Page 1

Surely there may never The remarkable story of Jim Laker’s nineteen wicket Test Match

again be anything like it





Match Preview

Miller as key to Australian Success

First Day


England’s Flying Start in Fourth Test Match

Second Day


Australia Capitulate to Laker’s Spin

Third Day


Test Match Reflections in the Rain

Fourth Day


One Hour’s Play in Fourth Test

Fifth Day


Laker’s supreme part in retaining the Ashes

Letter to the Editor, 4th August 1956








The Fourth Test Match at Old Trafford in 1956 between England and Australia is one of, if not the, most memorable games of cricket ever played. It was remarkable for the simple reason that one man, Jim Laker, dismissed all but one of the Australian batsman over the course of four rain interrupted days. The reports of the match from The Times are re-printed here in their entirety, together with photographs of news events, sport and daily life of 1956 as a backdrop to this unique sporting achievement. This book forms part of a Turnover series published by The Times, which is named for the editorial policy of the paper to begin important articles on the recto page of the paper, requiring the reader to “turnover” to finish the story.


Miller as key to  Australian    Test success


it is already time for the fourth Test match between England and Australia to begin at Manchester and yesterday Old Trafford, the famous home of the Lancashire club, was looking as dignified and well-groomed as it has ever been. Both sides spent a couple of hours at the nets there and everyone seemed to have something exclusive to say about the pitch or the final composition of the two teams. But there were no illusions about the significance of the match.

The position is simple. At the moment the score is one match all and a draw in the rubber of five will leave England with the Ashes. Australia, in fact, have got to win either now or at the Oval in August and to lose neither time to be successful That being so, they cannot wait and hope that victory will come to them. Instead, they must pursue the initiative and the team they choose to do that may show two changes from the one beaten at Leeds.


It is certain that Langley will replace Maddocks and it is likely that Craig, who is among the 12 players nominated, will come in for Burge. But the one big difference between this Australia team and the last one is that now Miller will bowl. It was he who created the Australian victory at Lord’s, and when he is fit to help out Lindwall and Archer the performance of the whole side is lifted up. That is a warning and it would be foolish to think that Australia’s success in the second Test match was a flash in the pan. On the contrary, they have shown themselves able to rise to the occasion and, irrespective of their averages on this tour, they have in good conditions a formidable batting line-up.

Fashion in 1956 — a model wearing a dress by Italian designer Fabiani shows off the latest style © Interfoto


Fashion in 1956 — an aluminium-heeled stilleto being shown at shoe company Dolcis’ Autumn Collection © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Yet perhaps the factors which may again have more influence than any on the meeting of two well-balanced sides are the weather and the wicket. Yesterday the sky became gradually more clouded as one drove north, and because of Manchester’s climate Old Trafford Test matches are notoriously unpredictable. The estimable and original intention of the authorities was to prepare the fastest possible wicket and they are still confident of doing so. In appearance it is green and firm and the hope is that the recent persistent rains will not have taken toll of too much of its speed. The covers have been on since last weekend and the result could well be a true and lasting pitch very similar to that on which South Africa beat England in a thrilling finish last year. One writes, of course, on the perhaps improbable assumption that it will not rain, If it does so, then the winning of the toss may be st as important as it was at Leeds. There England had much the better of the wicket, and as soon as the ball turned they had Australia in trouble.

Green and firm


“Not since 1905 has a Test match between England and Australia been finished at Old Trafford�

There is much speculation as to whom England will leave out this morning. If the selectors have any smouldering doubts about the genuine pace of the pitch and the forecast is anything but rigidly fair, one imagines it will be Trueman who goes. Sheppard can replace him as a close to the wicket fielder and at the moment Statham seems in better form with the ball. Also it would be a pity to break up the combination of Laker and Lock, particularly at a ground of such stormy memories where the ball turns so readily in the wet. Only three years ago Australia were 35 for eight in the second innings of the third Test match. With the time quickly running out they may not have been trying then for all they were worth, but Manchester after rain is no place for batsmen. Unfortunately Graveney will definitely be prevented from playing by a bruised hand, but Oakman is in attendance in his stead.



At Leeds the record books pointed against an English victory, and they were wrong. Now they indicate a draw and perhaps it is their turn to be wrong again. Not since 1905 has a Test match between England and Australia been finished at Old Trafford. For that the weather has been largely responsible, although in 1934 a high scoring match was left drawn. Over the next few days if the skies are clear and the pitch does not begin to crumble another draw may be the likeliest result. Certainly on an easy wicket and against competent, well-organised Test match batting, if that is not expecting too much, one doubts if either side has quite the attacking power to win. The teams will be selected from — England Australia P B  H   May – captain C  C   McDonald t    E   Bailey   J  Burke M  C   Cowdrey R  N   Harvey T     G   Evans K  R   Miller J  C   Laker P  Burge G  A   R   Lock K  Mackay A  S   m    Oakman I  D   Craig P  E   Richardson R  G   Archer D  S   Sheppard R  Benaud J  B   Statham R  R   Lindwall  F   S   Trueman I  Johnson – captain C  Washbrook G  Langley

Previous page Fashion in 1956 — a model showing off the latest swimwear styles © Lambert/Getty Images


England’s   flying start   in Fourth  Test Match

Everything went right for England on the first day of the fourth Test match against Australia at Old Trafford, and by the end of it they had reached 307 for three wickets. That is not an unassailable position, but it is an immensely strong one, particularly as the pitch, even at this early stage, is not turning its back on spin. Indeed, Laker and Lock must already feel a tingling in their fingers at the prospect of bowling on it later in the match, and England have reason to believe that their performance yesterday may be an important stride towards retaining the Ashes.

Perhaps as significant a moment as any during the day was when May, for the third time this season, won the toss. The wicket, contrary to expectations, had no semblance of life. It was, instead, a blissful place for batsmen as it was heartbreaking for bowlers, and England made the most of their good fortune by batting with unaccustomed skill and welcome success. Richardson and Cowdrey sent them away with a fine opening partnership of 174 in 190 minutes, which was the highest against Australia since Hutton and Barnett made 219 together at Nottingham in 1938. Before that only Hobbs and Rhodes, Hobbs and Sutcliffe, and Hayward and Jackson had made more for England’s first wicket against Australia, so that England’s pair of the present have moved into exalted company. When they were gone two more young amateurs carried on the stroke-play.

