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Great Test Matches XIV:England v Australia, Sydney, 1954 - Gulu Exekiel Column
by Gulu Ezekiel
Dec 11, 2008
For one remarkable series, Frank 'Typhoon' Tyson bowled as fast any man before or since in the history of Test cricket. Though his career was brief, ending at the age of 30 due to fitness problems-he appeared in just 17 Test matches-his express bowling in Australia in 1954-55 has acquired legendary status.

England under Len Hutton had won back the Ashes after 19 long years in England the year before and were now in Australia to defend their prized possession. Tyson had made his Test debut a few months earlier against Pakistan at the Oval but was a virtual unknown Down Under.

England's campaign got off to a disastrous start at Brisbane. They were crushed by an innings and 154 runs, Tyson picking up a lone wicket at the cost of 160 runs.

It was during the match against Victoria at Melbourne before the second Test at Sydney that Tyson experimented with a shorter run up. Till then it usually started somewhere near the boundary's edge!

The change did the trick and he captured 6 for 68, including five bowled. At the SCG he was now a changed bowler. The impact was immediate.

With the injured Alec Bedser dropped, the touring attack was now spearheaded by Tyson and Brian Statham.

Still, after being asked to bat first, England's woes continued as they were sent packing for just 154 on the opening day. There was a glimmer of hope however with stand-in captain Arthur Morris being dismissed by Trevor Bailey just before the close of play.

The second day was a grim battle between bat and ball as England desperately clawed their way back into the game to keep their hopes alive. Australia struggled to reach 228 and the lead was a manageable 74 runs.

Although nine of the batsmen reached double figures, none could carry on till 50. Top scorer was Ron Archer with 49 while Jim Burke contributed 44.

It was the persistent Bailey who broke the back of the innings. He had the wickets of Les Favell and Burke to add to Morris' the day before as Australia lost half their side for only 122 runs.

Tyson had begun in a wayward manner. But it was the wicket of star batsman Neil Harvey (12), caught at gully off a vicious lifter that buoyed his spirits and he now came back to pick up another three. The lower order picked up useful runs though Tyson was looking ominous as he finished with 4 for 45 from 13 eight-ball overs.

Though runs had not come at a brisk pace over the first two days, the cricket had been absorbing and would now become gripping over the next three.

Peter May was batting imperiously in the second innings as he looked to take his side out of the woods. But even as he was compiling a brilliant century, wickets were falling at regular intervals at the other end.

After Ray Lindwall had dismissed opener Bailey early on, it was the turn of left-arm medium pacer Ian Johnston to rock England. He sent back Hutton for 28 and Tom Graveney for a duck and at 55 for three, the pendulum had swung decisively back Australia's way.

It was the youthful pair of May and Colin Cowdrey (in only his second Test) that changed the course of the match. They would be involved in many famous stands over the next decade and now it was their century partnership for the fourth wicket that gave England fresh hope.

They faced a testing spell from another youngster who would go on to make a huge named for himself in later years. The leg spinner Richie Benaud bowled unchanged for 17 accurate overs as the pair added 116 runs in just over three hours.

Benaud got the breakthrough when he had Cowdrey caught at long-off for 54 and with England finishing the third day at 204 for 4 (May 98), the match was poised on a knife's edge.

May reached his first century against England early the next morning before being bowled by Lindwall for 104.

Tyson, on a pair came in to join Bill Edrich. He had dismissed Lindwall with a bouncer in the first innings and the famed fast bowler was not one to forget. He had just got off the mark when he was struck a fearsome blow on the back of his head, dropped unconscious and had to be helped off the field. It was unlikely he would play any further part in the Test.

Edrich was bowled by Ron Archer for 29 and at 232 for 6, it was touch-and-go. Evans did not last long and it was a surprise for everyone at the ground when Tyson came back to resume his innings. He was still a bit groggy but x-rays had shown no damage to the skull.

Lindwall got his man for 9 and when the ninth wicket fell at 250, the Aussies were confident the match was now finally firmly in their grasp. The last five wickets had tumbled for a mere 28 runs. England's last wicket pair of Bob Appleyard and Statham put together an invaluable and ultimately crucial 46 and when England were dismissed for 296, the target for Australia had grown to 223.

Tyson came roaring in on the fourth evening. Australia lost both openers Favell and Morris, dismissed by Tyson and Statham respectively and when the final day's play began, it could have gone either way with the score reading 72 for 2.

By now Tyson was virtually unstoppable. Only the masterly Harvey managed to keep him at bay. He tore through the defences of Burke and Graeme Hole, uprooting their stumps: Australia four down for 77. At lunch they were 118 for 5 with Benaud out for 12 and Harvey battling on.

The fiery Tyson struck again right after the interval as Archer was bowled neck-and-crop: 122 for 6.

Alan Davidson was the next to go to Statham and then Tyson was back to bowl Lindwall. It was his fifth wicket of the innings, four of them by knocking out the stumps. When Gil Langley was bowled by Statham for a 'duck' it appeared all over at 145 for 9. The final twist would be provided by Harvey in the company of Johnston.

Harvey had stonewalled his way to 64 at this stage but now decided to go for broke. The last wicket added 39 desperate runs, Harvey making 28 of those. He was on 92 when Tyson fittingly dealt the final blow, having Johnston caught behind. Australia were all out for 184, Tyson finishing with 6 for 85 and 10 wickets in the match as England won by 38 runs. The series was now locked at 1-1. Tyson claimed the knock on his head made him more determined. "I was so sore that I swore they would not win."

Tyson was back at his devastating best in the next Test at Melbourne, demolishing the home side with 7 for 27 in the second innings. At Adelaide in the fourth he took six more as England sealed the series 3-1. He finished the series with 28 wickets. It was the best performance by a visiting fast bowler since Harold Larwood in the 'Bodyline' series 20 years earlier.
 
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