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.”
Published on Jun 6, 2012