England v Australia
North Marine Road, Scarborough: 16th – 19th June 1951
Aside from Myrtle Maclagan, Cecilia Robinson, Mary Duggan and Joan Wilkinson who were well known to the Australians, there was a large mix of new blood, with England fielding five debutants.
There was enormous publicity for the match and the clack, clack of cameras greeted Myrtle Maclagan and Mollie Dive as they made their way to the middle at Scarborough for the coin toss.
The warm June summer sun was punctuated by a cool breeze, a perfect day for cricket. Maclagan won the toss and elected to bat and shortly after the Australians took to the field, Maclagan marched to the crease to open the batting with Robinson.
The quick bowlers, Mavis Jones and Norma Whiteman, were hostile but erratic and the England openers settled in steadily after weathering the early storm and went to lunch at 0/76. Mollie Dive would have none of that. After the break she changed bowlers, changed field settings, changed angles. She stifled the run scoring opportunities. Finally a breakthrough. Maclagan misjudged one of Amy Hudson’s legreaks and holed out in the deep where Joan Schmidt took the catch. Schmidt doesn’t drop catches.
Newcomer to Test cricket, Winnie Leech, stayed with Robinson while Dive continued to pile on the pressure. Hudson, Craddock, Paisley, Wilson. The probing spin quartet of Australia tested the very mettle of the debutant and Robinson, before finally Myrtle Craddock picked up the youngster LBW for 15. 2/136. That opened the door for Una Paisley to account for Mary Duggan and Joan Wilkinson in quick succession, before Hazel Sanders dug in with Robinson for a 70 run partnership.
Where the scoring had been slow, Sanders picked up the run rate, scampering between the wickets, lofting when necessary. Stuck on 97 for an interminable period, finally a loose ball from Betty Wilson, a full toss which Robinson belted for three. It was indeed a most important innings and her composure over four hours was impeccable. It took a diving one handed catch from Una Paisley at square leg to remove her, finally out for 105, having seen England to safety. Underlining the importance of Robinson’s innings was the fact that it all fell apart after she left. A lethal throw from Betty Wilson ran out Sanders for 53, the rest just folded and England were all out for 283. It was slow going but they were stymied by Mollie Dive’s field placings and the commitment in the field by her team mates.
Just as the Aussie bowlers opened with aggression and hostility, so too Mary Duggan and Joan Wilkinson. Joan Schmidt was out fourth ball to Duggan, having earlier snicked over slips for four, before Amy Hudson joined the debutant Mary Allitt. As with the England innings, the going was tough, Maclagan turning the screws on the Aussies much the same way Mollie Dive had done to the English. It was an arm wrestle, with both captains seemingly pulling levers furiously to tilt the favour to their team’s advantage.
As the scoring began to increase, Allitt fell to Duggan for 30, before the bowler also fell – to injury. Una Paisley came and went for just 2, before Val Batty and Hudson were again pinned down by the accuracy of the bowling and the willingness in the field.
Eventually Batty fell to Maclagan with Hudson following, also to Maclagan. The spinner was haunting the Aussie batters just as she had in 1934/35. Bloody Myrtle! She got Mollie Dive for a duck and Lorna Larter for 5.
Australia were struggling at 7/176 but they still had one ace left at the crease: Betty Wilson. She provided a masterclass as she aggressively mounted a counter attack, all the while farming the strike. Wilson was the tenth wicket to fall, for 81, made in 87 minutes. After the slow scoring from all other players so far in the match, it was an enthralling and commanding innings. Australia fell short with 248, but with Wilson in the team, anything could happen.
Intermittent rain on the second day had halted Australia’s progress and by the time England started their second innings, it was already day three. They looked for quick runs, but that brought quick wickets too, and it forced Maclagan’s hand in terms of a declaration at 8/178. In the end she gave Australia 120 minutes to score 214 for victory. Australia never looked like scoring that many runs in two hours and the game meandered gently to a draw, with the Aussies 2/111 at stumps to leave the first Test drawn.
England 283 (Robinson 105, Maclagan 56, Sanders 53, Hudson 2/21) and 8 dec 178 drew with Australia 248 (Wilson 81, Hudson 70, Maclagan 5/43) and 2/111