On a lovelywinter day in 1958 on the island of Barbados, a small Pakistani named HanifMohammad came to bat in a cricket test match between Pakistan and the WestIndies. Like Luke Appling fouling off bad pitches, he protected his wicket withmonotonous diligence, blocking those balls he didn't want to hit, choosing torun only on a sure thing. Mohammad remained at bat for 16 hours and 39 minutesand scored 337 runs. By the time he was retired, the better part of four dayshad elapsed. So had most of the spectators.
On a gloomysummer day in 1930, at the famous cricket ground in Leeds in England, anAustralian named Donald Bradman came to bat in a test match between Australiaand England. He attacked everything opposing bowlers put within reach. Heslashed drives through the defense, he angled placements behind him to theboundary 225 feet away, he sent cricket balls soaring into the crowd. He scored100 runs before lunch, another 100 before tea and another 100 before the stumpswere pulled that evening, a triple century in one day. The next morning, stillswinging away, Brad-man went out quickly at 334.
Between the twoperformances—and each was magnificent in its way—Mohammad and Bradmandemonstrated what is worst and best about the game of cricket: the tedioushours of tactical patience, the spectacular and sustained skill. It isunfortunate that the dreary one has kept Americans from appreciating theexciting other.
For cricket is asuperb game. Its past stretches back into England's history for more than 500years, and it has been played in virtually its present form since 1744. Nothingso absurd as the game some Americans describe as cricket could possibly havesurvived as long as cricket has or retained its charm for so many thousands ofpeople across the face of the globe. It is not baseball—and no one shouldexpect it to be baseball—but cricket, too, is basically a duel between a manwith a bat and another man with a ball, and it is replete with many of the sameathletic skills. The trouble with cricket is that it is a sport peculiar to theBritish and, like practically all British peculiarities, it often isincomprehensible to others.
Cricket is aremnant of another day, another age, when men had more time to play. It wasborn in the lovely, rolling English countryside, among the great oak trees andthe meadows filled with browsing sheep; it grew to maturity on the villagegreen, where the squire would gather his people on a weekend, after the workwas done, and join them in this ritual that became a game. Cricket grows nolonger—it is, in fact, battling superhighways and television sets and yachtclubs for survival—and a great many Englishmen do not really like crickettoday. They prefer soccer. The demand for "brighter cricket" fills theEnglish newspapers, the music halls of London and the Houses of Parliament. Butthe cricket fan manages to ignore most of the complaints. England, to him, isdivided quite simply into two parts: those who love cricket and those who donot count. Let the latter shout.
Unlike soccer,which appeals almost entirely to what the English used to call the lowerclasses, cricket cuts across class lines. It is played by Welsh coal miners andEnglish factory workers as well as graduates of Cambridge and Oxford; it isplayed on school grounds and on the village green and at Lord's, where theMarylebone Cricket Club reigns as it has for 175 years, in dignity andsplendor, while maintaining an unceasing vigilance over everything that takesplace.
In England todaycricket is still everywhere. The immaculate white trousers and white shoes andwhite shirts and white cable-stitched, knee-length sweaters appear on a summerday by the hundreds of thousands upon every cricket ground in the land. Cricketclubs dot London and Manchester and Birmingham and the other bustling cities.There are the great intercounty matches—the big leagues of cricket—at Lord'sand Leeds and Old Trafford and the Oval, all the hallowed sites. And thissummer the touring test side from Australia is on hand as well, contestingEngland for the Ashes. The Commonwealth can crumble and the Common Market jollywell go hang when the Aussies are in town.
To appreciatecricket, an American must first understand it—which should not be so impossiblewhen one considers that 50 million English, 85 million Pakistanis, 15 millionSouth Africans, 10 million Australians, 3 million West Indians, 2 million NewZealanders and 400 million Indians seem to know what the game is all about. Thefirst thing an American should do is accept the fact that a great deal of whathis countrymen have written about cricket is true. In this way he can subduehis mirth early and concentrate on technique.