First Day 26 July 1956

“Laker and Lock must already feel a tingling in their fingers…”


“It is not often that the opportunity comes of writing so generously of England’s batting…”

During the day there were as many as 37 4’s and a 6, many of them classically executed, and it says much for Sheppard that his innings was as attractive as any. It was a tribute in the first place to choose him, and it is a reflection of his class that in his sixth innings of the Summer he has already made 59 against Australia and is still in possession. It is not often that the opportunity comes of writing so generously of England’s batting, and when they or any other country do score 111 before luncheon and over 300 runs in a day, it calls for rejoicing.

Tribute justified

World News 1956 — The Suez Crisis was the major international event that affected Britain in 1956. The invasion of the Suez Canal by Egypt and Britain’s handling of it led to the resignation of the Prime Minister, Anthony Eden. These pictures show (above) General E Burns, the United Nations Emergency Force Commander inspecting the troops and (below) Private Arthur Whitford doing his washing in the Suez Canal near the front line at El Cap © Times Newspapers Ltd

First Day 26 July 1956


“Yesterday Laker and Lock would have got more from the turf than Benaud and Johnson because they have greater powers of spin.”

But Australia bowled as indecisively as they can have done for a long while. They appeared downhearted that the pitch was so slow, and if, as seems likely, it crumbles within the next day or two, they will have grounds for feeling that the dice are loaded against them. Yesterday Laker and Lock would have got more from the turf than Benaud and Johnson because they have greater powers of spin. They might even have been unpleasant, but that is not really relevant. The point is, that in a Test match of five days in fine weather, the toss should not be all‑important, and both sides in their first innings, at any rate, should expect to find similar conditions. Perhaps that may yet happen, but one doubts it.

World News 1956 — an Egyptian woman chasing the cart carrying the body of her dead son through the streets of Port Said, which was occupied by the Allied forces during the Suez Crisis © Terry Fincher/Getty Images

First Day 26 July 1956


The England selectors decided to omit Trueman. Weighing Trueman’s value against Oakman’s was an intricate business, but one look at the pitch seemed to justify the choice. Miller’s gesture after bowling his first over certainly showed how he, for one, felt about it. It was a suggestion, if not of despair, at least of disappointment, for the pace about which there had been so much talk was nowhere to be found.

Without pace

The bowlers had a job to make the ball rise much above the bails, the slips soon moved up a couple of steps, and, more important perhaps, there was dust flying away from the bowlers’ marks. Much of the grass which was growing on Wednesday had been shaved away by the hand mower, and no great powers of far-sightedness were needed to recognize the possibility that the ball might be turning quite sharply by the weekend. After an hour Johnson himself made one or two deviate off the arid patches, and everyone must have realized how lucky England had been to win the toss. World News 1956 — African-American seamstress Rosa Parks sparked a boycott across the South when she was arrested for refusing to move the back of a bus to accommodate a white passenger © Underwood Archives/Getty Images

First Day 26 July 1956


“…soon the score was ticking along at a merry pace for a Test match.”

Cowdrey and Richardson began at once to hit the ball with the middle of the bat, and soon the score was ticking along at a merry rate for a Test match. Miller, after a couple of rather lackadaisical overs bowled in a sweater, gave way to Archer, and Lindwall tried in vain to entice something from the pitch. But there was not even any early moisture as encouragement or compensation, as there was at Leeds a fortnight ago. And the opening pair, when they knew that they were, as they say, in clover, quickly responded with some splendid strokes. In the first hour one remembers most of all a force for 4 off Archer which Cowdrey placed away between mid-wicket and mid-on, and a vivid cover drive by Richardson which lost none of its beauty for going straight to a fielder. World News 1956 — The trial of the ANC leadership began in South Africa in 1956. Here Nelson Mandela is seen leaving the courtroom in Pretoria © Jurgen Schadeberg/Getty Images

First Day 26 July 1956


In 55 minutes 44 runs were made, and when Johnson himself and Benaud took over there was a burst of scoring. For a quarter of an hour these two simply could not find a length, and a spate of long hops and full pitches were gladly devoured by Cowdrey and Richardson. One, it is true, almost bowled Cowdrey as he hooked at it,and another went past Archer at slip, but in 17 minutes 31 were scored, and England’s second 50 came in only 35 minutes.

“…in 17 minutes 31 were scored, and England’s second 50 came in only 35 minutes.”

Cowdrey went to 48 with a hook and an on-drive off successive balls from Benaud, and then, at five past one, he reached his 50 with a force to the leg boundary off Johnson. To those who have become used to prods and pushes at the start of a Test match, and even to English collapses, this was a rich and refreshing mixture, and by luncheon the total had reached 111. Richardson by then had also passed his third 50 of the series, but not before surviving what must be called a chance to the gully. He slashed at Archer, and the ball almost stuck in Benaud’s right hand as he threw himself at it. Probably only someone with Benaud’s remarkable reaction would have made a catch of it.

World News 1956 — the Hungarian revolt, against the hardline government, began in October 1956 and culminated in the invasion of the country by thge Soviet Union © Roger Mayne

First Day 26 July 1956


In the afternoon Richardson outstripped Cowdrey, who never again quite got into his stride. Now the Australians bowled better, and they set themselves to curb England’s progress. During the morning Australia’s cricket had been strangely dowdy, the bowling prodigal and without penetration, and England had revelled in it. Now Miller moved round the wicket and sought to bring down Cowdrey by tempting him outside the off stump. Twice Cowdrey edged him past the gully as he drove with the face of the bat noticeably open, and once he mishooked Miller just in front of Craig, who was running in from long leg. But still Cowdrey retained his composure. There were no boastful gestures, only majestic contours and much natural elegance. The left-handed Richardson is smaller and less imposing, but he was batting extremely well, and again the two of them were missing nothing between the wickets.

