Great Test Matches VIII: England v Australia, Lord's, 1934 - Gulu Ezekiel Column

2008 Oct 26 by DreamCricket

England have not won a Test match at Lord's against Australia for over 70 years. In the 2005 series they were thrashed by 239 runs in the first Test before storming back to win back the Ashes.

England have not won a Test match at Lord's against Australia for over 70 years. In the 2005 series they were thrashed by 239 runs in the first Test before storming back to win back the Ashes.

Rewind to 1934 and the man who did it all was legendary left-arm spinner 'Deadly' Hedley Verity. The Yorkshire great, who was killed in action in World War II in 1943 at the age of 38, has to his credit some of the most remarkable bowling feats of all time. His innings figures of 10 for 10 against Nottinghamshire in 1932 are still the finest in the history of first-class cricket. He also took 17 in a day against Essex and finished with 1,956 wickets at the startling average of 14.90.

But Verity will always be remembered for his Lord's performance that fetched him 15 wickets for 104—all but one of them amazingly on the final day when Australia lost 18 wickets in all. They also lost the Test by innings and 38 runs in three days. It was the first time Australia had been beaten at Lord’s since 1896 and remained the best match figures in Ashes contests for 40 years.

The background to the series was as dramatic as the cricket. The Australians had last toured England in 1930. But in between came the contentious Bodyline series which saw ties between the 'Mother Country' and its colony strained to breaking point. MCC acted swiftly before the arrival of the tourists, amending the laws to ban intimidatory bowling. And controversial captain Douglas Jardine and his henchman Harold Larwood were virtually driven out of English cricket. Australia continued to be led by Bill Woodfull but the home side were now captained by RES Wyatt with Ken Farnes the spearhead of their fast bowling attack. In fact, the same two players were in charge when Australia had toured four years earlier.

Australia had won that series 2-1 largely due to the phenomenal batting feats of their new find, Donald Bradman who had amassed 974 runs, a record that stands to this day. But England were the holders of the Ashes after their comprehensive 4-1 verdict a year earlier in the Bodyline series. Bradman was by now acknowledged as the greatest batsman in the world. But he had a quiet start to the 1934 series with 29 and 25 even as Australia won the opening Test at Trent Bridge by 228 runs. Verity also had a quiet start, picking up just two expensive wickets at Trent Bridge.

All that was to change for the bowler at Lord’s, though once again Bradman failed with scores of 36 and 13, Verity claiming his wicket in both innings. Winning a vital toss, Wyatt opted to bat and England ran up an impressive total of 440. It would prove to be more than enough. Opener Cyril Walters set the trend with 82. But after that the English batsmen lost their way and half the side was back in the pavilion with the score-board reading 182.

Arthur Chipperfield picked up three of those with his occasional leg-breaks--he was to take just five wickets in the 14 Test he played. Then came the stand that turned the tide for the home side. Maurice Leyland and wicket-keeper Les Ames both hit centuries and their sixth wicket partnership of 129, combined with a useful 29 by Verity, helped England cross the 400-mark. Now came his turn with the ball. But all the mayhem would unfold on the third day (actually the fourth as the entire third day was washed out).

Australia, in fact, ended the second day strongly placed at 192 for two with no hint of the drama to come 48 hours later. Opener Bill Brown was batting at 102 at stumps and keeping him company was the redoubtable Stan McCabe on 24. Woodfull had been bowled by Bill Bowes for 22 after an opening stand worth 68 and then Verity struck the vital blow, having Bradman (36) caught and bowled when in full flow with the total reading 141 for 2. Bradman's brief innings lasted just 37 balls and included seven boundaries. Till then, the pitch had played true and hard as the scores indicated. But the full day of rain on Sunday softened it and though not quite treacherous, it provided just the kind of assistance Verity needed to run through the formidable Aussie batting line-up. Brown was the first to go on the fourth morning, caught behind off Bowes after adding only two more runs to his overnight score.

Still, at 203 for 3, there was plenty of batting to come and the Aussie camp was confident of avoiding the follow-on. That was not to be. The next 7 wickets fell for the addition of 81 runs with Verity grabbing six of those to finish with 7 for 61 from 36 overs. Australia trailed by 156 runs and it was when they batted the second time that the real drama unfolded. Bowes again made the first strike when he removed first innings century maker Brown for 2. Hammond picked up Len Darling for 10 but in between it was Verity all the way.

Woodfull was the only one to provide a token of resistance with 43 and it was all over just before 6 p.m. This time Bradman was caught behind off Verity for 13, making a wild swipe after being tied down for half-an-hour. It was a brilliant exhibition of what Neville Cardus described as "perfect left-handed spin, there is nothing like it". Australia collapsed in a heap for a measly 118. Verity had, bowling round the wicket had the figures of 22.3-8-43-8, including six in the final hour and England had squared the series. His career would end with 144 wickets in 40 Tests. But this is the match—always known thereafter as 'Verity's Match'- for which he would be most famous.

The mighty Bradman could not be kept back for long. After failing in the third Test as well he struck a rich vein of form with his second Test triple ton in the fourth Test at Leeds and a double in the final at Oval. Australia won that Test by a crushing 582 to clinch the series 2-1 and grab back the Ashes. Bradman ended the series with 758 runs at 94.75 and Verity with 24 wickets, picking up only 9 outside the Lord's Test. The two giants of the game left a lasting impression on the series.