Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Jim Laker cleans up all 10 Aussie wickets, finishes with match haul of 19/90
July 31, 1956- In the first innings, Laker picked up 7 wickets for just 8 runs in 22 balls to finish with figures of 16.4-4-37-9. Fellow spinner Lock, with just one wicket, was the most embarrassed.
This was not for the first time that the Aussies were at the receiving end of Jim Laker's bowling brilliance. Just two and a half months before the iconic match in which Laker finished with figures of 19/90, including all of 10 wickets in the second innings, the spinner had dismissed all 10 Australian batsmen in a match against Surrey at The Oval.
Coming into the 4th test of the Ashes series in 1956, both teams were tied at 1-1. With England having captured the Ashes urn in 1953 and 1954-55, a win for the home side meant that the team would have retained the Ashes.
As late as the eve of the 4th test, the newspapers described the pitch at Manchester's Old Trafford to be a "true and lasting" one that will assist the seamers. Even the players who had seen the pitch on the previous night found a generous covering of grass over it.
Bert Flack, the Manchester groundsman, later revealed that Gubby Allen, the chairman of England's selectors, had instructed him to shave off the pitch just before the match and he had merely followed orders.
When England opted to bat first after winning the toss, their openers Peter Richardson and Colin Cowdrey were surprised to see a brown and cooked surface, which they didn't mind of course, as it only increased their chances of winning, with quality spinners Jim Laker and Tony Lock in their ranks.
It only helped that the home team won the toss as they were able to use the best of the conditions to their benefit.
As expected, the Australian quicks were hardly able to extract anything from the pitch, that was about to disintegrate. Peter Richardson scores a fluid century while Cowdery also made 80 with 11 boundaries.
David Sheppard, batting at one drop, scored 113. 40s from Peter May and Godfrey Evans helped England to 459, which was impossible for Australia to match given that puffs of dust were coming out of the pitch off almost every delivery.
By the time, Australia came out to bat, the Old Trafford pitch was nothing short of a minefield. Australian openers Colin McDonald and Jim Burke added 48 runs but as soon as England skipper Peter May swapped the ends of spinners Laker and Lock, the former had a golden spell in which he picked up 7 wickets for just 8 runs in 22 balls to finish with figures of 16.4-4-37-9. Fellow spinner Lock, with just one wicket, was the most embarrassed.
Following on, Australia did show some fight with Colin McDonald scoring 89 and Jim Burke adding 33. Australia had a semblance of hope as only 45 minutes of play was possible on Saturday in which Laker added one more wicket to his tally, that of Jim Burke.
The inclement weather continued through the weekend with only an hour of play possible on the fourth day. It only stopped raining at dawn on the final day, but left the pitch too wet to help the spinners. However, by lunch, conditions became so windy that the wooden bails had to be replaced by titanium bails.
The strip thus dried up and Laker did the rest, taking 4 wickets from just 26 balls after lunch. While Lock finished with match figures of 1/106, Laker created history by bagging all 10 wickets in the second innings (51.2-23-53-10), finishing with a match haul of 19/90.
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