Majestic contours

Home News 1956 — Premium Bonds were launched in Britain in 1956 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Harold Macmillan (pictured above). The first winning ticket was drawn by Santa Claus and Uncle Holly (pictured below) in December 1956 © Times Newspapers Ltd

First Day 26 July 1956


"He refused, too, to nibble at anything far outside his off stump, and there was no stopping him as he took the partnership past the 150 mark."

Home News 1956 — The myth of the Loch Ness Monster was brought to life when this photograph was published in September 1956 Š Keystone Pictures USA/Eyevine

Richardson swept Johnson twice for 4 in the first over after luncheon, and two drives off Lindwall and several forces off the back foot made a lovely noise as they came off his bat. He refused, too, to nibble at anything far outside his off stump, and there was no stopping him as he took the partnership past the 150 mark. The time was 160 minutes, and this although Cowdrey hereabouts was pinned on 67 for half an hour, with Johnson throwing his off breaks up wide of the wicket. Just when he was on the move again he was caught by Maddocks driving at Lindwall. Langley, incidentally, had, of all things, managed to aggravate his injured finger on Wednesday night by sleeping on it, and Maddocks had taken his place behind the stumps. Within half an hour he also had a hand in sending back Richardson.

First Day 26 July 1956


“ He jumped to 98 with a hook and a tickle off Benaud, but he was made to work hard for the last two which came eventually out of 191 after he had been batting for 218 minutes.”

In the meantime Sheppard had made his appearance, and Richardson had experienced an enviable moment, the fulfilment of his first hundred against Australia. He jumped to 98 with a hook and a tickle off Benaud, but he was made to work hard for the last two which came eventually out of 191 after he had been batting for 218 minutes. When one saw him open the season with a century for Worcestershire against the Australians there were a good many rough edges, and he seemed to be dangerously fallible to the outswinger. Yesterday the maturity in technique and the confidence he has acquired since then were very marked, and he has the application to go with them. One would say that after this innings, and certainly on easy wickets, he will make plenty of runs for England.

Mature technique

Fashion 1956 — teddy boys hanging around on the street showing off the latest styles of teenage fashion © Roger Mayne

First Day 26 July 1956


From England’s point of view Richardson got out at an unfortunate moment, for when he edged an attempted cut the new ball was due in five runs time. Sheppard then was five and May had the rare pleasure of entering when the innings was soundly launched. Soon the new ball was safely behind him, and two hours later the two Cambridge Blues were still there. Until they had digested their tea they took things cautiously, May especially, but then they started to splay the ground with some superb strokes. Sheppard, upstanding and right behind the line of the ball, banged Lindwall past Harvey at cover point, and he hooked Benaud and then stepped away and forced him mightily off the back foot. With an hour to go the 250 was hoisted, and Sheppard was making most of the running, but this was the signal for May to let go some wonderful drives off Archer and a number of shots off his legs which filled everyone with admiration. Sheppard, too, hooked Archer for 6 over square leg to take him to 50, and except when a leg break from Benaud spun angrily England were in complete command. It seemed that Sheppard and May would remain so until stumps were drawn, when suddenly, with 20 minutes left, May fell foul of a leg break from Benaud. It was one of those that fizzed off the pitch, May playing forward could not control it, and Archer making ground, took a high right-handed catch at slip.

“Until they had digested their tea they took things cautiously…”

Angry leg break

Advertising 1956 — a 1956 advertisment for the latest food innovation, Bird’s Instant Whip Credit: Times Newspapers Ltd

First Day 26 July 1956


F   irst innings p  e   richardson ct maddocks bowled benaud 104 m  c   cowdrey ct maddocks bowled lindwall 80 r  ev  d  s   sheppard not out 59 p  b   h   may ct archer bowled benaud 43 t  e   bailey not out 14 still to bat — c  washbrook a  s   m   oakman t  g   evans j  c   laker g  a   r   lock   j  b   statham extras 7 total — for 3 wickets


It was decided now to send in Bailey, who had been sitting on the players’   balcony during the morning with his pads on until the opening stand was well under way. The idea evidently was to call upon him in the event of an early wicket, but to use him now as a night watchman seemed perhaps unnecessarily cautious. Yet even he took to hitting boundaries, and doubtless he will return today with instructions to push things along so that England can drive home the great advantage they have won.

England’s first day scorecard First Day 26 July 1956


Australia capitulate   to Laker’s spin

Australia’s Neil Harvey throws his bat in the air in disgust after being dismissed by Jim Laker for the second time in one day on day two of the Test Match © Sports & General Barratts

one of the most amazing batting collapses in the 80 years of Test cricket took place in the fourth match between England and Australia at Old Trafford yesterday, and as a result it is virtually certain that for the next 18 months the Ashes will be in England’s keeping. Only unyielding rain can save Australia now from overwhelming defeat, for last night they were 322 runs behind England with nine second innings wickets to fall, having been bowled out once for 84 and made to follow on in face of England’s total of 459.

At five minutes to four Australia’s score was 48 for no wicket and McDonald and Burke, if they were not exactly making light of the bowling of Laker and Lock, at least were suggesting that England would have to work hard for victory. Eighty minutes later Australia’s first innings was over. They had capitulated to the spin of Laker, whose off-breaks they had found unplayable. His remarkable figures are eloquent enough.… In his last nine overs he had taken nine wickets for 16 runs, and after tea he had claimed a victim, seven in all, with every third ball he bowled.

Second Day 27 July 1956


“There has never been anything like it before, and the Australians came one by one to the slaughter.”

There has never been anything like it before, and the Australians came one by one to the slaughter convinced, it seemed, before they took strike that they had not long to live. All 10 wickets tumbled while 36 runs were being made and the villain of the piece, one felt, was not only the pitch. Nor was Laker’s brilliant exploitation of it wholly responsible for what happened. Psychology played its part; for the batsmen, once the storm had broken, made little effort to seek an answer to England’s spin, and in thinking there was not one they were wrong.

