Australia v England
St Kilda Cricket Ground, Melbourne: 21st – 24th February 1958
After the Sydney Test was a complete washout, rain was lurking about in Melbourne and the entire first day was washed out. Four days into this Test series – ten years after England last played in Australia – were obliterated by rain!
Happily, on the second day, 2500 spectators enjoyed a break from the weather and a return to Test cricket. The ground was virtually water-logged and when Mary Duggan won the toss, there was no way she was batting. She sent the Australians in. It was the only choice to make.
The ball turned savagely. Mary Allitt was out when the score was just 1 and it went downhill from there. Nell Massey went for 4, Ruth Dow for 5 and the captain Una Paisley for 1. Mary Duggan was exploiting the conditions to perfection, both with her captaincy and her bowling. The Aussies fell like nine pins and the top scorer was Betty Wilson with 12, all out for a record breaking, humiliating 38. After all the years in the wilderness for the Aussie Test team, in front of a home town crowd they were crushed. Duggan was superb, taking more wickets than runs conceded, 7 wickets for 6 runs from 14.5 overs.
However, the wicket was proving just as difficult to navigate for England.
“We were all out for 38. The poms were killing themselves laughing. They went into bat, and then we started to laugh… because where Mary Duggan’s leg breaks were going through us, my off breaks were going through them.” – Betty Wilson
The accomplished Cecilia Robinson fell for 1, caught behind by Nell Massey to Eileen Massey. Shirley Driscoll and Joan Wilkinson soon followed, taken out by Joyce Christ. Una then tossed the ball to her Victorian team mate Betty. The rest is history. Wilson was devastating. She cleaned up Betty Birch, Hazel Sanders and Polly Marshall and then top scorer, the captain Duggan, for the same score Wilson made, 12.
England still kept plugging away on what was clearly a difficult wicket, and at 7/35 were still a chance to overtake the Australian total and then add some more. Wilson had other ideas.
“(Barker) came in and misread an off break and that bowled her, so that was one down still three runs to go. (Joan) Hawes came in, looking for an off break. She had a mighty swipe at this thing, and took a half step out of the wicket to do it, but she didn’t get an off break, she got a leg break, so the ball wasn’t anywhere near where she expected. She missed it and was stumped… two wickets out, still three runs to get. In came Macfarlane, the fast bowler and it was just a simple straight ball, nothing on it whatsoever. She was waiting on it to turn… hit her on the pads, dead in front, the third one was out.”
Not only had Australia returned the favour by humiliating England for 35, three runs short of the home team’s first innings, but something else happened.
“We were halfway off the ground, you see, we were killing ourselves laughing, we were out for 38 and they were out for 35 and then somebody said to me, ‘hey Betty, you got a hat trick!’ So I did! I burst out howling. I cried.”
On that same wicket, Australia had to bat again, with their precious three run advantage, but they were soon in trouble with Allitt, Massey, Dow and Paisley out by the time they had reached 30. Enter Wilson, the master of the counter attack. Her even 100 was a masterclass, supported by cameos from Batty, Christ and Dalton, and helped Australia to 202. She drove with authority. She pulled, she hooked, she cut. When no other player from either side could find the middle of the bat, Betty Wilson blasted the most amazing century yet played in Test cricket. Little wonder in years to come this Test match would be labelled “Wilson’s Test”.
England, set 205 to win, were never in the race. Bamboozled by Wilson who was supported by Ruth Dow’s leg breaks, they were lucky to scramble to stumps on the final day, holding Australia and the rain at bay, 8/76. It was a brave performance by the England tail enders to hold Australia out, but all eyes of the cricketing world were on Betty Wilson. She took a hat trick, took ten wickets for the match and scored a century. The first player of either gender in the history of cricket to take a hat trick and score a century in a Test. It was Wilson’s Test alright.
Australia 38 (Wilson 12, Duggan 7-6) and 9 dec 202 (Wilson 100, Hawes 3-32, Barker 3-58) drew with England 35 (Duggan 12, Wilson 7-7, Christ 2-11) and 8/76 (Driscoll 24, Wilson 4-9, Dow 4-21)