So there reallyis something called a googly and a position known as silly mid-off and anothercalled forward short leg. The game does appear sometimes to be played in slowmotion, and medical research has indeed established that a cricket fielderexpends more energy driving to his match than he does once he gets there.Players and fans alike suspend all activity abruptly at 4:15 p.m. to take tea;when a spectator misses tea, it is usually because he is taking a nap instead.No one argues with the umpires although occasionally a fan will get so excitedthat he claps. And because the game is inevitably bound up with strategy, itcan go on for hours and days and, as in the case of a test series, for weekswithout arriving at any definite conclusion. This is all part of cricket. Thosewho wish to see back-to-back home runs by Mantle and Maris, or Willie Mayssliding across home plate on the seat of his pants, should go elsewhere.
But if they do,they will miss some remarkable performances. For example, a good fast cricketbowler can deliver the ball, which is slightly smaller and harder than abaseball, and is painted red—probably so the blood won't show—at 90 miles anhour, as fast as Don Drysdale, and he can make it do strange and wondrousthings by bouncing it off the ground. The deliveries of a spin bowler, both foraccuracy and the gyrations produced, would earn the envy of Sal Maglie. Thebatsman, in order to stay alive, let alone score 100 runs in one time at bat,must possess the courage of a water buffalo, something of a water buffalo'shide and the reactions of a cat. Even the fielders, despite their sedentaryappearance, sometimes make catches, barehanded, that would amaze Maury Wills.And, the oft maligned strategy can be fascinating, too, as soon as one learnswhere to look.
Cricket is playedon a circular or oval field, roughly 150 yards in diameter (although a villagecricket ground may be of any size, like a baseball diamond in a vacant lot),between two teams, each consisting of 11 men. An innings—it is always plural incricket, apparently to confuse things—consists of 10 outs; there are twoinnings for each side, and then the match is over and the team that has scoredthe most runs wins. This seems simple enough. But cricket is played to a timelimit, usually 6 p.m. of the third day for a county match and 6 p.m. of thefifth day for a test match, and the game may not be complete when the deadlineis reached. In this case, regardless of which team has the most runs, the matchis a draw. This arbitrary time limit is perhaps the most absurd rule incricket, but it governs the game so inflexibly that it can become the primaryconsideration.
Suppose, forexample, that Lancashire is playing Yorkshire at Old Trafford. Lancashire winsthe toss and bats first. Lancashire scores 125 runs and is retired on theafternoon of the first day. Yorkshire scores 200 runs and is retired justbefore tea on the second day. Lancashire comes in for its second innings andgets hot; it scores at a frightful pace, reaches a total of 250 runs thatevening and 325 by lunch of the third day, still not out. Suddenly theLancashire captain screeches to a halt. "My goodness," he says. "Wemight score 1,000 runs, but that won't do us any good. Yorkshire will not getits second innings before the time limit is reached, and the match will be adraw." So the Lancashire captain declares his side out.
If he has actedwisely, Lancashire will have time before 6 p.m. to retire 10 Yorkshiremensomewhere short of the necessary 126 runs, and Lancashire will win. If he hasdeclared too soon, Yorkshire may outscore Lancashire in the time left, in whichcase red roses will wilt all over England, Margaret of Anjou will flip in hergrave and the Lancashire captain may be run out of Manchester on a rail. If hehas waited too long to declare, Yorkshire may not be able to catch up, butsimply by lasting until 6 p.m. without making 10 outs Yorkshire can earn adraw. To declare or not to declare, that is always the question in cricket.
There is also thematter of weather, of which there is a great deal in England. No cricket matchis ever postponed, or moved back a day or two, because of rain. Rain may haltplay temporarily or even wash it out altogether, but it never changes theschedule. The match is over at 6 p.m. of the third day even if the players havespent all the time in the pavilion watching Deborah Kerr on TV.