Not impossible

Jim Laker appealing for an lbw decision against Australia’s Ian Craig © Sport & General Press

Second Day 27 July 1956


" A side of well-organised English batsmen accustomed to the ball deviating might have made 250 against Laker and Lock"

It was a nasty wicket certainly; but had not England scored freely on it? And the fact, too, that Lock bowled 22 overs for only one wicket and that between them Lock and Laker toiled for 18 overs before they struck at all shows that it was far from impossible. The ball turned, sometimes more quickly than another, but generally it came through at an even height. A side of well-organised English batsmen accustomed to the ball deviating might have made 250 against Laker and Lock. Several Huttons, Mays, and Baileys might have made more. But Australia, although they have had lessons on their tour, knew not what it was all about and this, the fact that England were crushing them in such conditions, must have taken some of the gilt from England’s gingerbread. Film in 1956 — Audrey Hepburn was at the peak of her film career in 1956. Seen here in Paris where she was filming the musical Funny Face in which she starred with Fred Astaire © Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images

Second Day 27 July 1956


There is no doubt that this is a bad pitch for a five day Test match and the Australians may even feel that it is an unfair one. Yet in one’s own mind one is sure that the groundsman did not know what, as it were, was coming out of the hat. It so happens that when it comes to spinning a way to victory Australia are left far behind, and yesterday morning, when Benaud made an occasional ball bite, one knew that Laker and Lock would in all likelihood have the winning of the match in their power. Statham and Bailey had no chance of doing much, and when Australia began their first innings these two bowled only as a formality.

Left behind

After 40 minutes Laker replaced Bailey, and Lock Statham, but not until they changed ends half an hour later was the innings hurled into confusion. Then the disasters came thick and fast, and one must recall them as they occurred. At 48 McDonald, pushing forward to Laker, was caught off the inside edge of his bat at backward short leg, and three balls later Harvey was bowled by what to him was a beastly leg break. At this moment of crisis young Craig came out to play his first Test innings against England, and the crowd received him more warmly than anyone else so far during the match. “…not until they changed ends half an hour later was the innings hurled into confusion.”

Film in 1956 — Marilyn Munroe married her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, in 1956. The wedding took place in Surrey. © Press Association

Second Day 27 July 1956


But Craig needed more than the moral support of cricket lovers and understanding mothers, and although he looked, as he always does, neat and full of talent this was more than he could cope with. He was undefeated, it is true, at tea, but he was leg-before playing back to an off-break in the second over afterwards. Before that, Burke, pushing forward at Lock, had been nicely caught by Cowdrey low to his right at slip and at the same score Mackay, his bat dangling like a lifeless pendulum, was caught in the gully. Oakman stooped in the maner of a giraffe for this low catch and he did the same, five minutes later, to catch Miller in Laker’s leg trap.


Australia’s Ken McKay is caught by Alan Oakman off the bowling of Jim Laker without scoring on the second day of the Test Match © Alpha Photo Press Agency

Second Day 27 July 1956


A drive for 6 by Miller had been a lone defiant stroke. Indeed this and a cover shot by Archer stood like standards in Australia’s surrender. But Archer soon flung his bat wildly at Laker, Benaud was caught on the boundary, and, to finish things off, Laker bowled Maddocks and Johnson in the same over. Laker returned happy in his triumph, Johnson was a picture of dejection and he must have had the sympathy of many. The wicket had not suddenly deteriorated as the course of the innings might suggest. Rather had Australia’s spirit been broken by Laker, and in 10 minutes they were out there struggling again. They did so in fact with some success, for in the 55 minutes left they lost only Harvey. McDonald had just retired with temporary knee trouble and Harvey hammered his first ball, a full pitch from Laker, straight to Cowdrey standing 20 yards out in the direction of mid-wicket. Poor Harvey tossed his bat in the air; he had completed a pair of spectacles all in four balls and within an hour. Perhaps this is a record of some sort. But the record that mattered was Laker’s and now he stands to break several more today.

Film 1956 — Marilyn Munroe was in England for much of the Summer of 1956 filming The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier. The pair are pictured (above) on the set of the film and (below) at a press conference at the Savoy Hotel © Associated Press & Times Newspapers Ltd

Second Day 27 July 1956


England’s batting during the morning had continued to prosper much as on Thursday, with the difference that the fall of a wicket was not a matter for concern and more chances could be taken. A minor collapse did in fact occur between ten to 12 and a quarter past, but Sheppard stood fast and stayed even to steer England past 450. For a while he gave Evans his head and Evans obliged with an astonishing little innings. And he entertained everyone with some beautiful stroke play himself. The eventual output from England’s last seven wickets was another 152 runs in 130 minutes, and the first 128 of them came off the two spinners Johnson and Benaud. These two had 17 overs apiece until the new ball was taken, and Johnson acquired four wickets in the process.

Second Day 27 July 1956


He began by bowling Bailey, who had once hit him hard and straight for 3. This ball floated away to the slips and Bailey, relying on his studied forward stroke, allowed for a break that was not there. Washbrook made one good square cut before playing back to an off spinner of full length and being leg-before. Johnson must have been glad of the wicket, yet the way he turned this one to Washbrook could hardly have pleased him. England now were 327 for five and a quarter of an hour later they were 339 for six. Oakman had paraded briskly in, passing Washbrook 30 yards in front of the pavilion, and he played a couple of easy-flowing drives. He fell to a juggling catch at slip trying for a third, but Sheppard was not looking in the least like getting out and he was joined by Evans. Sheppard had already played a number of handsome strokes, but three out of every four had gone straight to a fielder. One remembers four into the covers in Johnson’s first over which would have been some people’s ration for a full hour. They were worth nothing, except aesthetically, but inevitably several found a path to the boundary. These were spread evenly over the morning. Evans, on the other hand, set the field alight by making 47 in 29 minutes and almost achieving Test cricket’s fastest 50. This was made by J M  Gregory and came in 35 minutes. Film 1956 — major film releases in 1956 included Bus Stop and (previous page) the screen adaptation of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty Four © Kobal Collection

Second Day 27 July 1956


F   irst innings

c  c   mcdonald ct lock bowled laker 32  j   burke ct cowdrey bowled lock 22 r    n   harvey bowled laker 0  i   d   craig lbw bowled laker 8 k  r   miller ct oakman bowled laker 6 k  mackay ct oakman bowled laker 0 r  archer st evans bowled laker 6 r  benaud ct statham bowled laker 0 r  r   lindwall not out 6 l  maddocks bowled laker 0  i   w   johnson bowled laker 0 extras 0 total


