First Test Match



At Birmingham, June 5, 6, 7, 9. England won by 205 runs at twelve minutes to three on Monday with more than a day to spare. New Zealand took the honours on the first day when MacGibbon, by splendidly controlled seam bowling, took five wickets for 64 runs and was mainly responsible for England being dismissed for 221 on a green pitch.

England possessed two class batsmen in May and Cowdrey whose first innings partnership of 121 was the most vital factor of a low-scoring match, and also had an opening batsman with the right temperament for the big match in Richardson, but none of the New Zealand batsmen was quite equal to the occasion. Throughout, the pitch and heavy atmosphere encouraged swing and Trueman, Bailey and Loader always looked masters of the situation. For once, England's fielding fell below the standard attained in recent years under Hutton and May; several close to the wicket chances were missed on Saturday after New Zealand had followed on, but some very fine catches were taken by Trueman, Cowdrey, Bailey and Smith.

The less experienced New Zealanders acquitted themselves well in both bowling and fielding. Petrie, the wicket-keeper, left little room for error by standing back, even to Reid, and he held six catches. The touring team introduced three men new to Test cricket in D'Arcy, Playle and Meale; England had one new man in M. J. K. Smith, the Warwickshire captain, who replaced the Rev. D. S. Sheppard, compared with the team which faced West Indies at The Oval in 1957.

After May had won the toss, England gave a disappointing display. Seven batsmen made only 19 runs. Hayes opened with a maiden over to Richardson and then MacGibbon sent his first ball for four wides down the leg side, but his fourth delivery moved in slightly, getting Smith leg before. An almost similar ball trapped Richardson and when Graveney, trying to hook, presented an easy catch to square leg, three England wickets were down in forty minutes for 29 runs.

This was a great start by New Zealand, but just as May and Cowdrey foiled West Indies on this ground twelve months earlier with a record English stand of 411, so they proceeded to place this innings on a firm basis. Cowdrey might have gone when he was six for he edged Cave between Petrie and Reid at slip, but after that escape Cowdrey proved as safe as May and in two and a half hours they raised the total to 150 before May, shaping to drive, touched an out-swinger to Petrie. Very sure with his on-side strokes May hit twelve 4's.

New Zealand found an ideal combination in Alabaster (leg-breaks) and MacGibbon, and between them they were responsible for the last six wickets falling in just over an hour for 71. Cowdrey, eighth out, excelled in driving. He hit ten 4's. Finally Laker hooked Alabaster for 6, he and Loader putting on 30 for the last wicket.

Just under two hours remained at the end of the day when New Zealand went in to bat, and though the tall left-handed Miller took seven off Trueman from two strokes he was soon leg-before to a ball that kept low. May gave Loader only three overs before he called on Bailey who in his first over produced a perfect outswinger which proved too much for Harford. Reid, the captain, defended resolutely, as did D'Arcy, but after staying fifty minutes Reid, trying to force Bailey past cover, edged an inswinger into his middle stump. With Playle and D'Arcy content to add only two in the last half hour, New Zealand were 41 for three wickets at the close--which was for them a most satisfactory day's cricket.

The next morning Trueman was at his best. Instead of relying on sheer pace, he made use of the seam, varying his swing, and he used his fastest ball judiciously. In two hours before lunch England captured six more wickets for the addition of 32, Trueman's share being four for seven. D'Arcy, fourth to leave, had resisted for two and a quarter hours, and Playle, who offered no stroke to a break-back, occupied seventy minutes over four. Only some sound play by Cave and Hayes, who in the best stand of the innings put on 26 for the last wicket, saved New Zealand from the possibility of having to follow-on.

England held a lead of 127 and against more good bowling they could score only 40 in eighty-five minutes before tea for the loss of Smith who, although staying nearly an hour, never became master of the situation. Richardson, if he did not look safe, progressed slowly, but he saw Graveney fall to a fine catch by Petrie on the leg side and the little wicket-keeper claimed a hand in each of the first three wickets when he dived to his left and caught May brilliantly close to the ground.

Again New Zealand were checked by Cowdrey and the close on Friday found England 258 ahead with seven wickets standing; Richardson 71, Cowdrey 21. Night rain left the pitch wet on Saturday when persistent showers caused several interruptions, reducing the play to four hours. The wet ball handicapped the New Zealanders. Instead of exploiting Hayes and MacGibbon, who should have been able to make the ball rear awkwardly, Reid shared the attack with Cave. The captain acquired lift and Richardson made several uppish strokes.

Richardson had reached 91 when, just before lunch and after the third stoppage for rain, Hayes and MacGibbon took the new ball. A crowd of 25,000 was present after lunch when Richardson, cutting Hayes, had the good fortune to be dropped by Alabaster in the gully from the stroke which gave him a single to complete his fifth Test hundred. A little later Richardson was taken in the gully, after batting four hours forty minutes, during which time he hit only seven 4's.

The partnership had yielded 104 in two hours, and a little later Cowdrey (one 6 and nine 4's) and Evans were caught in the slips by Reid, whereupon May, deciding to exploit the sporting state of the pitch, declared. So New Zealand had two and a half days to try and make 343 to win.

They were soon in trouble, Miller falling to an inswinger from Trueman, and though nearly an hour and a quarter was lost through more rain they finished the third day with four wickets down for 69. D'Arcy and Meale fell to brilliant catches.

As was expected, England were never extended in the final stages on Monday. The pitch appeared to be more friendly to batsmen than previously, but Bailey, Loader and Trueman all obtained considerable swing and the six remaining wickets were captured in two and a half hours for only 68 runs. At the beginning of the day Reid and Harford defended resolutely, but Harford ducked into a fast lifting ball from Trueman and was compelled to retire temporarily with blood streaming from his nose.

After that incident England took command, Bailey bowling for two hours without relief and he finished the match by catching Hayes at long-on.

© John Wisden & Co