Rain alsodelights the bowler because it softens the bowling area, which is known aseither the pitch or the wicket (sticky wicket, you know), and the ball willbehave even more erratically than usual off such a surface. Upon winning thetoss, a team normally chooses to bat first, before the pitch is scarred andworn from all the activity; faced with a sticky wicket, however, it may electto send the other team in for first innings and hope for clearing skies and afast pitch by Saturday. This can get extremely involved; the best thing toremember is simply that in cricket, more than in almost any other sport, theweather is a great and constant consideration.
Most of theaction in cricket takes place in the center of the field where the two wickets,each consisting of three sticks stuck into the ground, stand 22 yards apart,which is about six feet more than the distance between a pitcher's mound andhome plate. From one wicket the bowler delivers the ball, taking a run firstand then sending it toward the opposite wicket with that sweeping, overhead,stiff-armed motion that is so unnatural to Americans—and English, too—but whichis a necessity in this case. If a cricket bowler were allowed to run and thencock his arm and throw as a baseball pitcher does, he would knock holes inevery batsman stupid enough to stand up there. He can do enough damage as itis. That is why cricket batsmen wear gloves and pads.
At the otherwicket stands the batsman, equipped with an object resembling a sawed-off canoepaddle, and it is his duty to protect his wicket from the ball and also to hitthe ball far enough to score runs. If the ball is bowled accurately and getspast him, it will dislodge the stumps, or at least the small pieces of woodcalled bails that rest atop them, and the batsman is bowled out.
He may also becaught out, as in baseball, if he hits the ball into the air—which cricketbatsmen try hard not to do—and he may be run out. This means that he hits theball and chooses to run for the other wicket, only to find that someone hasfielded the ball and thrown it there before he arrives. The fielder may eitherhit the wicket with his own throw or he may throw the ball to a teammate at thewicket, who reaches over and knocks off the bails.
Among severalother ways in which a cricket batsman may be retired, two are particularlyworth mentioning. He may be caught out of his crease, the whitewash line justin front of the wicket; while he is thus out of position the wicketkeeper (thecatcher, so to speak) can grab the ball and knock off the bails. This is calledbeing stumped. The most delightful way, however, is Leg Before Wicket. It isalways abbreviated l.b.w. on scorccards and happens often enough to keep thingsfrom getting too dull. If the bowler delivers a ball which, in the judgment ofthe umpire, would have hit the wicket, and the batsman stops it or deflects it,not with his bat but with his leg or body, he is out, Leg Before Wicket. Thisis the one occasion when, if there is a questionable play, cricket playersscream at the umpire. "Howzat?" the bowler and his fielders roar,leaping into the air. If the umpire, who wears a long white coat and looks likethe neighborhood butcher, rules in their favor, they clap and smile. If herefuses their appeal, they say nothing more.
We have beenspeaking of one batsman when, all along, there are actually two on the field atthe same time. While one bats, the other stands idly at the opposite wicket. Ifthe batsman hits a ball and decides to run, the other batsman runs, too. Theycross, and the batsman has scored a run if each reaches the opposite creasesafely. If the two batsmen can cross twice, safely, the batsman scores tworuns. Three crossings, three runs. If the ball goes all the way to the boundaryon the ground, it is good for an automatic four runs and the batsmen do nothave to run. This is called a boundary, and it is considered the finest of allcricket hits. If a batsman hits a ball all the way over the boundary in theair. he gets six runs and it is known as a six, though it looks like a homerun. However, since it is so easy to pop the ball into the air and be caughtout when trying for a six, there are relatively few of them hit in cricket,about as often as home runs were hit in baseball before Babe Ruth.
