THIS WEEK IN HISTORY 22 – 27 JULY 1948
By Jack Gahan
An epic Test Match took place at Headingly between England and Australia. This was a week after my 17th Birthday and I’d been looking forward to it all year, especially as my boyhood hero, Len Hutton, would be opening the batting for England, and the record breaking Australian, the great run machine Don Bradman would be playing on his final tour of England.
Big crowds were expected and the gates would be opening at 9am. I was there by 8 o’clock and it was unbelievable at that early time how long the queues were.
The Yorkshire Evening Post reported this:-
“The gates at Headingly Cricket Ground had to be closed after a record turnout, with 40,000 inside and another 20,000 outside. The occasion was a test match against Australia. The gates had opened at 9am but already thousands of people were queuing all around the ground and surrounding streets. Hundreds had slept on the pavements overnight and even at 6am, some 15,000 people were waiting to get in. By 9am this had swollen to 20,000. Three quarters of an hour after that, it was said that 30,000 had been admitted to the ground, but still they came.”
Fortunately I was one of the lucky ones and managed to get in each day.
This was the first year that 5 day tests were introduced, but still no play on a Sunday
And what a match it was. England batted first and scored 496. My hero weighed in with 81, but I was slightly miffed as his opening partner, Lancastrian Washbrook got a century, as did Edrich. Alec Bedser went in as a night watchman at number 4 and scored 79.
Australia replied with 458 with the Don only scoring 33. Harvey helped the score along with 112
So England went in again and with the first four all scoring half centuries reached 365 for 8 before declaring, leaving Australia a target of 404. England had batted a few minutes on the last day so they could have use of the heavy roller, hoping that the wicket might break up.
After a slow start at 57 for 1 Bradman joined Morris. They put on a partnership of 301 when Morris departed for 182. Bradman went merrily on his way to 173 not out for Australia to win the match, scoring 404 for the loss of only 3 wickets with a few minutes left in the match. It must be said, both big scorers were helped by some sloppy fielding by England who dropped several catches.
In the modern era test teams often fall short of the 90 overs required per day. In this test an average of 110 overs were bowled each day, all within the same time slot. This even with pace bowlers bowling the majority of overs due to the fact that it had been agreed that a new ball would be available every 55 overs.
What a match !! 1723 runs scored, 550 overs bowled, a total record crowd of 158,000. Marvellous entertainment.
Bradman’s century was to be the last one he scored in a test match. It was his 4th test at Headingly and his batting average for those matches was 192.6.
A great privilege to be there.
Footnote: In old age the memory bank dims somewhat, so I have been grateful in indulging in modern technology to give accurate facts and figures.
Part of the early morning queue in St Michael's Lane
The queue around the local streets The crowd welcomes "The Don"
back to the pavilion