Second innings

c  c   mcdonald retired hurt 11 j  burke not out 33 r  n   harvey ct cowdrey bowled laker 0 i  d   craig NOT Out 8 k  r   miller k  mackay r  archer r  benaud r  r   lindwall l  maddocks i  w   johnson extras 1 total— for 2 wickets

The situation, of course, was made for Evans. There were plenty of runs on the board, the spinners were bowling and he could chance his arm. And his arm was as strong as his footwork was nimble. First he hooked Benaud and then be drove him far into the crowd at the City End. Next he straight-drove Johnson, a low number two iron shot, and then in the same over he banged Benaud to the cover boundary, hit him again over the sight screen, and lay back and dismissed him square for 4. It was a scintillating exhibition by a remarkable little man and, of course, it was just what England wanted. Once he had died a proper death, stumped far down the pitch to Johnson, the total was 401, and it remained only for Sheppard to get his century for Englishmen to be absolutely happy.

Scintillating Evans


Australia’s second day scorecard Second Day 27 July 1956


With Evans, Sheppard had added 62 in 29 minutes and Lock now stayed with him until he reached his haven. Two thundering cover drives and a sweep off five balls from Johnson and Sheppard was 96 and at 10 past one a chop for three, also off Johnson took him safely home. England’s selectors must feel that some guardian angel watches over their deliberations and guides them in their decisions. First it was Washbrook and now Sheppard who had justified their faith.

“…an innings filled with polished strokes… his achievement will always be thought of as one of the more perfect pages of cricket history.”

Of Sheppard one will only say that there must be a place waiting for him in the England side, when he is available, until their batting resources fill out. He had played with maturity and authority an innings filled with polished strokes, and his achievement will always be thought of as Polished one of the more perfect pages of cricket history. He was Sheppard finally ninth out after batting for just under five hours during which he hit 15 4s and a 6. Within a quarter of an hour he was standing short leg to Statham, and by teatime, although it may not have been generally foreseen, the floodgates were open and Australia were about to be swept incredibly aside.

Rev David Sheppard played a crucial part in England’s first innings of the Test Match, scoring 113. Here he is pictured earlier in the year demonstrating correct batting technique to schoolchildren © Times Newspapers Ltd

Second Day 27 July 1956


 Test match reflections in the rain


Manchester lived up to its stormy reputation on Saturday when there was only 45 minutes’ play in the fourth Test match between England and Australia. So, as at Leeds, the weather helped the Australians to spend the weekend in reprieve, and now again the time factor looms into the reckoning. There are, however, two essential differences between Headingley and Old Trafford. England have now already got 12 Australian wickets, rather than six (the obdurate Burke was caught off Laker on Saturday afternoon), and the follow-on is not this time a matter of concern. What makes the matches so similar is the timing of the rain and the state of the two pitches at the end of each second day. The ball was turning from crumbling turf and they had worked themselves into such a state of mind that prolonged rain seemed to be their only chance of surviving for more than a few hours. On Saturday the rain when it came gave everyone an opportunity to hold court on the present series with particular reference to the pitches. Mostly of course the talk was of Old Trafford, where Australia, to their ignominy, had been bowled out for 84. That is a total which suggests that batting was impossible, and this was not the case as a closer look at the thing will show.

Third Day 28 July 1956


To begin with Lock, whom many consider to be a more explosive bowler on a bad pitch than Laker, took one wicket in 22 overs. The pair of them needed 16 overs before separating Burke and McDonald in the first innings, and in the last 65 minutes of the day Harvey was the only batsman to be got out, and he clumped a full toss straight to a fielder. Burke batted for almost three hours, losing his wicket only once and not looking particularly like doing so again. Indeed, Australia batted in all on Friday for 205 minutes. For the first 85 and the last 65 of these they met with only one setback for which the pitch was not to blame.

Not to blame

England’s Tony Lock takes a catch to dismiss Australia’s Jim Burke off the bowling of Jim Laker. This was the only wicket to fall on the Third Day Credit: Sports & General Alpha © Empics

Third Day 28 July 1956


“The answer, as every objective Australian will admit, was hysterical batting, sans spirit, sans skill, sans everything, in the face of some fine offbreak bowling.”

It was not, as might be supposed, that conditions became impossible for the 55 minutes astride the tea interval, the period when Australia lost their whole side, and that before and after this they were perfectly satisfactory. The answer, as every objective Australian will admit, was hysterical batting, sans spirit, sans skill, sans everything, in the face of some fine off-break bowling. The pitch, for instance, was much better than that at Old Trafford on which West Indies made 215 and 183 in 1950. It was different but infinitely more reasonable than that at Brisbane in 1946 on which England made 141 and 172, and with a more balanced approach Australia, one feels sure, could now have several first-innings wickets left in their pouch. Sport 1956 — The 1956 Grand National became famous not for who won but for the way in which the Queen Mother’s horse Devon Lock lost the race. Pictured here, the horse, ridden by Dick Francis, was leading the race at the last fence © Times Newspapers Ltd

Third Day 28 July 1956


Yet this issue runs deeper than the competence or otherwise of Australian batsmen to play a turning ball. Everyone is of one mind that this is something at which they do not excel. Where the controversy begins is over the preparation of the pitches at Headingley and Old Trafford. In Australia, as well as England, the clouds of dust that blew away from the groundsman’s besom last Friday as he was making ready for Australia’s first innings have made front page news. There have been indignant cries that Mr Flack was instructed to produce a wicket to help Laker and Lock so that England might take advantage of Australia’s shortage of good spin bowling. This, one is convinced, was not so.

Of one mind

His idea was for the ball to begin to turn after each side had completed an innings, and some misjudgment on his part, combined with the tricks of the English climate stretching back as far as early spring, upset his calculations. He had, moreover, certainly aimed for more pace in the turf, and no one seems able to understand why it failed to materialise. But of his good intentions there is no doubt, and the most important mistake that he seems to have made is in mowing his wicket too mercilessly on Thursday and leaving insufficient grass to hold it together. At once the scales were weighted in favour of the side with the better spin bowling, regardless of the winning of the toss.