Strangely enough,cricket fans do not get very excited about a six, or any far-hit ball. InWisden's Cricketers' Almanack, which runs for more than 1,000 pages, only sevenlines are devoted to long hits. One item describes a record hit, delivered bythe Rev. W. Fellows while at practice on the Christ Church ground at Oxford in1856. The ball traveled 525 feet, a tape-measure job. The other occasion Wisdenconsiders worth mentioning concerns the famous bowler A. E. Trott, who one dayin 1899 drove a ball atop the pavilion roof at Lord's, where it knocked off achimney pot and awakened several members. They were probably putting a littlerabbit in the ball that year.
In the beginningthat is about all one needs to know about cricket, except for the over. Thereare two batsmen; there are also two bowlers. While one bowler bowls, the otherfields, which means he rests, more or less. One bowler delivers six balls fromhis end, then the ball goes to the other bowler at the other end for sixthrows. Each series of six is called an over, and if used in baseball it wouldallow Whitey Ford and Luis Arroyo to go through a game with each of thempitching part of each innings—sorry, inning. Perhaps it is just as well for theTigers that things remain as they are.
The best cricketis played by the international all-star teams—the test sides—and by the countyteams from whose ranks the test players are named. But a test match is notnecessarily the best place to go to learn cricket. The best place is thecountry, where cricket began.
The choice isunlimited, but maybe you have decided to drive out from Manchester on aSaturday afternoon, down the wrong side of the road, barely two Morris Minorswide, past the fences with their climbing roses, to the little town of Styal.You pass a few shops and a petrol station and an old man walking his dog whodirects you with his pipe to the cricket ground. As a matter of fact, he is onthe way there himself.
The cricketground is surrounded by everyday, familiar things: a road and a fence, a hedge,a meadow dotted with trees, and a church and a tavern side by side. It isamazing how many taverns adjoin cricket grounds in England. An ancient irongate droops invitingly open and you walk through, pleasantly aware that noticket taker is standing there holding out his hand. Suddenly you are inanother world.
It is peacefuland quiet and very, very lovely. A bird chirps in a tree. A dog sniffs. A childtoddles onto the field and is retrieved by his parents. A cyclist stops by towatch for a moment. The sun dances off the green grass, and the white-cladfigures move as if in a dream. The match is already under way, but sincenothing spectacular has happened—and perhaps never will—this is not important.Spectators come and go; only the unemployed ever watch a cricket match inEngland from beginning to end.
At one corner ofthe field there is a neat little clubhouse, where the players sit awaitingtheir turn at bat, and nearby is a scoreboard that tells how many runs havebeen made and how many wickets taken. The scoreboard does not tell which teamis at bat, however, so you ask the nearest Styal fielder who the opposition isthat day.
He leaves hisposition, as if it didn't matter anyway, and comes politely over. "I'm notreally sure," he says. "Whitchurch, I believe. I'll find out if youlike." You shake your head. If he doesn't care, why should you? You arebeginning to learn something about cricket.
As the afternoonprogresses, you learn more. Village cricket may consist of only one inningsapiece; or perhaps there will be 20 overs bowled by each side, and the teamthat scores the most runs wins.As a result there is little or no strategicstalling and shuffling and waiting around. The village batsman is up there toget his licks and have fun and if he makes out in one minute or five, whocares? Because of this, the bowlers are always ahead of the batsmen in thecountry, and the game progresses quickly. For cricket.
Your informant isonly 18 or 19, like half the players on the team—the other half seem to be 45(perhaps the 30-year-olds are all away playing against Yorkshire)—and you watchhim for a while. He makes one fine running stop; he drops a pop fly; eventuallythe captain calls him in to bowl and he takes two quick wickets to retire theside. "Well bowled," you murmur.
