Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay – England regain the Ashes after 19 years to break deadlock at The Oval
August 19, 1953 - As Bill Edrich and Denis Compton made their way towards the pavilion, the crowd spilt over onto the Kennington Oval. England had done the improbable, earning a chapter in the annals of cricket history.
When Australia arrived on the English shores for another Ashes series in 1953, the visitors had retained the miniature trophy for 19 years. Australia had not only won the last three series after the war, they had won comprehensively, with the scoreline showing 3-0, 4-0 and 4-1.
Despite Don Bradman's retirement after the 1948 tour, Australia were still considered a much better side than their English counterparts. The first four test matches of the five-match series were drawn, with them being affected by the wet weather.
England now had a fair shot at regaining the Ashes urn. With mutual consent, the fifth and the final test of the series was made a 6-day affair in order to ensure that a result was achieved. Rain did play its part, but it was still bizzare that after around 20 days of cricket in the series, even a single result had not been possible.
It was equally amazing that the final test began on Saturday, with Sunday being a rest day. Sydney Morning Herald presented it as "the test to end tests".
Like the last four matches, England lost the toss yet again and Australian captain Lindsay Hassett decided to bat first. Sir Leonard Hutton was so frustrated after losing his fifth toss on the trot in the series that he flung the coin into the crowd.
England brought in Peter May and Fred Trueman for Reg Simpson and Willie Watson. This was Trueman's first Ashes test. The quick had been on national duty and had received special permission to get off the RAF duties. Just days before the match, he had finished with excellent figures of 10 for 112 at Lord's, playing for RAF in a match against Royal Navy.
Australian pacer Bill Johnston had recovered from his knee injury and was drafted in place of Richie Benaud. The team had a formidable quartet of pace bowlers in Lindwall, Miller, Alan Davidson, and Johnston, but they sorely missed a spinner, especially on the last day of the match when the team was desperately looking for control.
Australia scored 275 in their first innings on the back of half-centuries from Lindsay Hassett and Ray Lindwall. For England, Fred Trueman picked up four wickets while Sir Alec Bedser, who had been on a roll in the series, finishing with 39 wickets from five matches with 5 five-wicket hauls, picked up three.
England responded well with half-centuries from Sir Leonard Hutton and Trevor Bailey and took a 31-run lead in the first innings. Lindwall and Bill Johnston shared 7 wickets between them.
Tony Lock picked up 5 in Australia's second innings while Jim Laker took a 4-wicket haul as Australia were bowled out for just 162, giving England a modest target of 132 to win the match and regain the Ashes.
Due to some tight bowling from Johnston, who reverted to left-arm spin eventually, England took as many 63.5 overs to score the runs, but did it at last, with an unbeaten half-century from Bill Edrich and 22 not out from Denis Compton.
As the two undefeated batsmen made their way towards the pavilion, the crowd spilt over onto the Kennington Oval. Several rounds of applause from more than 20,000 spectators present underlined that England had done the improbable, earning a chapter in the annals of cricket history.
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