First Test Match

England v Australia

Norman Preston

To the disappointment of thousands of people, this match was spoiled by rain. Nearly half the playing time, fourteen and three-quarter hours, including the whole of Saturday when the crowd numbered 25,000, was lost to the bad weather.

The match began badly for England. An hour before play was due to start Edrich, the Surrey left-hander, was pronounced unfit with a twisted ankle after treading on a ball at practice the previous afternoon. As no reserve batsman had been chosen, England were left with five specialist bowlers and Titmus was deputed to open the innings when Dexter won the toss. Taylor (Yorkshire) was hurriedly called to Nottingham to act as twelfth man, Reynolds (Northamptonshire) taking over for the last three days.

Just as Australia were about to enter the field, the first shower of the day held up play for twenty-two minutes. Then Boycott, appearing in his first Test, faced McKenzie who bowled down wind from the pavilion end throughout the morning session of eighty-six minutes while England took their total to 52 for one.

Rain intervened ten minutes before lunch and put an end to cricket for the day. Corling, also playing in his first Test, and Hawke shared the harder task of maintaining a lively pace against the wind.

Titmus stayed with Boycott for an hour, surviving the occasional short lifting ball from Corling. Just before the Duke of Edinburgh piloted his helicopter round the ground, the Australians raised the biggest cheer of this brief day's cricket for a genuine act of sportsmanship.

Grout could have run out Titmus when Boycott placed Hawke towards mid-on and both batsmen dashed for a quick single. Hawke dived for the ball and in the process knocked Titmus over from behind. Titmus was far from home when the ball landed in the wicket-keeper's gloves, but Grout let him reach the crease and England were credited with a single.

This recalled a similar incident in the Test at Trent Bridge in 1960, when D.J. McGlew was impeded and Statham threw down the wicket, leaving no room for latitude. Cowdrey, the England captain that day, wished McGlew to be allowed to continue, but the umpires insisted that their decision in response to an appeal could not be changed.

In the case of Titmus, justice promptly asserted itself, for in the same over he was caught low by Redpath at second slip. No sooner had Dexter arrived and the Duke had settled down than more rain terminated cricket for the day. The umpires waited until just before five o'clock and then, as the players were changing, a violent storm left pools of water on the ground apart from the covered pitch.

On Friday, when the rain returned after tea and caused a further loss of ninety-five minutes England gave a tenacious and gallant display of batting on treacherous turf while raising their total to 216 for eight.

Boycott took the honours with the top score of 48 and Cowdrey, Barrington, Sharpe, Parks and Allen all played well in preventing Australia achieving an absolute break-through. The rain which ruined the opening day was responsible for a most absorbing struggle in conditions made for the Australian bowlers. The ball reared nastily when McKenzie, Hawke and Corling were in action and Veivers, who entered the attack rather late, found plenty of response for his off-spin.

As the day advanced and England still held on grimly, one felt that Australia had wasted a splendid opportunity of putting out their opponents for a modest score. McKenzie dropped the ball far too short and when he tried to pitch it up, he presented tempting full tosses which received drastic punishment.

The fielding, too, fell below expectations, there being a general air of slackness, and three catches were dropped.

Saturday was most exasperating. The sun shone warmly until breakfast and it was like the old days of Larwood and Voce to see the people of Nottingham wildly excited at the prospect of a really grand tussle between the five-man England attack and the powerful squad of Australian batsmen. The ground was filled, but at eleven o'clock rain set in and not a ball could be bowled until Monday.

Timid batsmanship led Australia into trouble on the fourth day, when no time was lost to the weather. Although England were inclined to bowl loosely and missed vital catches, they gained a first innings lead of 48.

Dexter declared first thing in the morning and by lunch four Australian wickets had fallen for 85. Simpson saved his side by staying two and a quarter hours, showing marked skill in dealing with Allen's off spin.

As Boycott cracked a finger in his left hand while fielding, Dexter opened the England second innings with Titmus. He hit so fearlessly that in seventy-eight minutes before the close he made 56, including nine 4's, of an unbroken stand of 71, Titmus's share being 13.

Different conditions prevailed early on the last day. For the first time in the match the sun shone with real warmth and the outfield, freshly mown, was quite fast, so that for a change the batsmen gained full value for every forcing stroke. Simpson employed a defensive field and with Dexter falling early to a brilliant low catch by O'Neill at cover, England failed to push the score along. Cowdrey spent two hours over 33.

Finally, Dexter set Australia to get 242 to win in three and a quarter hours. Coldwell soon ran out Lawry, but Trueman, who employed five slips, preferred to test O'Neill with a series of short-pitched, harmless bouncers. O'Neill, with unerring accuracy, hooked each of the first four balls of Trueman's second over for 4.

Later, O'Neill, facing Flavell, retired with a bruised hand, but just as the match reached a most interesting stage, rain returned and again swamped the ground. Two ordinary teams had failed to achieve a mastery of each other and a draw was a fair result of a contest ruined by bad weather.

© John Wisden & Co