Time out for tea.Styal comes in for its innings. Your man bats third in the order. He blocks thefirst ball. He swings at the second and dribbles it off to the left, too closeto run. The next he deflects sharply, past gully to third man (you look in yourbook to see what the fielders' positions are called) and lights out for theother wicket. He scores, and you murmur, "Well run." The other batsmanis facing the bowler now, to complete the six balls of the over, and you talkto your neighbor, who is also sitting on the ground and chewing a blade ofgrass. Yes, crops were good this year. That church? Oh, back around 1284. In afew minutes your man is up again. He swings mightily and hits the first ball tothe boundary for a four. A bit overconfident now, he attempts to deflect awicked spinner to his leg side, misses and his wicket goes down. He grins andretires, through for the day.
"Wellbowled," you whisper, hoping that no one minds if you give one little cheerfor Whitchurch—or whoever the other side is that day. No one minds.
The game theyplay at Lord's is cricket, too, but the resemblance ends with that. Lord's,which was named after a man who owned the property and has nothing to do withnobility, is in London, 20 minutes by taxicab from Piccadilly Circus orTrafalgar Square. Home of the Marylebone (pronounced Mrrbn) Cricket Club,Lord's is the cradle of the game. They charge you four shillings, or 56¢, toget in there.
The famouspavilion, accessible only to members—and never to women—occupies one end.Grandstands and bleachers encircle the other sides. The crowds can be huge atLord's, for a county or a test match, and there was a time when they were justas mannerly as in the country. But in 1889, incensed at the extreme cautionwith which an Australian captain named Darling was batting, a section of thecrowd forgot itself and began to whistle The Dead March from Saul. "Thisunseemly demonstration," reported a London newspaper, "was happilywithout precedent at Lord's." No more. For one thing, Lord's has its HildaChester, too, right out of Ebbets Field. Her name is Yorkshire Annie, sheweighs approximately 20 stone, and she has a most stentorian voice. Foranother, Lord's has a pub located right on the grounds, between two sections ofthe grandstand, and in midafternoon, along about teatime, the barracking canget very loud over there.
The cricketplayed at Lord's is vastly superior in skill to that at Styal, though it losessomething in the way of atmosphere. The batsmen and the bowlers, you begin torealize, are artists.
Each of theduelists has advantages that soon become apparent to the baseball-trained eye.The bowler can deliver the ball at a number of different speeds. He can throwit very hard, so that it skips quickly past any batsman who lacks a sharp eyeand quick wrists. Because the cricket ball has a high, raised seam runningaround its middle, he can also make it bounce off that seam and kick abruptlyto either side.
He can make itcurve through the air by wrist action, as does a baseball pitcher—in cricketthis is called swerve bowling—and he can make it jump in either direction offthe ground by imparting more of the same kind of spin.
Then there areyorkers, which hit the ground virtually at a batsman's feet, and bumpers, whichare the cricket version of a bean ball. It was never considered necessary tolegalize against bumpers—not cricket, you know—until in 1932 the English testside on tour in Australia decided that the only way to get rid of Don Bradmanwas to resort to what they chose to call "the body-line attack." Sothey threw bumpers at Bradman until even that heroic figure began to standloose up there. The Australians threatened to break off relations, the Englishwere insulted that anyone should accuse them of unsportsmanlike conduct—andpointed out to the Aussies that cricket would die down under without theAshes—but eventually it was all patched up. The bumper is illegal now—whichdoesn't mean that it isn't used.
The batsman hashis defenses, too. For one thing, anything he hits in a 360° circle is in play,as if every foul tip and whistling foul line drive off Yogi Berra's bat had tobe captured by the other team. Because of the great area that the nine cricketfielders—exclusive of the bowler and wicketkeeper—must defend, there are a lotof-holes in which an adroit and skillful batsman may dump safe hits.
Since he does nothave to run unless he wants to, he can wait for the pitch, or rather the ball,he wants. The rest he simply blocks or bunts onto the ground if they threatenhis wicket. There is too much of this in first-class play and it is the primarycause of the long-drawn-out match. India and Pakistan, those bitter rivals,have played 12 successive draws in test matches. For political reasons, neitherside can bear the thought of defeat. The batsmen simply block and punch theirshots and never move until a run is a sure thing.