Sport 1956 — in the winning straight, Devon Lock stumbled after jumping a fence that wasn’t there, allowing second placed ESB to come through to win the race © Talking Sport

Third Day 28 July 1956


But England still managed to make 459 in their first innings with their number 10 contributing a comfortable 25 not out on Friday morning. People are apt to forget that vital fact, and one is prepared to say that Australia, as they batted, would not have made many more on Thursday afternoon than they did on Friday. The opportunity for the spinners was there from the start, but Australia could not exploit it as England did. Had they had bowlers of the calibre of O’Reilly and Grimmett this would have been an even game of cricket, and poor Mr Flack might have been able to repose in peaceful anonymity. Or he might even have been congratulated by all and sundry. In the 1930’s and the days of dope, it was decided to investigate ways of improving the bowler’s lot. Perhaps now, in the drive for sporting wickets, groundsmen are tending to overstep the mark. For a five day Test match, played without direct interference from the weather, both sides are entitled to expect good batting conditions in their first innings. This year, at Headingley and Old Trafford, these conditions have been more even than the scores would suggest, but they have not appealed to Australia’s bowlers. At Lord’s they were broadly similar all the way through, although Australia benefited there from batting when the wicket was at its easiest on the first day. They won more through several individual acts of greatness by Miller than by marked all-round superiority.

Stronger attack

Sport 1956 — the FA Cup was won by Manchester City in 1956 who beat Birmingham City 3 – 1 in the final at Wembley. Captain Roy Paul is pictured holding the Cup Credit: Times Newspapers Ltd

Third Day 28 July 1956


F   irst innings

c  c   mcdonald ct lock bowled laker 32  j   burke ct cowdrey bowled lock 22 r    n   harvey bowled laker 0  i   d   craig lbw bowled laker 8 k  r   miller ct oakman bowled laker 6 k  mackay ct oakman bowled laker 0 r  archer st evans bowled laker 6 r  benaud ct statham bowled laker 0 r  r   lindwall not out 6 l  maddocks bowled laker 0  i   w   johnson bowled laker 0 extras 0 total


Second innings

c  c   mcdonald not out 15 j  burke ct lock bowled laker 33 r  n   harvey ct cowdrey bowled laker 0 i  d   craig NOT Out 10 k  r   miller k  mackay r  archer r  benaud r  r   lindwall l  maddocks i  w   johnson extras 1 total— for 2 wickets

Australia’s third day scorecard


Indeed, in spite of what happened at Lord’s, one would say that on all wickets England have the stronger attack, and it is to be hoped that at the Oval things may be as Australia would wish them and England can have the chance to prove it. For on a fast green wicket Tyson and Statham are the best combination in the world, and they have yet to be in harness this summer. When the ball is turning Laker and Lock are incomparable, and on an easy wicket the four of them would certainly give nothing away. As a last word, one would repeat that basically this is a bad Test match wicket, and Australia’s disappointment at finding it is perfectly understandable. They have a grievance and a legitimate one, but it would be unbearably dreary if one always knew what to expect from a Test wicket, and while one sympathizes with Johnson and his team in their present predicament, one cannot excuse their lack of adaptability with the bat. A touring side, to be complete, should be equipped for any contingency, and if Australia come to England without genuine spin they are asking for trouble…

… Rain was still falling in Manchester at a late hour last night. Third Day 28 July 1956



ne hour’s play in fourth T  est

England approached no nearer to victory on the penultimate day of the fourth Test match against Australia at Old Trafford yesterday. In wild and raving weather only an hour’s play was possible, and during this time McDonald and Craig added a further 25 runs without undue difficulty. It was as though someone had arranged a game of cricket in mid-winter, with a few spectators huddled miserably in their seats and clinging frantically to their hats. Not surprisingly the play was comparably unrealistic, and England in their frustration must feel that this is a match which they are not ordained to win. Through the weekend the thunder had roared, the rain streamed down, and yesterday morning as the wind howled round the city of Manchester there seemed little chance of any play at all. From time to time great storms kept bursting over the ground, yet amazingly enough the pitch was sufficiently dry for action to begin at a quarter to three. All kinds of paraphernalia had been used to make this possible. The gale, too, had helped, and for England it was far better to bowl on to a pudding and from loose footholds than not to bowl at all. They had everything to gain and nothing to lose, and there were those who thought the ball might turn.

Advertising 1956 — Pictured on the next page is a 1956 advertisement for Guinness by Abram Games © Abram Games

Fourth Day 29 July 1956

“It was as though someone had arranged a game of cricket in midwinter, with a few spectators huddled miserably in their seats and clinging frantically to their hats.”


But it seems that a pitch which has been dried artificially is slow to respond to spin. It was so at Trent. Bridge, and again at Headingley, and yesterday Laker and Lock found that their teeth were drawn. Bailey and Statham, for their part, tried in vain to make the ball lift, and the result was that in the two periods of play there were only two false strokes. Both were by Craig and both off Lock, the first passing just wide of Bailey at backward short leg and the second piercing the gap between the wicketkeeper and first slip.

Slow to respond

Perhaps if the rain had held off once the game had begun, the pitch by evening might have been lending a hand to spin. But it was too much to hope that every dark cloud would avoid the ground, and one came to stop play soon after McDonald, at 25 past three, had appealed against the general conditions, which must have been thoroughly unpleasant for batting. That was when the score was 77 for two, and by the time the players were out again, at 10 past four, tea had been taken.

