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Kent v Australia 1948: The Invincibles come to town

Thursday 5th March 2015

Kent Cricket honorary curator David Robertson continues his look back at Kent clashes with Australia turns his focus to The Invincibles of1948.

TheAustralians, who went through the whole season unbeaten in 34 games, were probably the strongest side ever to arrive in this country.

They won 25 of those games, with victory being achieved in 17 of them by an innings and more. They won four of the five Tests and their batting strength could not have been more effectively demonstrated than by their then record winning fourth innings 404-3 on a well-worn spinning fifth-day wicket at Headingley in the penultimate Test.

As if to emphasise their all-round ability a little more than two weeks later they dismissed England for a first innings 52 in the final Test at the Oval.

Immediately following their innings victory over England, the tourists arrived at Canterbury in confident mood, having retained the Ashes in the most convincing manner and with little more than a handful of festival games to play.

As the season progressed their popularity had increased. It was therefore no surprise that their visit had been eagerly anticipated. Despite the dismal weather Saturday’s opening saw the St Lawrence Ground record attendance broken with 19,600 present.

It was exceeded on the Monday when a further 4,000 came through the gates. That 23,400 figure remains, almost certainly for all time, a record.

The news that Bradman had won the toss and decided to bat was received with mixed feelings by the large crowd who will have eagerly anticipated some attractive batting whilst at the same time hoping that the Kent bowlers would inflict damage early in the visitors’ innings. That was not to be.

At lunch only one wicket was down, that of left-hander Arthur Morris who was dismissed for 43 after an hour’s play. At lunch Bill Brown and Bradman were going well with the score on 119-1.

The host’s only success in the afternoon was the dismissal of Bradman for 65 and by tea a further 129 had been added. The rain, that had threatened most of the day came at 5.30 after two further wickets had fallen. Brown was dismissed for a patient 106 having been at the crease for four and a quarter hours.

It was the seventh of his eight centuries on tour and included ten fours. His stand of 104 with the young and promising Neil Harvey was dominated by the latter. Harvey also went for 60 before the interruption and at close the score had reached 293-4.

Excitement grew rapidly amongst the Kent supporters on Monday morning when in little more than an hour their bowlers took the final six wickets for the addition of just 68 runs.

The burden of the bowling fell on right-arm fast-medium bowler Fred Ridgway and the off breaks of Ray Dovey. Between them they bowled 91 of the 133 overs and dismissed seven of the batsmen.

The home supporters excitement and anticipation was short lived. Left-hand opener Leslie Todd faced just four balls from fast bowler Ray Lindwall.

The third, a yorker, hit him plumb on the foot, causing him to hop around and delaying proceedings for some minutes. Clearly not relishing the fight, he moved away from the next delivery and was bowled neck and crop.

Worse was to follow! Fagg went in left-arm fast medium Bill Johnston’s second over also without scoring; Pawson was clean bowled by Lindwall followed immediately by two successive wicket maidens from Johnston that accounted for Leslie Ames who had scored eleven including a five and a four.

Then captain Bryan Valentine went for a duck. At that stage Kent were 16-5. Left-hander Peter Hearn joined Jack Davies and the two added 32 to take the score on to 48 before there was a final clatter of wickets with Hearn’s departure being followed by Godfrey Evans, Eddie Crush, Dovey and Ridgway, all of whom failed to score.

Davies was undefeated on 21 and the total, 51, was the lowest in any innings against the tourists.

With a lead of 310 the follow-on was inevitable and although there was a little more for home supporters to cheer second time around, the outcome was never in doubt. In the absence of Todd, whose foot injury prevented him resuming,

Davies opened the innings and lasted the same number of balls as did Todd in the first innings. This time it was the right-arm fast medium Sam Loxton who had him caught by Colin McCool.

Ames, Fagg, Valentine, and Hearn followed in quick succession and with the score 45-5 shortly after tea the end seemed close at hand.

But the irrepressible pairing of Evans and Tony Pawson, who for a few years enlivened many a Canterbury Week with their entertaining batting, gave the crowd something to cheer. They more than doubled the score in a bright, thirty-two minute partnership of 71 before wicket-keeper Evans was run out attempting another quick single for his fifty.

Pawson became another Lindwall victim at the same score with Crush, Dovey and Ridgway contributing little to the final score of 124. The defeat by an innings and 186 runs is the heaviest inflicted on Kent by the Australians.

But a consolation for the home supporters was that they had witnessed an outstanding performance by probably the greatest of all Australian sides to visit England.