But anoutstanding batsman is nonetheless a marvel of style and grace, a mixture ofpower and poise. There have been hundreds of famous cricket bowlers, and theyare well known, just like the best American baseball pitchers, but, as inbaseball, it is not the man who throws the ball but the big hitter who becomesthe national hero. Where would baseball be without its Babe Ruths and Ty Cobbslighting up the years of the past? Cricket has its Ruths and Cobbs, too.
The name mostfamiliar to Americans, aside from Bradman, of course, is Len Hutton, theYorkshireman who became the first professional cricketer ever to captain anEnglish test side, and who did more to break up the absurd practice of separatedressing rooms for gentlemen (amateurs) and players (professionals) than anyoneelse. Occasionally a cricket scorecard in some hidebound bastion of the game,such as Lord's, will still show the initials of the amateurs ahead of theirnames and the initials of the pros after, but no longer do the two have toenter the field from separate doors.
Hutton has therecord for most runs in one innings of a test match, 364, against Australia atthe Oval in 1938. In his career, which lasted from 1934 until 1960, he scored129 centuries in first-class cricket, averaging 55 runs each time he came tobat. One season he averaged 68 runs. Len Hutton was a stylist, a beautifullycontrolled batsman with all the strokes.
There are manyothers, of course: Jack Hobbs, whose 197 centuries and 61,237 runs have neverbeen surpassed, and Denis Compton, a daring, unorthodox player who once scored300 runs in 181 minutes, an incredible pace; Compton had 122 centuries duringhis career and averaged 51 runs in test play. There are not so many greatplayers active today—there never are—but the English stylist Peter May, and hispartner, Colin Cowdrey, belong in this circle, as does the Australian NeilHarvey, who is also his country's best baseball player. The Australians havebeen hoping that young Norman O'Neill, who decided not to sign a baseballcontract with the New York Yankees three springs ago, will become a newBradman, but now they are beginning to wonder.
No one shouldreally expect another Bradman, the most amazing run-scoring machine the gamehas known. Playing once for New South Wales against Queensland in 1929, Bradmanscored 452 runs, not out (a batsman is "not out" if his side ends itsinnings for one reason or another before he himself has been put out). Hescored over 300 runs six times. Of his 117 centuries, 29 came in test matches,far more than anyone else has been able to produce, and his almost unbelievableaverage for test play is 99.94 runs an innings, almost 40 runs better than thenext best figure.
They have calledBradman the Babe Ruth of cricket. He was more like Ty Cobb. The Babe Ruth ofcricket was William Gilbert Grace. W.G.—and no one would think of calling himanything else, even today—was a giant of a man with a huge black beard. He wasborn near Bristol in 1848 and learned to play cricket in a peach orchard. Bythe time he was 18 he was an English hero; for 43 years thereafter he was Mr.Cricket, and he remains so today. By the time he quit, his beard was white andhe looked more like Santa Claus, with a huge belly and a booming laugh, but thevery name of Grace was enough to strike terror into opponents' hearts.
Like Ruth, heinjected personality into the game. He was cunning and loud and crowds came tosee him play. Like Ruth, he was magnificent with either ball or bat. Most ofhis batting records have been eclipsed now but he was supreme in his time andno one has ever surpassed his feat of scoring at least 1,000 runs in 28different seasons. He had 126 centuries when such batting was unheard of. His318, not out, in 1876 against Yorkshire is still a record for Gloucestershire,and in 1896, at the age of 48, he was able to score 301 runs against Sussex. Heonce scored 344 runs for the Marylebone Cricket Club against Kent, and at theM.C.C. they will always consider W.G. next to God.
As a bowler Gracetook 2,876 wickets, the seventh highest of all time, and among fielders hestill ranks second, with 871 catches.
