England v Australia
The Oval, Kennington: 24th – 28th July 1976
Rachael Heyhoe Flint proved that the coin toss belonged to her and her alone as she won it for the third time in a row for England. She chose to bat.
Raelee Thompson broke through early removing Enid Bakewell for 1, then Sharon Tredrea picked up the prize wicket of Heyhoe Flint for 12. While Lynne Thomas (73) held firm at the top, the wickets fell around her. Australian captain Anne Gordon rang the bowling changes brilliantly and kept up an attacking field throughout. Once Karen Price removed Thomas it sparked a mini collapse. England were bundled out for 134.
“Team was pumped up to field first, got our wish, and both bowlers and fielders made it happen to dismiss them for 134 – aggressive field placings.” – Sharon Tredrea
Lorraine Hill and Marg Jennings opened solidly for Australia, putting on 92 for the first wicket, when Jennings fell for 43. Hill was out without further addition to the score, for 49. Jan Tredrea and Jan Lumsden took the Australian total past the England score when the former was out for 35, at 3/166. The Australians lost Gordon for 16 and Wendy Hills for 28, but Sharon Tredrea came in and assisted Lumsden who was on her way to a fine century, scoring 123. Finally Australia was all out for 379, a whopping 245 ahead of England. If Australia could perform with the ball as well as they did in the first innings, the Test would be won and the Ashes going Downunder.
Heyhoe Flint changed the batting order slightly, with Thomas opening with Chris Watmough. They began steadily before Thomas fell when the score was 36. Regular opener Enid Bakewell came in at three and batted carefully with Watmough before the stand-in opener fell at 66. Ten runs later Bakewell was out for 14 leaving the hosts 3/76. Marie Lutschini had two wickets and things were rolling in Australia’s favour. Then disaster struck. Raelee Thompson dropped Heyhoe-Flint and in the process broke her thumb.
“Thompson in trying to field a catch in slips off Heyhoe-Flint from the bowling of Tredrea broke her thumb and had to leave the field and did not return. It upset me and the rest of the team – to be without our star bowler and we had to quickly access the situation and re-group. This we did, and full credit must be given to Sharon Tredrea as the burden of the pace bowling now fell on her shoulders.” – Anne Gordon
Captain Heyhoe Flint was all that stood between the Australians and victory, but she lost June Moorhouse, runout for 9 when the score was 116. Then a stubborn Megan Lear joined her captain and the two of them batted England to safety. In an innings that spanned 521 minutes, Rachael Heyhoe Flint scored 179 to save her team in what must be one of the great captain’s knocks of all time.
“Rachael’s innings was a gem and she defended valiantly and when needed hit hard at anything short or bounced high on the wicket. Her gallant effort came to an end towards the end of the match but she had done her job and saved England. We had our chances – we didn’t take them and the saying ‘Catches win matches’ was certainly true.” – Anne Gordon
One of the bowlers on the receiving end, Sharon Tredrea, describes Rachael’s batting: “The person I would most liken her batting style is Steven Smith, unorthodox, attacking, all shots in the book, put a heavy price on her wicket (and an excellent fielder). Yes she gave us chances during that innings. Her innings was one of only a handful I can remember by opposition players in my career. It was astounding.”
Lear batted 191 minutes for her 39 in a gritty supporting role. It must be said that Heyhoe Flint was dropped three times, one of those the dropped catch in the slips that took out fast bowler Raelee Thompson, but every marathon innings has the drama of a dropped catch, a close LBW call or a missed runout. It was the epitome of a captain’s innings. England were all out for 326 and with no time for Australia to bat a second time, this epic encounter drew to a close with no result and saw the series level at 0-0. For both teams, boasting outstanding players on both sides, perhaps it was a fitting result. Both captains tried to squeeze out, to manipulate a result, but time was the real enemy.
On Rachael Heyhoe Flint’s captaincy, Gordon is generous with her appraisal.
“She was inspirational and would not ask anyone to do anything she wouldn’t do. She was a good organizer, stood by her team and believed in them and they knew it. She had a terrific sense of humour, could be a rebel at times, but always put her team first. They would do anything for her and they knew she would do it for them. She had exceptional leadership qualities that seemed to sit naturally with her and it never seemed to bother her.”
England 134 (Thomas 73, Price 3/6, Thompson 3/31, S. Tredrea 2/31) and 326 (Heyhoe-Flint 179, Lear 39, Lutschini 3/70, Price 2/49 ) drew with Australia 379 (Lumsden 123, S. Tredrea 63)