won back The Ashes-compensation of a sort for losing the Davis Cup.
Diving catch is made by Australian bowler Richie Benaud at Brisbane to the delight of his wicketkeeper (arms raised). Bowler, pitching from 22 yards away, tries to dislodge two bails which rest atop wicket. Ball has cork center, leather cover, is slightly smaller and heavier than baseball.
Off and running at Sydney after delivering cricket's version of a base hit, England's Captain Peter May (hatless) heads toward opposite wicket to exchange places with partner. May deflected Benaud's delivery off to the right between infielders called slips. This, the third test match, ended a draw.
February 16, 1959
Joyous moment is registered clearly on faces of four British players as Wicketkeeper Swetman catches deflected ball off the bat of Australia's popular Norman O'Neill. Such moments were rare for British team whose play throughout series was criticized as inept and quite disappointing.