Strangely enough,Grace was a member of the first English team to lose a test match to Australiaon English soil. This was in 1882, and it was a disastrous defeat. Onespectator dropped dead, another chewed the handle off his umbrella, and theSporting Times reflected the feelings of all Englishmen by printing anobituary:
which died at the Oval on
29th August 1882,
deeply lamented by a large circle
of sorrowing friends and
N.B.—The bodywill be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.
There never wereany ashes, really, although some Melbourne ladies later burned a bail,collected the ashes in a small urn and presented them to the next visitingEnglish captain. The urn never travels back and forth between the twocountries, however; it rests in the museum at Lord's.
England andAustralia play for the Ashes on an irregular schedule that would be everyfourth year in each country if it weren't complicated by the Australian summerthat occurs in the middle of winter. So each nation ends up host once everythree or five years. In between, they play test matches with India, Pakistan,South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies, and although the last named, inparticular, is playing tremendous cricket these days, somehow it never seems soimportant. In the West Indies spectators sometimes fall out of trees—which isnot at all like Lord's.
The 1961 testmatches began in England in early June with Australia favored. The Aussies hadno fast bowlers to compare with the famed Brian Statham or Fiery FreddieTrueman, the uninhibited Yorkshireman who can throw a cricket ball through abattleship, and only Neil Harvey among the Australian batsmen seemed to be inthe class of Peter May and Cowdrey. But the Australians were a better team;they had good strength right down the order, while England was lacking, oncepast its top men.
England went outon the first day at Edgbaston, in Birmingham, after only 195 runs. BeforeAustralia was retired, Harvey had scored 114, his 20th test century. O'Neillhad scored 82 and the side totaled 516 for nine wickets, declared. It was thehighest test score since 1934, and a London headline said: NOW ENGLAND NEEDS ADUNKIRK. So the English came up with another Dunkirk, aided by a day's rain,and earned a draw. Raman Subba Row scored 112 and Ted Dexter 180, and Englandhad 401 runs in its second innings for a total of 596—and Australia never had achance to bat.
The second testwas at Lord's, and a terrible thing happened: a ridge developed in the pitch,right in front of one wicket, and surveyors later discovered that the cricketground sloped two inches from north to south. "By gad, sir," said theDaily Express, "Lord's is full of bumps." No one could buy a hit(O'Neill went out for one run and then a duck—no runs—in his two innings)except for one of the least considered Aussies, Bill Lawry, who stayed in for130 and gave the visitors all the edge required.
In the thirdtest, in Leeds, it appeared that England would lose again. May was hurt andCowdrey aching. But then Freddie Trueman took five Australian wickets for just16 runs. He had his stuff that day. Now the series was tied.
But Australia,which had won the Ashes in the last test, down under in the winter of 1958-59,hung on grimly. The first day of the fourth test, at Old Trafford, was all butrained out (there have been a total of 100 test hours rained out in Manchestersince World War II) and the English always seem to operate better on a stickywicket—which is hardly surprising since it is their climate. Peter May showedhis skill by scoring 95 runs, and England, after her first innings, was in avery strong position. But things can change quickly—perhaps surprisingly is abetter word—in cricket. Alan Davidson, the handsome Australian all-rounder whohas been better known for his left-handed seam bowling than his bat, went on arampage. He slugged England's David Allen for two sixes and two fours in justone over and scored 77 runs, not out. It was the spark Australia needed; therun total climbed to 432 and the English found themselves faced with thevirtually impossible task of scoring 256 runs after lunch on the fifth day towin. They couldn't make it.
The victoryinsured Australia of at least a tie in the test matches, no matter what Englanddid in the fifth and final match, which was played this week at the Oval inKennington. It meant that Australia would continue in possession of the Ashes,in spirit if not in fact, for another two years, since the Ashes remain withthe country that had them whenever there is a draw.
Windsor Castlewill stand, of course, and there will always be an England and all that. ButEngland is not the same without the Ashes. Even if she does keep them locked upat Lord's.
SHORT FINE LEG