First Test Match


Geoffrey Wheeler

At Lord's, July 24, 25, 26, 28. England won by 230 runs. There were times, early in the match, when New Zealand must have had high hopes of recording their first Test victory over England. However, their batsmen were unable to cope with the bowling of Underwood on a curious, mottled pitch which gave the Kent left-hander enough assistance to rout batsmen never certain how to tackle him.

Underwood finished with eleven wickets for 70--seven for 32 in the second innings when Turner became the first New Zealand opener and the youngest batsman in Test history to carry his bat through an innings.

To make room for Fletcher, England left out Hampshire, whose century at Lord's a month previously had saved England from a first-innings collapse against the West Indies. Snow, the leading wicket-taker in the first series of the summer, was rested to give Ward of Derbyshire what proved to be an auspicious Test baptism. The tourists also played a fast bowler new to Test cricket in Hadlee, whose father Walter captained the 1949 team. Young Hadlee had the distinction of playing Test cricket before appearing for his district side. Another youngster, Wadsworth, kept wicket in place of Milburn, because of his greater potential as a batsman.

Dowling lost the toss but had no reason for regret as by lunch on the first day his men had captured five England wickets for 63. Boycott was dismissed without a run on the board, caught in the slips off a good ball from Motz. Hadlee showed a fine high action, but bowled too many short ones on a humid morning when the ball demanded to be kept up to the bat. Motz and Taylor knew better and gave the batsmen little respite. When Hadlee returned for his second spell he leapt high to his left to pull down, one-handed, a return catch from Knott which only a superbly fit athlete could have reached. That England managed to make 190 was due to level-headed batting by d'Oliveira, Illingworth and Knight, the captain again playing some delightful off-side strokes. He was the only batsman to pass 50.

Ward, whose pace far surpassed that of Brown, soon made his mark on the second morning by having Turner caught behind. New Zealand, beginning at five for no wicket, reached 71 for one by lunch with Dowling and Congdon going reasonably well, although Congdon's insistence on attacking Underwood with the sweep always looked like inviting disaster. Instead, Ward had Congdon caught shortly after the interval. Soon Underwood and Illingworth joined forces and the New Zealand innings disintegrated before some highly professional spin bowling. So England held an unexpected lead of 21.

England's second innings total of 340 left the tourists with little hope. It was built round Edrich whose innings of 115, his seventh Test century, was acclaimed by a good Saturday crowd of 17,000 who had to endure some painful early batting from Boycott. With two successive failures behind him, the Yorkshireman was understandably cautious on Friday evening, but on Saturday he overdid it. He made only 15 in his first two hours at the crease and in all batted three and a half hours for 47. After a restrained start, Edrich played with more freedom and dominated partnerships of 125 with Boycott and 74 with Sharpe. He hit eighteen 4's while batting just under five hours. England passed 200 with only two wickets down, but splendid left-arm slow bowling by Howarth, the most impressive of the three New Zealand newcomers, prevented the middle order batsmen from scoring as quickly as Illingworth must have wished. Taylor put in a timely and hostile spell of three for 19, so that after Sharpe's dismissal for 46 (eight 4's) only Knight was successful in attacking the bowling. He and Ward added 39 on Monday morning before the tourists set off on what was to prove a forlorn task.

While Turner held one end firm with an impressive show of defensive technique, Underwood swept through at the other. Making the odd ball lift as well as turn, his figures at one stage were six for 14. He was not checked until Motz joined Turner at 73 for seven. The tail-enders showed that Underwood was not in fact unplayable and England took nearly two hours to dispose of the last three wickets. Ward had to be called up to finish the innings.

Turner batted for four and a quarter hours without making a discernible error, but he received only 79 out of 186 balls delivered by Underwood. Had he been able to shield his partners more effectively, or had some of the specialist batsmen fought harder, New Zealand could well have saved the game. Rain fell throughout Tuesday and no play would have been possible had the match needed a fifth day. After the game Dowling was critical of the pitch, and may other people agreed that its hard and to some degree rough surface made it unpleasant for batting.


© John Wisden & Co