Fourth Day 29 July 1956


F   irst innings

c  c   mcdonald ct lock bowled laker 32  j  b urke ct cowdrey bowled lock 22 r    n   harvey bowled laker 0  i   d   craig lbw bowled laker 8 k  r   miller ct oakman bowled laker 6 k  mackay ct oakman bowled laker 0 r  archer st evans bowled laker 6 r  benaud ct statham bowled laker 0 r  r   lindwall not out 6 l  maddocks bowled laker 0  i   w   johnson bowled laker 0 extras 0 total


Second innings

c  c   mcdonald not out 25 j  burke ct lock bowled laker 33 r  n   harvey ct cowdrey bowled laker 0 i  d   craig NOT Out 24 k  r   miller k  mackay r  archer r  benaud r  r   lindwall l  maddocks i  w   johnson extras 2 total — for 2 wickets

A quarter of an hour later everyone was scurrying back to the pavilion, and the specially loaded bails used to defy the wind were taken off for the last time. Craig then had batted admirably for 134 minutes, McDonald for 110, and if and when they go in this morning they will be embarking on the fourth playing day of their innings, for both took strike as long ago as Friday evening. Since then England have been able to capture only one more wicket, but they are still as well placed as they were before the last day at Headingley. Then Australia had also lost two second innings wickets, but the weather there was less unsettled. Today it may need only a couple of the showers which are forecast to rescue Australia and drown the game once and for all.

Rescue hope


Australia’s fourth day scorecard Fourth Day 29 July 1956


Laker’s   supreme part   in retaining   the Ashes

19 0


England won the fourth Test match against  Australia at Old Trafford yesterday by an innings  and 170 runs, so retaining the Ashes, and Laker made the achievement possible by taking all 10 wickets in Australia’s second innings. Either feat is notable enough; but when one leads to the other a mockery is made of all laws of probability. Last Friday Laker captured nine wickets in Australia’s first innings and his remarkable tally of 19 wickets for 90 runs must always make this one of the most memorable games of cricket ever played. Indeed, it is unlikely that Laker’s performance will ever be equalled. Cobden’s match and Fowler’s match and many others have their own place in history. This one will always be remembered as Laker’s match for the way in which his off breaks paralysed Australia. There are many tedious records which have singularly little meaning, but those which the 34-year-old Laker surpassed yesterday were all of considerable significance. In the first place he became the first bowler ever to take 19 wickets in any first-class match, let alone a Test match. In Test matches S. F. Barnes headed the list with 17 for 159 against South Africa in 1913. Against Australia, H. Verity and W. Rhodes both took 15 in a match, and for Australia F. R. Spofforth took 14 in 1882. But Laker’s crop leaves all these far behind and now with 39 wickets in the series, he has equalled the number established by A. V. Bedser as a record against Australia in 1953. At the Oval, Laker will almost certainly exceed Bedser’s total and the whole affair, which is already stranger than fiction, is made even more incredible by the fact that Laker also bowled out the Australians on his own for Surrey in May.

Fifth Day 30 July 1956

“…his tally of 19 wickets for 90 runs must always make this one of the most memorable games of cricket ever played.”


One wicket Now he has enabled England to hold the Ashes on three successive occasions for the first time since five matches in a series became the rule in 1897. It is also the first time since 1905 that England won two matches at home in one summer against Australia. And to make Laker’s achievement all the more unique is the fact that Lock, who is generally so irresistible when the ball is turning, plugged away for 69 overs in the match for one wicket. That to some extent is a comment on the state of the pitch. Lock did not bowl particularly well, nor did things go his way, and Laker bowled magnificently. But the pitch was very far from being a travesty.

Fifth Day 30 July 1956


This match will always be talked about as much as any of the 171 played between England and Australia before, if not only because of Laker’s analysis but also because there arose on the second day a widespread controversy over the condition of the pitch. Then the ball spun from dry turf. Yesterday it did so after persistent rain and the batsmen’s task grew progressively harder with the passing of time. Yet for a long while it seemed that the grass would not dry sufficiently or quickly enough for England to win and as nothing was foregone the play was full of tension. One knew that the turn would not have to be ridiculously awkward for England’s purpose and during the long partnership between Craig and McDonald the batting was so good that the art was made to seem perfectly feasible. As soon as Craig was out, it was made at times to look impossible. In reality it was somewhere between the two when the game finally hurried to its conclusion.

Jim Laker bowling on the final day of the Test Match © Sports & General Press Agency Previous page ­— Jim Laker and Godfrey Evans appeal for the wicket of Laurie Maddocks who as out lbw for 2 Credit: Sports & General Alpha/Empics © Empics

Fifth Day 30 July 1956


McDonald’s innings was a triumph for his fighting spirit. He is no great technician, but once he is entrenched be is as stubborn as they come. To score runs he waited for a chance to cut. For the rest of the time he played forward or back in a way too open to please the purists, but he was wonderfully watchful and there could have been no better example of unyielding concentration. Craig, who was his partner for so long, played an innings of almost equal value. He could hardly have had a fiercer baptism in Test matches against England, but the experience of it will always stand him in good stead. Craig is still only 21, yet he had a long time in the wilderness awaiting a chance to show his skill. Now his patience and perseverance in the face of all manner of disappointments have been rewarded and there are many series ahead for England to appreciate his beautiful method. Two hallmarks of class are stamped on his play. In the first place he has plenty of time in which to make his strokes, in the second his judgment of length is extremely sound, and not until Laker dislodged him yesterday did England start striding towards victory.


“McDonald’s innings was a triumph for his fighting spirit.”

Australia’s Ron Archer is caught by Alan Oakman off the bowling of Jim Laker on the Fifth Day of the Test Match Credit: Sports & General Alpha © Empics

Fifth Day 30 July 1956


Play was begun only 10 minutes late, although it had rained heavily through the night until 5 o’clock, and before luncheon the pitch was too saturated to be of any use to anyone. May explored every move. He began with Bailey, who was inclined to bowl too short, and later he gave Oakman a turn. Statham, too, tried with the new ball to hammer some life from the pitch. But of course the attack was based primarily on Laker and Lock, and what they wanted most of all was some sunshine to dry the turf. There was a stiff wind, which sent the many lowering clouds scudding over the ground, but that was not enough, and towards the end of the morning some blue sky began to appear. And with it the pitch perked up and the ball showed signs of misbehaving. At luncheon McDonald and Craig were still together. They had then added only 59, but the important thing was that they had each been batting for more than four hours. Ahead of them stretched another four and only 15 minutes of these had ticked away when Laker struck his first blow. Craig, still showing a full sense of duty after 259 minutes, played back where he might have been better advised to go forward, and was leg-before. Several other Australians were to do the same and the departure of Craig revealed a hollow middle to Australia’s innings.

