First-ever televised Test match, Lord’s, Ashes series of 1938 : Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

DG Bradman

The Lord’s Test was the first-ever to be televised. England batted first again, though the start was quite different. McCormick set them back immediately in a terrific opening burst. He sent back Hutton for 4, Edrich for a duck, and Barnett for 18. The hosts were gasping at 31 for three. Paynter now joined Hammond, and they took the fight right into the Australian camp. Hammond’s off-driving has often been described as majestic, and so it was on this occasion in what is rated as perhaps his finest innings. Paynter picked up from where he had left off in the first Test. He was unlucky this time to miss a century, O’Reilly trapping him lbw for 99. He had been in for a little over three hours and hit 13 fours and a six. The partnership was worth 222.

Hammond brought up his fourth double hundred against Australia in the company of the reliable Leslie Ames. At stumps England were 409 for five, Hammond on 210 and Ames 50. On the second day, Hammond advanced to 240 before becoming McCormick’s fourth victim. He had batted a shade over six hours, and struck 32 fours, having faced 394 balls. Ames went on to score 83, as England totalled 494. Australia were again faced with an uphill task. Fingleton posted 69 with Brown before he left. Just as it looked as though Bradman had played himself in, he was bowled by Verity for 18. McCabe was striking the ball beautifully, having hit 38 in just over half an hour, with 5 fours and a six, when Farnes had him caught by Verity. All this while Brown was playing a fine hand. He put on 124 for the fourth wicket with Lindsay Hassett (56). At close of play he was unbeaten on 140, and Australia were 299 for five.

Just when it seemed that Australia were faltering at 308 for seven, O’Reilly played a belligerent innings. Helping Brown add 85 runs, he blitzed 42 off 45 deliveries with 5 fours and 2 sixes in a sojourn of less than three-quarters of an hour. Brown raised his only double century in Test cricket. Farnes knocked over O’Reilly’s bails, and Australia were bowled out for 422, conceding a lead of 72. It was an innings of a lifetime by Bill Brown, carrying his bat for a fine unbeaten 206. He batted for more than six hours, tackling 370 deliveries and stroking 22 boundaries. For a weak Australian team, it was an essay of utmost significance in the context of the series. It was the oxygen that breathed life into a faltering Ashes campaign.

There was little more than a day left, and for England to force a result would be a difficult task. Buoyed by Brown’s resilient effort, Australia jubilantly removed the English openers Barnett and Hutton with just 28 runs on the board. Wickets continued to tumble on the final day. When Hammond was dismissed for 2, England were struggling at 76 for five. At this point Bradman’s side may have sensed a faint chance of an upset. Paynter and Compton, though, put together a half-century stand. Then that renowned big-hitter Arthur Wellard, playing in only his second and last Test match, got into the act. He smashed 6 fours and a six in his 37-ball 38. His eighth-wicket partnership with Compton was worth 74. The declaration came at 242 for eight, with Compton unbeaten on 76.

Australia were set an impossible 315 runs to win, but more realistically they would have to bat very poorly to surrender the match in the last two hours and three-quarters. And when Wellard had Fingleton snapped up by Hammond for 4, there might have been a bit of a flutter. Bradman, however, strode in and set all speculation to rest in his inimitable, emphatic style. Brown was dogged, keen to ensure that his pains of the first innings would not eventually turn out futile. When Verity bowled him after a 70-minute stint for 10 in a score of 71, Brown had helped Bradman add 63. Brown once said of Bradman, “My best memory of him was running up and down the other side while he hit bowlers all over the place.” This is one occasion the opener may have had in mind.

McCabe attacked again but Verity dismissed him for 21 at nearly a-run-a-ball. Hassett too was belligerent, adding 64 with Bradman, before being bowled by Wright for 42 off 45 balls with 7 fours and a six. While the smaller streams begged leave every now and then, the mighty river flowed along serenely towards its destination. Bradman was not going to give his wicket away for a song. He completed another century, his 20th in Test cricket. No one had got so many hundreds, Herbert Sutcliffe having retired with 16, and Hammond notching his 18th in this Test. Not till Sunil Gavaskar surpassed Bradman’s final tally of centuries in 1983, would a Test batsman have a bounty as large as his. Play was called off with Barnett’s dismissal at 204 for six. Like in the previous Test, Bradman was unbeaten with 102, having seen his side to safety. He had batted for just under two-and-a-half hours, hitting 15 fours in his 135-ball innings.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

Don’s Century’, published by Sporting Links, ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0.

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110 001, Phones + 91 11 23417175 and 23412567.

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