Second Test 1951

England v Australia

County Ground, Worcester: 30th June – 3rd July 1951

The conditions were ideal for batting as the second Test in this absorbing series got underway. At Worcester, under sunlit skies and in front of a crowd of some 5,000 spectators, Myrtle Maclagan won the toss for England and chose to bat.

The umpires for the match, Florence Freestone and wicket keeping superstar, Betty Snowball. Snowball has gone from Test wicket keeper to Test umpire inside two years. Naturally her keen eye from behind the stumps would be just as sharp at the bowlers end.

Maclagan and Cecilia Robinson commence just as they had done at Scarborough: slowly. It looks as though it’s going to be a long day in the field when Maclagan edges Norma Whiteman and is caught behind by Lorna Larter. The big gun is out, England 1/10.

At 29, Winnie Leech is runout and more bad news at 46 when the first Test centurion, Robinson, is felled by Myrtle Craddock’s left arm Chinamans for 15. It gets worse: Betty Wilson comes on. She removes Duggan, Wilkinson and Spry and the English innings is in tatters. A brief cameo by Hazel Sanders before a rear guard counter attack by Barbara Murrey are the only bright lights in England’s total of 158. The wickets are shared amongst the Australian bowlers who are rewarded for their tight lines, backed up by energetic fielders.

But it wasn’t all going Australia’s way. Just before tea, Mary Allitt falls LBW to Mary Duggan and the visitors are 1/3. After tea the clouds started to roll in and the depressing sky was the perfect backdrop to the tension in the middle. Amy Hudson fell LBW to Dorothy McEvoy for 10 and the out of form Mollie Dive went for a duck. Una Paisley went soon after for 8. Joan Schmidt, the bookkeeper from Melbourne who was a brilliant fundraiser for the tour was raising runs instead of money, and the elegant stroke maker was not out 37 at stumps, with ‘keeper Larter, the Aussies precariously placed at 4/65.

The rest day on Sunday turned the weather around and play resumed under more pleasant skies on the Monday, but the wicket had other ideas. 4/65 became 5/65 as Larter added nothing to her overnight score. It brought Wilson to the crease and together with Schmidt she steadied the ship before the opener fell victim to Duggan, also LBW. Three ducks in the lower order meant that no-one was able to stay with Wilson, who ended with 41 not out. This time she was just unable to farm the strike and Australia were all out for just 120, a deficit of 38 runs. Precious runs that England would extend as they took to the crease for the second innings.

The wicket was clearly playing tricks, with balls misbehaving off the pitch and one suspects many that simply kept low. The number of dismissals either bowled or LBW would suggest as much and England had more difficulty in the second innings than they had in the first. In fact, just as much as Australia, for they were bowled out for the same score, 120. It was the tail ender, Barbara Murrey, who top scored again, this time with 34. The England top order was in ruins, inflicted mainly by Wilson (4-42) and Whiteman (3-34).

As joyous as it was dismissing England on this difficult wicket, it set Australia the extremely difficult task of chasing 159 for victory. A tough order to make the highest innings total for the match in the fourth innings. The Aussies got off to a slow and steady start, before Allitt was caught and bowled Maclagan for 13, making it 1/29.

Wilson was promoted to bat at three and everything always seems better when Betty is at the crease and so it appears this time, but she loses Schmidt for a dogged 27, before Amy Hudson fell LBW to Leech for a duck. At stumps Australia was 3/59, with Wilson not out 19, needing exactly 100 to win on the final day, with a pitch deteriorating fast.

Mollie Dive joined Wilson on the final morning and steadily they went out to set the course for victory, but no-one told Myrtle Maclagan. Ever scheming, she switched Mary Duggan to bowl from the opposite end and it paid immediate dividends, getting the prize wicket of Wilson for 35. A double blow. Dive fell soon after for 33 and Australia were 5/97. Then Paisley for 1 and Larter for 3 and so Australia was 7/124. That became 8/131 when Val Batty was bowled by Duggan.

Now the only thing that came between England and victory were the tail who’d scored 5 runs between them in the first innings. 159 seemed a mile away, but where there is life there is hope and the two tail-enders clung on for dear life, with England needing just two wickets on this hell-hole of a pitch and the Australians needing another 28 runs for an unlikely victory.

The ball spitting from the pitch, Maclagan changing bowlers, changing ends, changing fields. Norma Whiteman and Myrtle Craddock barely keeping the force at bay, but occasionally there was a single, and then a two. An edge here and a snick there and the Aussies started moving closer to the score.

Not a fingernail existed on the ground that wasn’t chewed by its owner. Whiteman started growing in confidence while Craddock clung on for dear life before taking an almighty swipe when the score was 8/158. The ball cleared the field and the Aussies had won a miraculous rearguard victory.

Whiteman with 25 not out played the innings of her life, with Craddock somehow keeping them out at the other end scoring 6 precious runs as the Aussies won by 2 wickets. The two tail-enders were heroines, guiding Australia to victory when all hope seemed lost and better batters from both teams on this wicket had failed.

It was a classic, tense cricket match, fought by two keenly matched teams. Both sides had players who produced key roles. Murrey’s two innings of 39 and 34, Wilson’s 41 not out and 7 wickets for the match, the accurate wicket to wicket bowling of Duggan with 9 wickets, the two captains, constantly rearranging their resources, milking every last ounce of effort from bowlers and fielders alike. It was a Test that surely did not deserve a loser.

By winning the Test, Mollie Dive and her Australian team had retained the Ashes they had won in 1948/49.

England 158 (Murrey 39*, Wilson 3/40, Craddock 2/24) and 120 (Murrey 34, Wilson 4/42, Whiteman 3/34) lost to Australia 120 (Schmidt 42, Wilson 41, Duggan 5/40) and 8/160 (Wilson 35, Dive 33, Duggan 4/67) by two wickets