In this series, Arunabha Sengupta relates the tale of the Victory Tests played between England and the Australian Services as a celebration of the end of World War II……
Once the players reassembled on the Monday following Sunday’s rest, it was drama from the start.
Wally Hammond was not in the middle. The lumbago, which had ‘pursued me like a remorseless shadow through half my cricket career’, acted up again. He lay in his bed, with hot towels and hot water bottles for company.
On the field, the mantle of leadership was taken over by young Billy Griffith. The newly appointed captain and secretary of Sussex, he marshalled his troops from behind the stumps as Dick Whitington and James Workman began the Australian Services innings.
From the pavilion end, it was Bill Edrich who ran in. All enthusiasm, resulting in appreciable pace if we look through the window of immediate post-War Britain. A dramatic sight as he hurled himself at the bowling crease as if he had a ‘personal grievance against it’. But not much else.
11 came off the first over as Edrich continued to ‘sling them down’. An Australian spectator encouraged Griffith to put Edrich on from the Nursery end as well.
That was not to be. Dick Pollard was far more reliable. And Doug Wright came on early in the day, flighting the ball into the blustery wind, beating the tentative bat of Workman.
After playing and missing several times, Workman reached out, and managed to edge Wright to slip where Edrich, far more at home than at the bowling crease, held the catch.
Two balls later, at the other end, Pollard sent Whitington’s stumps on a stroll. 29 for 2, and suddenly England’s Hutton-powered 254 looked formidable indeed.
The next 20 odd minutes saw skipper Lindsay Hassett trying to keep the scoreboard moving as Albert Cheetham fished and floundered against Pollard.
At the stroke of the hour, Pollard came off. William Roberts replaced him with his slow left-arm offerings. The third ball was tossed up. Cheetham stretched forward, missed the line, and was bowled for 5.
At 50 for 3, Keith Miller walked in and was dropped by Pollard off Wright. So disgusted was the Lancashire paceman that he threw the ball away, enabling the batsmen to run a few overthrows.
Pollard made amends though. He came back after a brief breather, replacing Roberts, and castled Miller for 7.
Cec Pepper came in at 71 for 4. The first delivery he faced was a no-ball. And off the last ball of the over Pollard had Pepper plumb in front of the wicket. 72 for 5.
Hassett and Keith Carmody battled their way to 96 at lunch. The advantage was with England.
Edrich was back for another exciting, hilarious spell after the break. But it was Wright who sent down the serious stuff. Hassett was missed at 27, and then again at 47 off a straight lofted stroke. In trying to catch it, Cyril Washbrook damaged his right thumb. With the 12th man already in for Hammond, the opening batsman stood there gingerly, trying to nurse his thumb back to fitness.
The Australian resistance was spirited, but limited. Carmody, on 32, tried to hit his way out of trouble. The skier off Pollard was held by the young Luke White at mid on. The persevering medium pacer accounted for Hassett as well, when the captain’s two hour vigil was ended at 68 with a ball that struck his pads in front of the wicket.
It was when Bob Cristofani and Stan Sismey were engineering a fightback that teenaged leg-spinning allrounder Donald Carr got his first bowl. The score was 171 for 7. Sismey, stonewalling with resolve, patted a maiden.
But the young leggie got in only three overs. Roberts claimed Cristofani as he tried a heave. That led Griffith to give Pollard another stint with the ball, and the paceman induced a snick off Sismey. Graham Williams was all at sea against Wright.
Australian Servicemen were all out for 194, thus conceding a lead of 60. Pollard had taken 6 for 75.
However, England had a problem. Hammond was ill, Washbrook had a sore thumb. And then there were the three teenaged debutants.
Of these three, John Dewes was sent in to open with Hutton. And he had to face the fierce pace of Miller, at last, taken seriously enough to be given the new ball. The charismatic Australian came off his full run and generated terrifying speed.
Hutton got a single off the fourth delivery. Off the sixth, Dewes played back to a real fast one and lost his leg-stump.
In walked Edrich, and under the circumstances the two major English batsmen were now at the crease.
Hutton was unhurried, classy, untroubled. Edrich far less assured, but full of spirited resistance. Runs came thick and fast, the lead grew formidable.
105 were added in 106 minutes before Edrich missed one from Miller with just 20 minutes remaining in the day. The entertaining cricketer walked back for 58.
In walked Griffith, boldly as a night-watchman. The leg breaks of Cristofani were too devious for him, and the makeshift skipper lasted just four balls. And as he walked back, Pollard strode out as the second-night watchman.
Hutton and Pollard played out time, the former remaining unbeaten on 49. England’s lead was 178 and, although uncertainty remained over the fitness of Hammond and Washbrook, they held the upper hand.
312 runs, 13 wickets, some excellent pace and spin and a superb display of batsmanship from Hassett and Hutton. It had been a thrilling day’s play.