Ray Lindwall is caught by Tony Lock of the bowling of Jim Laker, his eighteenth wicket in the match Credit: Sports & General/Empics © Empics

Fifth Day 30 July 1956


F   irst Day

p  e   richardson ct maddocks bowled benaud 104 m  c   cowdrey ct maddocks bowled lindwall 80 r  ev  d  s   sheppard not out 59 p  b   h   may ct archer bowled benaud 43 t  e   bailey not out 14 c  washbrook a  s   m   oakman t  g   evans j  c   laker g  a   r   lock  j   b   statham extras 7 total — for 3 wickets


Second Day p  e   richardson ct maddocks m  c   cowdrey ct maddocks r  ev  d  s   sheppard p  b   h   may ct archer t  e   bailey c  washbrook lbw a  s   m   oakman ct archer t  g   evans st maddocks j  c   laker g  a   r   lock  j   b   statham ct maddocks

bowled benaud 104 bowled lindwall 80 bowled archer 113 bowled benaud 43 bowled johnson 20 bowled johnson 6 bowled johnson 10 bowled johnson 47 run out 3 not out 25 bowled lindwall 0 extras 8

total— for 2 wickets

“He was out at 130 lunging myopically at a ball he might have made into a full pitch.”

Mackay splashed about in deep water until he sank pushing forward at Laker and being caught off the edge of the bat at second slip. Miller undermined himself, by choosing to take everything he could on the pads. One has never seen him so completely dispossessed and he was out at 130 lunging myopically at a ball he might have made into a full pitch. Archer at once was caught by the middle of three backward short legs playing back to Laker and the day was not yet half run. The sun, too, was now blessing the scene, the threat of showers was fading and as Laker’s spin quickened it seemed that there might be a collapse of the kind that had been witnessed on Friday.


England’s final scorecard Fifth Day 30 July 1956


F   irst innings

c  c   mcdonald ct lock bowled laker 32  j   burke ct cowdrey bowled lock 22 r    n   harvey bowled laker 0  i   d   craig lbw bowled laker 8 k  r   miller ct oakman bowled laker 6 k  mackay ct oakman bowled laker 0 r  archer st evans bowled laker 6 r  benaud ct statham bowled laker 0 r  r   lindwall not out 6 l  m addocks bowled laker 0  i   w   johnson bowled laker 0 extras 0 total


Second innings

c  c   mcdonald ct oakman bowled laker 89 j  burke ct lock bowled laker 33 r  n   harvey ct cowdrey bowled laker 0 i  d   craig lbw bowled laker 38 k  r   miller bowled laker 0 k  mackay ct oakman bowled laker 0 r  archer ct oakman bowled laker 0 r  benaud bowled laker 18 r  r   lindwall ct lock bowled laker 8 l  maddocks lbw bowled laker 2 i  w   johnson not out 1 extras 16 total

“This was suddenly a fabulous possibility, and three-quarters of an hour later it was an accomplished deed.”


Perhaps if Benaud had fallen at once there would have been, for Mackay, Miller, and Archer had not scored a run between them and between 25 past two and five to three four wickets had gone for 16 runs. But McDonald stood immensely determined amid this crumbling world, and now Benaud stayed with him until tea. That was for 80 minutes, and it began to seem again as though England might be thwarted. Benaud carried gamesmanship almost to an extreme by asking for guard in every over, and slowly and deliberately taking a botanical interest in the pitch after every ball. It is fair enough to repair each divot mark which the ball makes, but Benaud’s way of doing it irritated the crowd, just as his admirable powers of resistance must have worried England.

Question of time

Australia’s final scorecard Fifth Day 30 July 1956


When the final two hours of the evening started, whichever side was to win still had a long way to go. Someone was going to be denied and the likelihood that it would be Australia increased when McDonald’s monumental vigil of 337 minutes was ended by the second ball after tea. He pushed forward at an off-break and Oakman at backward short leg took his fifth catch of the match. The next two balls from Laker must have settled any doubts that had been sown in English minds. Both of them turned viciously and now it was only a matter of time and a question of whether Laker could take the last three wickets himself. This was suddenly a fabulous possibility, and threequarters of an hour later it was an accomplished deed. First Benaud was forced back on to his stumps and bowled by a generously flighted off-break, then Lindwall was snapped up in the leg trap, and finally Maddocks was trapped leg-before. Australia were beaten, and in a trice the crowd flooded the ground, there were smiles and handshakes, and the hero jogged off the field as though nothing very much had happened. Close behind him was May, who could feel justly proud at having led England to the Ashes at his first attempt. His splendid efforts must not be overlooked, but this now was Laker’s hour, and here to end with and for all time are his figures…

“And the hero jogged off the field as though nothing very much had happened.”

In Australia’s second innings he took 10 for 53, in the match 19 for 90 in 68 overs, and yesterday eight for 26 in 36 faultless overs.

Fifth Day 30 July 1956


Fourth Test

2nd August 1956

Previous page — Jim Laker walks off the field at Old Trafford at the end of the Test Match © Empics

Letters to the Editor

To: The Editor of The Times Sir, Because Laker took 19 wickets for 90 runs in the fourth Test match, there is a tendency among the armchair critics to say that the soil of Old Trafford (“Oh my Hornby and my Barlow long ago”) has suddenly become treacherous and malevolent, and that it is all most unfair. I do not recall a similar wail being raised when Victor Trumper, Archie Maclaren, or Don Bradman used to make fabulous quantities of runs on practically every cricket ground under the sun. Might not the simple explanation of these phenomena be that the one is a devilish good bowler as the others were devilish good bats? After Agincourt, the French military commentators said it just was not fair and their horses could not be expected to gallop through all that mud; but the fact remains that the English bowmen were in capital form that day. Yours faithfully A. LASCELLES Brooks’s Club, St. James’s Street SW1


Penguin By Design


Phil Baines; allen lane 2005

We Thundered Out – 200 Years of The Times 1785-1985

Philip howard; times books limited 1985

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

matthew frederick; mit press 2007

The Elements of Typographic Style, version 3.2

robert bringhurst; hartley & marks 1992

Detail in Typography

jost hochuli; hyphen press 2008

Ways of Seeing

John berger; penguin books 1972

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